Having a good credit score can open a lot of doors—including the one to your new living situation.
But don't worry too much if you have less than stellar credit. Renting an apartment or house without a credit check might be difficult, but it's still possible if you know what to do.
To get started, be on the lookout for places that don't require credit checks. Some landlords are more flexible than others, so seeking out locations that don't require credit checks is your best bet. Next, don't shy away from places that do check credit. While you may not have the credit score to get approved on your own, providing proof of income or getting a cosigner on your lease could help you get the place you want.
Here are six strategies to help you rent an apartment or house without a credit check:
1. Check Your Credit Report
One of the first things you should do is check your credit reports and scores to figure out what they contain. Understanding what is affecting your credit scores is a crucial first step to figuring out what type of rental properties you can apply for and what additional information you might need to have ready.
Look through your reports for any inaccuracies, and if you see anything out of place, file a dispute with the three major credit bureaus as soon as you can. This quick check might help boost your score and can make you more appealing to anyone reviewing your credit history.
2. Show Proof of Income
If you have poor credit or no credit at all, be ready to show proof of your income when trying to rent an apartment or house. When considering you for a new lease, landlords will try to determine—among other things—whether you'll be able to pay the rent on time each month. To do this, companies typically use your credit history and scores to see how you've handled debt in the past. Showing a potential landlord proof that you make enough to cover the rent is a good alternative to using your credit scores and may help a potential landlord look past the fact that you have less than perfect credit.
Landlords will look to see that your gross monthly income is at least three to four times the monthly rent amount. That means if the apartment you want is $1,000 per month, you should be making at least $1,500 to $2,000 every two weeks. This income range will vary by location: In New York City, landlords typically look for incomes that are four times the rent. In less competitive real estate markets, landlords might accept less.
To show proof of income for a rental application, use one or more of these documents:
- W2 Tax Forms
- Pay stubs
- Letter from your employer proving your income
3. Be Prepared to Pay a Little More
Another way you may be able to get around a credit check when renting an apartment or house is by offering more cash upfront. Most landlords or management companies will require tenants to pay a security deposit before moving in. If you have poor credit, it's possible they'll ask you to pay a higher security deposit so they can minimize their risk.
If you have the cash on hand, consider offering to pay a few months' rent in advance. This should help the landlord feel more comfortable accepting your application and will give them a few months of extra security in the case that you default on your payments.
4. Try to Find a Cosigner
A common way to rent a place to live without a credit check is by asking a family member or close friend with good credit to cosign for you. In this case, the cosigner applies for the apartment with you and signs the lease indicating that they will cover the rent in the case you default on your payments. Cosigners typically have to have good credit and might also need to show proof of their income.
5. Consider Section 8 Housing
If you have both a poor credit score and a very low income, you may be eligible for section 8 housing—which can often be obtained without a credit check. The section 8 program, also known as the housing choice voucher program, is a federal initiative that provides affordable housing to low-income, elderly and disabled Americans across the country.
Section 8 eligibility is determined by local public housing authorities and is based on various aspects of your background and financial profile. If you are eligible for section 8 housing, you are given a voucher from the government that can then be used to obtain discounted housing from landlords that accept section 8 tenants.
Landlords still have the discretion to request your credit history and evaluate you based on what the voucher contains. But in many cases, landlords that accept section 8 tenants are flexible in this regard.
If you think you may be eligible for section 8 housing, first contact your local public housing authority for eligibility details. It may also be helpful to get a free copy of your credit reports and scores to make sure you can't get an apartment or house on your own.
6. Improve Your Credit
While there may be a few ways to get around your poor or nonexistent credit history when renting a new place, it's to your advantage to think about improving your credit over time. Credit scores can open a lot of doors, and the better your score, the more financial opportunities you will have.
Here are a few things you can do to try to increase your score.
- Establish credit by opening a secured card. If you have little or no credit (also called having a thin file), getting a secured credit card is an easy way to jump-start your credit history and start improving your score. Secured cards work just like normal credit cards, but require a security deposit—which is often equal to the amount of your credit limit—when you sign up. Click here to learn more about how to get a secured credit card.
- Pay outstanding debts and continue to make payments on time. Payment history is the most important factor in calculating your credit scores, and even one late or missed payment can have a negative impact on your scores.
- Be mindful of your credit utilization ratio. Your credit utilization ratio is the second most important aspect of your credit scores and is calculated by dividing the total amount of credit you're currently using by the total amount of all your credit limits. It is recommended to keep your credit utilization ratio around 30%—less than 10% is ideal.
- Check out Experian Boost. Experian Boost is a groundbreaking free new tool that allows you to add utility and phone bills to your credit file, helping you increase your FICO® Score in just minutes.
Renting an apartment or house without a credit check is possible if you're ready to show your future landlord that you'll be a responsible tenant. By continuing to improve your credit, you'll not only make the renting process easier the next time around, but you'll also improve your financial opportunities.
Want to instantly increase your credit score? Experian Boost™ will be available in early 2019 and helps by giving you extra credit for the utility and mobile phone bills you're already paying. Until now, those payments did not positively impact your score.
This service will be completely free and can boost your credit score fast by using your own positive payment history. It can also help those with poor or limited credit situations. Other services such as credit repair may cost you up to thousands and only help remove inaccuracies from your credit report.
Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer or other company, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. All information, including rates and fees, are accurate as of the date of publication.