Snagging your first apartment is exciting, but if you have poor credit (or even no credit!), it can be a challenge. Still, you can be an attractive rental candidate for your ideal one-bedroom. Here’s how to get an apartment with bad credit and tip the apartment-search scale in your favor.
1. Show off your stellar rental history.
Rental history is important to landlords. If you have had a great relationship with a former landlord, or landlords, provide them as references for your potential new one.
If you have never rented an apartment, you can still lean into strong references. Provide character references from reliable sources such as a teacher or employer can help demonstrate that you are reliable and dependable. This can make the question of how to get an apartment with bad credit beside the point.
You can also start to build a rental history by paying rent to your parents, friends, or by renting out a room in someone’s house, and then asking these people to serve as references. You can also ask that you get receipts for your payments as proof to show that you pay rent regularly and on time. That way, you have a positive payment history to counter a bad credit history.
2. Showcase a high salary to overshadow your bad credit.
If you make a really good income, your landlord may not care so much about poor credit score. An income that could really impress a landlord would be at least 40 times the monthly rent. So if rent is $1,200 a month, a landlord may overlook a poor credit score if you can prove an income of $48,000 a year.
Of course, if your landlord is making a decision based mostly on income, they’ll want to see proof. Offer to provide pay stubs for the past year to make your income easy to verify. And consider showcasing your income on Trulia’s Rental Resume. It lets renters highlight their qualifications, like move-in time frame, occupation, income, and more.
3. Have and continue to build your savings.
Poor credit may make a landlord doubt your financial reliability, but strong savings can help change their mind. Show your potential landlord your bank statements, proving you have reserves available. It’s a good idea to have both a checking and a savings account, and you should ideally have several months’ worth of rent saved up. If a landlord sees that you have money set aside, they may feel more confident in your ability to pay rent each month.
4. Be honest (and communicate well) about your bad credit.
Be upfront with potential landlords. Write a letter of explanation detailing why your credit score is not very good. Include how you now have good budgeting habits and about your plans to be a responsible tenant.
Landlords are free to waive their own requirements—as long as they treat all applicants the same way. This method works best when you’re dealing with individual landlords as opposed to a big management company that might not have the ability to be as flexible.
5. Offer to set up automatic payments.
Here’s a secret: Landlords love receiving rent on autopay. Offer to allow your landlord’s bank to deduct rent from your bank account through an automated clearinghouse (ACH) or an online rent payment system. If they don’t currently offer online payments, you can invite them to do so using Trulia’s online rent payments hub. That helps ensure your landlord will be paid—and on time.
You’ll need to demonstrate you’ll have enough cash in your bank account to cover those automatic payments. If you’ve had trouble paying your bills, for example, earning you a bad credit score, potential landlords may not trust that you’ll keep enough in your account. However, if you can show a steady income bolstered by a hefty savings account, and you sign up for ACH payments, you just might have figured out how to get an apartment with bad credit.
6. Agree to pay more upfront.
You typically need to pay first month’s rent plus a security deposit when you rent an apartment. That means you can make your application stand out by offering to pay not just one month and security, but two—or even three—months’ rent, plus security in advance. Cash offers are always attractive. Just make sure you then start paying your rent on time when it becomes due.
7. Use a co-signer.
If nothing else works, call in some backup to help you rent with bad credit: a co-signer. If you can get someone with good credit to co-sign for you, the landlord might agree to rent you that apartment. Note that if you don’t pay your rent, the landlord will ask your co-signer to do so, so make sure you ask someone you trust, who also trusts you. A parent or other close family member is often a good choice, if it’s possible.
You’ve figured out how to get an apartment with bad credit, so now you have some planning to do. Here are questions to ask when renting an apartment to make sure you’ve found the best place for you.