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Not paying your rent could damage your credit score if your landlord decides to report the delinquent payment to one or more credit reporting agencies, or if they decide to sell the debt to a collection agency.
If you've recently missed a rent payment or you're worried you might become delinquent, here's what you need to know and how to find out if your rent is being reported.
What Happens if I Miss a Rent Payment?
In general, lease agreements stipulate penalties for late payments. Depending on the contract, you may or may not have a grace period after your due date to pay the amount due.
Because missing a rent payment means you're in breach of your lease agreement, a landlord may also choose to evict you, though laws surrounding eviction can vary by state.
Your landlord could also potentially report the late payment to the credit bureaus. Even if that doesn't happen, it could still damage your credit in other ways.
Do Late Rent Payments Affect Credit?
Making on-time rent payments doesn't traditionally help you build your credit score. But in some cases, missing a payment could potentially damage your credit score, particularly if the payment remains delinquent for a long period of time:
- Your landlord could report late payments. If your rent goes unpaid for 30 or more days, the landlord or your rent payment service could report the late payment to one or more credit bureaus.
- Your landlord could send the debt owed to collections. If your landlord can't collect the debt on their own, they may opt to sell it to a collection agency. If this happens, the collection agency will typically report the debt to the credit bureaus.
A late payment on your credit report can have a significant negative impact on your credit score. However, a collection account can damage your credit score even more because it indicates that the debt has been past due for a while.
In both cases, the negative item can remain on your credit reports for up to seven years.
How to Find Out if Your Rent Is Being Reported
If you're concerned about how a late rent payment could impact your credit score, or you want to know if your on-time payments are helping your credit, here are some steps you can take:
- Review your lease agreement. Read through your lease agreement and look for any clauses that indicate that your landlord may report payments, including missed ones, to the credit reporting agencies. You'll also want to look for other potential consequences of missing a payment, so you'll have a better idea of what to expect.
- Ask your landlord. Reach out to your landlord or property manager and ask about their policy regarding late payments and credit reporting. If you're working with an individual landlord, it's less likely that your credit history will come into play, but if your landlord works with a property management company or rent payment service, that third party may report missed payments.
- Check your credit report. If your landlord reports on-time payments, they're also likely to report late payments. Register with Experian to get a free Experian credit report and review your history for rent payments. You can also get a copy of your TransUnion and Equifax credit reports through AnnualCreditReport.com.
If your on-time rent payments aren't being reported, consider signing up for Experian Boost®ø to see if they're eligible. Experian Boost allows you to add eligible positive rent, utility and streaming service payments to your Experian credit report to potentially increase your FICO® Score☉ .
The Bottom Line
Unlike mortgage payments, rent payments aren't always reported to the credit reporting agencies. While this means positive rental history may not be helping improve your credit, a missed rent payment is less likely to damage your credit score. However, there are instances where a late rent payment could hurt your credit, particularly when a landlord has a policy to report late payments or if they sell your debt to a collection agency.
To prevent this from happening, contact your landlord in the event that you can't make rent and ask about relief options. You can also seek out financial assistance for rent or other necessary expenses.
Whether or not your landlord reports late rent payments to the credit bureaus, monitor your credit regularly to better understand how your actions impact your credit score in general.