Let’s say you’re fresh out of college, eager to live alone, and on the hunt for your first apartment. With student loans on your shoulders — and if you’ve never had your own credit card or other line of credit — you might encounter some challenges. Namely, your credit score is likely below the minimum that many landlords require of their renters. And even if you’re years into your adult life, all manner of factors – overdue medical bills, late payments, collections, continued loan payments, and much more – can saddle you with a bad credit score.
If your credit is less than stellar, it’s natural that you might be worrying whether renting with bad credit is possible. Here’s what you should keep in mind when you’re hunting for a new apartment if you have bad credit.
Is renting with bad credit impossible?
Good news – although renting with bad credit might seem impossible, it’s not! However, it can certainly be more challenging. Consider the two ways below to address this head-on.
Get a guarantor or co-signer
If you’re renting with bad credit, you can assuage your landlord’s concerns by having a guarantor or co-signer cosign your rental application and lease. No, this doesn’t mean that your guarantor has the same rights to your apartment that you do – you’ll still be your apartment’s sole occupant unless you have roommates. Instead, it means that your guarantor is responsible for paying your rent should you fail to do so, giving your landlord a safety measure.
Keep in mind that getting a guarantor shouldn’t be a reason to seek rent outside your budget. Just because you have a fallback in place doesn’t mean you should expect to use it – it’s a safety net for a reason.
Show evidence that you’re a good renter
If you’re not a first-time renter, you should be able to show that renting with bad credit hasn’t stopped you from making payments on time. When you apply for your new apartment, prepare documents that prove your history of paying rent on time – copies and receipts of deposited rent checks might do the trick, but a reference letter from your previous landlord (or landlords, if possible) is even better.
If you’re a first-time renter, you should still be able to showcase your strongest character traits as evidence that you’ll be a good tenant. Consider getting character references from authority figures such as employers or teachers. Though potentially not as robust of evidence as that which non-first-time renters can provide, some landlords may still consider a character reference.
Is discriminating against renters with bad credit illegal?
If the obstacles involved in renting with bad credit sound unfair to you, then you might be wondering whether it’s even legal to discriminate against renters. It is indeed fully legal for landlords to discriminate against renters with bad credit – merely a low credit score is often enough to disqualify prospective renters from applying to the apartment of their dreams, and oftentimes, listings may include a minimum credit score to apply.
However, if landlords set a minimum credit score that prospective renters must meet to apply for their apartments, then they must apply that minimum to all prospective renters. Setting different minimum credit scores for different groups of renters, whether those groups are based on race, gender, or other characteristics, is illegal.
If you have bad credit, don’t worry
Plenty of people across the country have poor credit, and many of these people have found living situations that they love. If you follow the above advice, you’ll likely be able to do the same.