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Article Updated August 1, 2018.

The most well-known consequence of having bad credit is trouble getting loans or credit cards, but a low credit score can also make it difficult to find a place to live.

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    Landlords, especially large property-management companies, will likely check your credit report before approving your lease, and there are plenty of negative items that landlords see as deal breakers with potential tenants.

    But don’t fret—you may still have options.

    What is Tenant Screening?

    Tenant screening is a process that many landlords will use when determining whether or not they should rent to you- bad credit or not. The tenant screening process will show the landlord if the potential tenant has a history of delinquent payments and it will give them a clearer picture of whether or not they will pay their rent to them on time and if they will take care of the rental property.

    During the tenant screening process, the landlord may request the rental application, run a credit and background check, contact previous landlords, contact the tenant’s employer or speak to any references they were given, and they will also usually interview the tenant themselves in person.

    Is Bad Credit an Automatic Rejection?

    By most landlords’ standards, the minimum credit score to rent an apartment is 620. But many landlords look past the credit score and search for specific activity on a potential tenant’s credit report.

    Ben Papale, a real estate broker in Chicago, Illinois, says judgments, tax liens, and collections accounts on utilities are almost always nonstarters, but medical collections and late credit card payments aren’t as problematic in the eyes of a landlord.

    Barry Maher, a property manager in Corona, California, says the 2007 recession changed his mind on bad credit. Before, he never looked at applicants with bad credit because plenty of other applicants had good credit. Then suddenly almost all the applicants had a credit problem.

    “I started looking at it more closely,” Maher says. “Particularly after the recession hit, I had people who had declared bankruptcy, people who had lost their houses. But I was still able to find some incredibly good people to rent to.”

    It can be difficult to get into an apartment with bad credit, but there are a handful of things you can do to improve your approval chances. Use the seven tips below to help you get into that apartment or house you’ve been eyeing.

    Find an Apartment with No Credit Check or an Independent Owner

    Large management companies are less likely to consider applicants with bad credit, so you’ll want to look for a landlord or property manager who has a small operation—who maybe owns just a few units or properties.

    “They’re a lot more open to considering special considerations,” Papale says. Large management companies are unlikely to make exceptions because that opens them up to the possibility of getting sued if someone in a similar situation applies for an apartment and is denied, Papale says.

    If you’re dealing with an individual, rather than a company, you may have an opportunity to tell your story and explain why you’d be a good tenant. Doing so might just be what puts the rental application into your hands.

    Explain in Person

    Maher puts a lot of stock in personal interactions. He says he always makes reference calls himself—the one time he didn’t led to a terrible tenant, and he won’t make that mistake again. Now he knows there’s a lot of value in meeting potential renters before deciding.

    “If they’re forthcoming and they meet with the person making the final decision to explain their case, they’re way ahead of the game,” Maher says.

    Papale recommends renters with bad credit write personal statements to send in with their applications—to put the credit problems in context and make an argument for themselves.

    It might even be helpful if they can show proof of prior rental history and rent payments to show they are reliable.

    Be Open about Your Income and Savings

    When explaining your personal situation, proof of a stable income can go a long way. Come prepared with pay stubs so you can show that you make enough to comfortably pay rent—rent should be less than 30% of your monthly income. Knowing you’re not strapped for cash will be a comfort to your potential landlord.

    If you don’t have a steady income, but you do have a sizeable bank account, bring bank statements that show you have enough savings to pay at least six months’ worth of rent. A financial cushion is better than nothing, and it may bring an independent owner over to your side.

    Make Advanced or Larger Payments

    Money talks. Just like how showing your income can help your chances of getting into an apartment, making a large advanced payment can be a helpful gesture of goodwill. Paying a larger security deposit than requested or even three months of rent in advance will also elevate your renting potential in a landlord’s eyes.

    Find a Roommate

    If you don’t have your heart set on having an apartment to yourself, a roommate can be a satisfactory solution while you improve your credit. Find someone who is already secure in their lease, so you can move in with them without needing a credit check. Or find a landlord who will let you move into a new place with only your roommate’s name on the lease.

    You can save money by splitting rent with a roommate, and your landlord will feel more comfortable having at least one person with good credit living in the apartment. Just don’t hang your roommate out to dry when rent is due.

    Consider a Guarantor or Cosigner as a Last Resort

    Having a friend or family member cosign on your rental application will make getting into an apartment a lot easier, but it can strain your relationship. If you choose this route, you’ll have to find a cosigner who has a secure income and good credit that they’re willing to put on the line for you in case something happens and you stop making rental payments.

    You also need to be certain you will be able to pay rent every month. Missing a payment means your cosigner will be forced to pay it on your behalf, which can lead to a lack of trust. Nobody wants that, so again: make sure you can pay the rent!

    Repair Credit for Future Apartment Hunting

    Once you’ve gone through all the work to get into an apartment with less-than-ideal credit, take steps to avoid this situation in the future. You can repair your credit in about one to two years if you put your mind to it.

    It’s important to check your credit scores and your credit reports from all three reporting agencies before applying for a rental. By doing so, you can not only proactively address any credit issues you have but also make sure you’re accurately representing yourself.

    Credit scores fluctuate constantly, so keep an eye on your score. You wouldn’t want to fill out a rental application thinking everything’s fine only to have a landlord think you lied because he found issues with your credit report.

