Landlords and property managers often check credit scores as part of the rental application process. If you don't have a credit history, you may encounter challenges getting your application approved. You can increase your chances of getting the apartment you want by providing strong references, proof of financial stability and being willing to negotiate lease and deposit terms.
Gather Financial Records and References
Landlords who rely on credit reports when screening tenants may be wary of someone who has no credit history, as they have no way of gauging the applicant's ability to pay the rent. When you go apartment hunting, take documentation with you showing your financial stability and a list of references that includes contact information.
Here are some ways to establish your financial stability:
Gather your basic financial records, such as recent pay stubs and bank statements, and any utility bills in your name showing that you've been making payments on time.
Put together a list of references, such as current and previous landlords, roommates and employers. Ask them if they'd be willing to vouch for you. For those who are, verify their contact information and keep it handy for when you're filling out rental applications.
Screen Properties and Policies
Property management companies and landlords usually include information about credit requirements on their websites or in their advertising. When looking for a place to live, pay attention to this information. In some cases, the landlord or property management company may only be concerned about bad credit, such as judgments, evictions and collection accounts. If you can't find this information online, call the landlord or property management company and ask about their policy. Having this information in advance saves you time and the cost of application fees.
Tip: Some, but not all, independent landlords may be more flexible about application requirements than property management companies. To find properties owned by independent landlords, browse online classified ads, ads in local newspapers and "For Rent" signs posted on residential buildings and on community bulletin boards.
Negotiate Deposits and Lease Length
If you find a place that you are interested in, but the landlord or property manager seems uncomfortable with your lack of a credit history, don't give up. Ask the landlord or property manager if they'd be willing to offer you a month-to-month or short term lease so that you can prove you're a good tenant. You can also offer an extra security deposit or several months of prepaid rent.
Find a Cosigner
Ask the landlord if he would consider your application if you can provide a lease cosigner. This is someone who has good credit and sufficient income to make your lease payments if you can't.
Warning: If you find yourself in financial straits and can't pay your rent, the landlord can take your cosigner to court. This wrecks havoc on your cosigner's credit and finances and will likely damage your relationship. Don't use a cosigner unless you're sure that you'll be able to pay your rent on time each month.
Lainie Petersen writes about business, real estate and personal finance, drawing on 25 years experience in publishing and education. Petersen's work appears in Money Crashers, Selling to the Masses, and in Walmart News Now, a blog for Walmart suppliers. She holds a master's degree in library science from Dominican University.