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When you freeze your credit, you're limiting access to your credit reports from the Experian, Equifax and TransUnion credit bureaus. A credit report may be frozen in an attempt to thwart identity thieves and other fraudsters from opening accounts in your name. However, a credit freeze also stops some credit card issuers, lenders and service providers from reviewing your credit information when you submit an application for a new account.
If you're submitting an application for an apartment or another rental property, unfreezing your credit can prevent delays. That's because most landlords will want to check your credit history before deciding whether to approve your rental application. They're primarily interested in seeing a potential tenant's track record of paying bills on time.
Do I Need to Unfreeze My Credit to Apply for a Rental?
A credit freeze limits access to your credit reports. If your credit is frozen, it could delay a landlord's approval of your rental application. Therefore, it's a good idea to cancel a credit freeze when you're hunting for a rental property. After all, a delay in approving your rental application might cause you to miss out on a great place to live.
If a landlord tries to look at your credit report when it's frozen, they'll be alerted via a special message or code that your credit file is frozen. Federal law grants landlords the ability to access a credit file even if it's frozen, but laws in certain states may complicate things and cause delays. Each credit bureau lets you freeze and unfreeze your credit report for free. On top of that, freezing or unfreezing your credit is fairly simple, as it can be done online.
How to Unfreeze Your Credit Report
Fortunately, unfreezing your credit report isn't complicated. Here are the steps you need to take.
- Decide whether you want to unfreeze your credit online, over the phone or by mail.
- Reach out to every credit bureau where you've frozen a credit report. Each bureau (Experian, Equifax and TransUnion) must be contacted separately. When you place a security freeze with one credit bureau, that action isn't automatically shared with other credit bureaus.
- Figure out whether you want to temporarily or permanently unfreeze your credit. A credit freeze lasts until you cancel it. You can remove and replace a freeze as often as you like.
- Ask the landlord which bureau it uses for credit checks to avoid unfreezing all of your credit reports.
Equifax and TransUnion may take different approaches to managing credit freezes.
How Long Does It Take to Unfreeze Your Credit?
If you're making an unfreeze request online or by phone, the freeze should be lifted within one hour. When it's done by mail, an unfreeze request should take no more than three business days once the bureau receives your request. Therefore, if time is an issue, your best bet is to unfreeze your credit online or by phone.
When you unfreeze, or "thaw," your credit report, you can tell a credit bureau how long you want the report to be unfrozen. In most cases, a one-week window of time is big enough for someone to check your credit report. After that, you can refreeze the credit report if you'd like.
While your credit is unfrozen, any potential creditor can examine your credit report.
Managing Your Credit as a Renter
To manage your Experian credit freeze, visit the Security Freeze Center on the Experian website. While you're at it, check your free Experian credit report and free Experian credit score if you're getting ready to search for a rental property.