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8 Ways to Rent an Apartment With Bad Credit

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Sammi Turano needed a place to live, but a previous bankruptcy had hurt her credit score so badly she couldn’t find a landlord who would rent to her. So, when she found the perfect apartment, she decided to go the extra step and have a heart-to-heart conversation with the owner. “I was honest and able to prove that I was working to improve my life and finances,” said Turano, an academic researcher from Pittsburgh. “He rented to me and had me pay the deposit on a payment plan.”

Turano’s case isn’t unusual. When would-be renters find themselves unable to get an apartment because of their credit score, they naturally try to make the landlord look beyond the numbers. A heart-to-heart with the owner is just one solution, but honesty is always your best policy, said Lyndsey Casagrande, a licensed real estate salesperson with REAL New York in New York City. “You should always speak to your real estate professional and tell them the truth about your financial and credit situation so we can prepare alternative solutions to help you find an apartment.”

Here are some steps you can take to rent an apartment despite your less-than-perfect credit score.

Offer to pay extra security

A security deposit is money that you give to your landlord at the beginning of your rental period to cover any damage you may inflict, or to cover rent if you should stop paying. Usually a deposit is equal to one month’s rent. Offering to pay a larger deposit could help convince a landlord to take a chance on you. “Paying extra security is held in the landlord’s bank as sort of an insurance policy,” said Rob Hogan, a licensed real estate agent with AKAM Sales & Brokerage in New York City.

Get a letter of recommendation

If you have a good track record as a tenant, talk to your previous or current landlord about writing a letter of recommendation on your behalf. Hearing from a fellow landlord that you can be trusted may help ease a future landlord’s doubts.

Pay rent up front

Linda Einfrank, owner of Sterling Property Management in White Plains, N.Y., once had a tenant with bad credit, but the tenant was willing to pay a full year of rent up front. “Everything else about the tenant — including their job and salary — was fine, but they had a problem a long time ago that affected their credit score,” she said. “Because they could pay months of rent up front, our landlord rented to them.” Paying a full year up front isn’t always necessary, but asking if you can pay an extra month or two might make the difference.

Get a roommate

Moving in with someone who has better credit than you could help convince a landlord to let you have the apartment. Just be sure to stay current with your portion of the rent.

Find a guarantor

A guarantor is someone who cosigns your lease and can also be held responsible if the rent isn’t paid. Using a guarantor, also known as a cosigner, is one of the most common solutions to renting an apartment with bad credit, said Hogan.

But finding a guarantor can be tough. For one, they have to be willing to take a considerable financial gamble on you. And they must have a large enough salary to cover your rent in addition to their own expenses. “In most cases, landlords expect your guarantor to earn an annual salary of at least 80 times the monthly rent,” he said. “That seems excessive, but the landlord is assuming the guarantor has either rent or a mortgage of their own to worry about.”

If you don’t have anyone who can act as a guarantor, there are companies that can do this for you. “There is a company called Insurent that acts as a guarantor for those who have none,” said Hogan. “They guarantee payment to the landlord and charge between 75%-95% of one month’s rent. They generally charge more for those with no U.S. credit history.”

Not all landlords will accept guarantors (or Insurent), but if you have someone willing to back you, it’s worth asking.

Find an independent landlord

Kimberly Veazey, co-founder of AvenueWest Global Franchise in Denver, Colo., recommended finding an apartment run by an independent landlord, which is someone who owns their own property and is renting it out, not someone who is part of a larger property management organization.

“Independent landlords get to make their own decisions — they will listen and make a judgement call,” said Veazey. “Large apartment complexes are all about company policy. Either you fit in their rental box or you don’t and the leasing agent has no authority to make any exceptions.”

Ask about a waiver program

If you have bad credit and are also low on cash, your options are even more limited. Veazey suggested trying the Security Deposit Waiver Program that some property management companies offer. The program allows a tenant to pay a monthly fee in place of a security deposit but has the coverage of a full cash deposit. This program might help you to get the apartment.

Plead your case

Like Turano, you can always try tugging at the landlord’s heartstrings. But if you have serious extenuating circumstances, like a medical crisis or some other hardship, it might be better to plead your case in writing. “If you have bad credit because of a child’s medical bills or an ex-spouse, have that properly documented and present it in advance to the landlord,” said Veazey.

Most importantly, get a copy of your credit report and your credit score before starting the apartment hunting process. Dispute any errors on your report and you might bump up your credit score.


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