What Is a Guarantor?

Even if you’re mentally ready to move into your first apartment, you might not be financially ready. In some parts of the country, it’s common practice for landlords to require that your yearly income be 40 times the monthly rent, limiting your available options (or forcing you to split your rent with roommates). That’s why guarantors exist – relying on them can help to reduce the financial obstacles you face in your apartment hunt. Read on to find out not just what a guarantor is, but how you can benefit from one and what you shouldn’t do with one.

What is a guarantor?

A guarantor is essentially your landlord’s fallback if you can’t pay your rent. Any person – often a parent – that co-signs your lease and agrees to pay your rent if you fail to do so is a guarantor. In the event that rent payment does fall to your guarantor, your landlord can legally bind your guarantor to pay. 

Often, a guarantor does not live in your apartment with you. Usually, the names of other people living with you will also be included as tenants instead.

Why might I need a guarantor?

If you have a poor credit history, low income, or any other factors that could limit your ability to pay your rent or earn a landlord’s trust, you might need a guarantor to secure your first apartment. Landlords will feel far more confident renting their apartments to you if they know that they have a fallback for collecting their rent. 

How do I get a guarantor onto my lease?

The first step toward getting a guarantor onto your lease is to ask them. Most commonly, parents serve as guarantors, so start with them. If they say no, you can ask co-workers, friends, or even your employer in rare circumstances.

If you find someone interested in being your guarantor, be clear about what this commitment requires. Often, guarantors need to submit documentation such as pay stubs, credit checks, and background checks, and acquiring the relevant paperwork can cost time and money. You should offer to cover your guarantor’s application fee.

How can I ensure good relations with my guarantor?

Guarantors take a huge risk in co-signing your lease. If you can’t pay your rent, the duty falls to your guarantor, who can be legally compelled to pay. You’ll thus want to do everything possible to maintain good relations between you and your guarantor.

Achieving this amiability is easier if you’re confident you can pay your rent. If you are, explain to your guarantor from the start that you only need their signature due to your landlord’s rules, not due to any financial challenges you face. If you do face significant financial challenges, you should set up a protocol early on for how you address any scenario in which you might be unable to pay rent.

What should I avoid with a guarantor?

Never rely on a guarantor’s signature to qualify you for an apartment you already know you can’t afford. Finding a guarantor isn’t an excuse to sign a lease for that out-of-budget apartment you can’t stop thinking about—instead, find an apartment you can afford whether or not the landlord asks you for a guarantor. Guarantors aren’t lifelines—they’re fallbacks.

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