    Get your credit score for free on Credit.com, with updates every 30 days.

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    • Brandon Smith

      Landlords don’t report anything (good or bad) to the credit bureaus. The only thing that would show up would be an unpaid judgement from court. And good history does show up on a credit report if you have debt that you’re paying on time every month. It’s about a lot more than a simple score.

    • Ray Gordon

      I sued my last landlord for numerous reasons. I’m also disabled and on SSDI. Fail to rent to me an apartment I can obviously afford and you’ll be spending ten years’ of your revenue on an attorney defending a fair-housing case.

    • R Jerome Harris

      Credit should have NOTHING to do with getting an apartment. It is a clever way to keep “certain people” out of certain areas. It is absolutely shameful that it has come down to this.

      • Jevon Antonio Grady

        Not only that but jobs also how can I have good credit if I can’t get a job to pay the bills on my credit?

      • Brandon Smith

        Why not? Landlords don’t want tenants who will end up defaulting on their rental obligations, as the process to evict them is time-consuming and costly, and recovering rent not paid isn’t guaranteed. Credit history has a lot to do with renting.

        • Ray Gordon

          Fair-housing lawsuits are even more expensive, and it’s not like the person won’t find other housing. Power-tripping landlords need to understand that their pettiness costs the taxpayers money.

          • Brandon Smith

            They are welcome to find somewhere else to live. I’m sure there are landlords that are willing to accept the additional risk for no greater return. Also, denial of housing for credit reasons isn’t grounds for a fair-housing lawsuit. Those “power-tripping landlords” are trying to protect themselves from loss. Having to evict a tenant for nonpayment pretty much guarantees you’re going to lose at least three months of rent.

      • Culinary delights

        I completely agree with you! I am going through this right now. I just went through a two year painful and messy divorce and it took my credit with it. I have been denied everywhere I applied. I’m very discouraged and disappointed. It isn’t fair. They put way too much weight on the credit issue. Not everyone with bad credit is irresponsible with money. Credit can be damaged for many reasons. I can pay the rent. My income meets requirements. My current landlord can confirm I made all my rent payments on time. That should be all that’s required to rent an apartment. and not everyone with bad credit will have problems paying the rent. I totally agree that it’s a “weed out” mechanism. I think it’s completely unfair that just because some people are irresponsible, that everyone with bad credit should fit some one size fits all standard. Maybe it should go case by case.
        My mother told me when she was young in the 70’s and she got her first apartment, credit checks were unheard of. You just paid the money and moved in. There are no options now for people like me and it’s a tough spot to be in.

    • itsme..

      Need an apt that accepts TRA!! Help!

    • Rachel Elizabeth Flohr

      I fall into and awful grey area here. My credit would be fair to good (all revolving accounts paid faithfully every months, credit card, utilities, and car payment), but due to having cancer 3 years ago my credit score has been crippled due to medical collections. Now the place I’ve been living for 2 years is being sold and I have a glowing recommendation from the landlord but my medical collections cause me to be denied from renting an apartment. I’ve offered to move in right away, offered higher deposits, and offered to place just my significant other who can qualify alone on the lease (every place demands every occupant over 18 be qualified). They all seem to care only about the number and what’s angering me is several of the medical collections are paid, others I haven’t been able to get to work with me and I can’t afford to pay in full. I wonder if at this point I may have a case with fair housing for discrimination because I feel I am being rejected due to having had a medical condition I couldn’t afford. I have no idea what to do to avoid being homeless, I have no family in the area and am still trying to finish my degree.

      • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

        I’m sorry to hear what you’ve been through both health wise and financially. Unfortunately I am not aware of any laws that would protect you from being turned down for an apartment because your debts are medically related. But you may want to look into state landlord tenant laws to find out for sure. I wish I could be of more help.

        • Wolfgang

          California is stupid. “Sorry, we see you have a $30 medical bill that was paid late in 1995, we won’t rent to you!” WTH??? Back East all you need is $400 an a handshake. Why does California have 20,000 requirements to rent a place?

      • Monique

        I am in the same situation as you. I moved to California from Pittsburgh, I lived in my house for 8 years, no evictions, I was a great tenant. Now I move here and I can’t even get a studio because of my credit score. I have always kept a job, and paid my rent. My student loans are what is destroying my credit. The credit check laws here are too strict and it makes it hard for honest hard working people who just want to live a quiet life.

    • Mike Fellman

      Pay off all your credit card debt. Continue to charge things here and there and pay them off immediately. (Before the next billing cycle). Open a few new cards but DO NOT CHARGE ANYTHING ON THEM, and DO NOT ACQUIRE ANY NEW CC DEBT. Your score will improve dramatically, and you will have no issues finding a place.

    • Strange situation

      I have a 718 FICO, have no evictions, criminal records, bankruptcies, etc and was denied due to having some closed out accounts years ago that should have dropped off my credit report. Have rented from a large national corporation in the recent past and can get an excellent recommendation from them and have never been late with a rental payment. Strange situation that I can get a mortgage but not an apartment rental.

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      Have you talked with any potential landlords? Many know that not all renters have great credit and may be willing to work with you.

    • https://step1credit.com/ Andre Justin

      It is possible. It can be denied.

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      Not sure what you mean by “two charges.” But there are ways to rent with a poor credit score. We discuss some in this post: How to Rent With Bad Credit

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