In terms of finance, your credit score is your badge of pride or shame. So many of us have made bad decisions or have fallen into situations that caused us to lose credit. And, if your credit score is really low, it can be hard to do many things, from taking out a loan to renting a property.
So, if the question “Can I get a good apartment with bad credit?” is on your mind, I’m happy to say that it is possible, just not easy. Still, there are a few different things you can do to rent a good place with bad credit. And, if you can, your bad credit just might improve.
- What is “Bad Credit”?
- How Can I Get a Good Apartment with Bad Credit?
- Improve Your Credit Score
- Need Help Finding A Place To Live?
What is “Bad Credit”?
In reality, banks don’t use the term “bad” because it sounds too informal or insulting, like “Bad dog!” If your credit score is under 500, however, that is considered very poor. In this case, you wouldn’t be considered for a loan, and many companies wouldn’t let you subscribe to their services without paying up front.
A score under 600 is still considered poor. Most corporate landlords have a policy of not renting to anyone with a credit score under a certain amount, often 620 or even 650. So, for our purposes, if you have a credit score less than 600, you can call that bad credit. If you’re not sure what yours is, you can check your credit score here.
How did this happen?
Credit scores are pretty simple. When you pay your creditors on time and in full, your credit score goes up. But, if you are deeply in debt, consistently pay bills late and/or only partially, or have ever defaulted on a loan, your score drops. Creditors, such as banks, see you as a risk. They don’t believe that you will pay back what you owe them on time.
Landlords can take the same view. After all, they expect you to pay rent every month, and if you don’t, it’s a real headache for them. So, most landlords will check your credit rating and reject you if they think you won’t pay up.
Is bad credit a life sentence?
Luckily not. But, it can be incredibly difficult to dig yourself out of the bad credit cycle. Normally, when you can’t get good loans, you’re forced to look for other ways to get money, and these often make the problem worse. But, if you can get someone to take a chance on you and then show them you’re reliable, you can turn your credit score upside-down.
How Can I Get a Good Apartment with Bad Credit?
Your credit score isn’t the only thing people look at when they consider renting you a property. Here are some things you can do to improve your chances of renting an apartment, even if your credit is poor right now.
Find a Private Landlord
While it’s common for a corporation to own a building and have strict rules for renting their apartments, this is by no means the only way things work. Some private landlords own their own apartments and can be more flexible than corporations.
Private landlords may not check your credit score but don’t gamble on this. Instead, they might be willing to consider you if you can prove that you have the money to pay and that you’re reliable and trustworthy.
Provide Proof of Income
You might have bad credit but a great job with great pay. Even more than credit, landlords like to see money. So, if you can prove that you have more than enough income to pay the rent, they might be happy to rent to you. You can show your pay stubs, tax receipts, or contract to prove your income.
As a general rule…
People shouldn’t pay more than 30% of their income on rent. That’s before taxes, of course. So, if you’re trying to rent an apartment that’s $1150 per month (average for a 1-bedroom right now), this means that you should be taking in at least $3833 per month. Anything less will probably make a landlord worry. But, if you’re making a lot more, say double, this will make a landlord smile.
Offer to Pay a Bigger Security Deposit
When you rent an apartment, it’s standard to pay three times the rent upfront. This covers your first month’s and last month’s rent, plus a security deposit, again equal to a month’s rent. For that $1150/month apartment, you’ll need $3450 cash on the barrelhead. Or in a bank transfer. But either way, this is simply the normal amount you need.
Landlords take the last month’s rent in advance to cover their costs in case you disappear without paying rent. The security deposit is there to pay for any damages or outstanding bills.
But, if you offer to pay a much bigger deposit, say three months of rent worth, this may very well entice the landlord to let you enter into a rental contract with bad credit. This is essentially you putting your money where your mouth is. Just be careful that your rights are protected so your money will come back to you in the end.
Give Letters of Recommendation
Your bad credit score might be because of situations in the past that you’ve worked hard to move on from. If you have got your finances sorted out and you’re certain to be reliable, that’s great. But your word isn’t good enough to prove it.
Instead, you can get letters of recommendation to back you up. If you’re currently renting a place and you pay your rent on time and in full, then ask your current landlord to act as a reference. If you’re hard-working and reliable at work, ask your supervisor for a letter of recommendation stating this. These references can help support your promise to be a reliable tenant.
Use a Cosigner of Guarantor
Landlords aren’t out to get you. They just want to cover themselves and protect themselves from risk. One way to lower the risk for a landlord is to have a backup. If, for some reason, you don’t pay your rent, they will have another place to go to collect on their losses.
This can be a cosigner who also puts their name on the rental contract. A cosigner is going to be someone who knows and trusts you because they are essentially putting themselves at financial risk by co-signing. At the same time, they will probably make a separate contract with you to put up conditions and protect themself.
A guarantor plays the same role, but this is normally a company instead of a private individual. You can pay a company to guarantee your rental agreement in exchange for a monthly fee. That way, if you don’t pay the rent, the landlord can go to the company to recoup their losses.
Find Yourself A Roommate
One of the best ways to get a good apartment with bad credit is to live with a roommate. This might not always be your ideal living situation, but until you can get your credit score up, it might be your best option.
Living with a roommate can take two forms…
You can move in with someone who already has a rental contract and who is looking for someone to share the burden of the rent. In this case, you may simply have a private agreement with the roommate to pay your share of the rent. Since the landlord doesn’t need to be involved, your credit score isn’t normally an issue.
Likewise, you can find someone who would like to live with you and share the rental of an apartment. In this case, you would both sign the rental agreement; therefore, the landlord has two places to go to collect rent. In other words, even if one of you can’t pay, the landlord can at least get half the rent from the other, thus minimizing their liability.
Improve Your Credit Score
Whether or not you manage to get a good apartment with bad credit, you should strive to improve your credit score. I know this isn’t easy, and it takes time and dedication. But, when bad credit is holding you down, there’s no choice but to turn things around.
To improve your credit rating, you’ll need to make a plan and goals…
You might need the help of a financial advisor or accountant to do this. For your credit score to go up, you need to pay down your debts and make all of your payments on time. If you don’t have a credit card, a relative might consider making you an authorized user on their card.
Even if you don’t use the card, but their credit is good, this can improve your credit score. And, of course, getting a rental contract and paying your rent on time is an excellent way to boost your credit score, too!
Need Help Finding A Place To Live?
Well, then check out our guides on Rent-To-Own Mobile Homes, Apartments that Accept Felons, Public Housing For Felons, Emergency Section 8 Housing, Can A Felon Buy Property, and Do Realtors Run Background Checks for more information on finding a place to live.
You might also be interested in the Safest Neighborhoods in Chicago, the Cheapest Places to Live in Georgia, the Safest Cities in North Carolina, the Safest Neighborhoods in Houston, and the Safest Cities in Tennessee in 2023.
Yes, you can; however, most corporate landlords will only rent to people with a score of 620 or higher. But there are still options for getting a good apartment without good credit. You can find a roommate, use a cosigner or guarantor, show your financial stability, pay a bigger deposit, and offer letters of reference. All of these steps can help convince a landlord to take a chance on you.
If you can get your foot in the door, this opens up ways to improve your credit. Paying all your bills on time and in full will boost your credit score in the future. And, hopefully, you won’t have the stigma of bad credit hanging around your neck ever again.
Until next time, good luck, and may you find success.