What Do You Need To Rent an Apartment?

Couple eating sushi together in new home
Dear Experian,

I'm going through a divorce, and I need to get an apartment; therefore, I need advice on how to get my credit score up as much as I can. My husband was paying the bills, and he stopped when he found out about the divorce. What do I need to rent an apartment?


Dear LHG,

In most cases, you will need a positive credit history and a good credit score in order to be approved for an apartment. The leasing company you apply with will likely want to check your credit report to see whether you are current on your credit obligations.

If you have had credit trouble, improving your credit will depend on your specific situation. There are no quick fixes, but there are some steps you can take in order to improve your credit rating along with some tips to consider before you apply.

Steps to Take When Going Through Divorce

Divorce can be financially devastating. If possible, work with your husband to ensure the bills continue to be paid. It will be better for both of you in the long run. Learn more about divorce and credit.

The single most important factor in credit scoring is your payment history. By not paying the bills, your soon-to-be ex-husband will hurt both of your credit histories if the accounts are joint.

Many divorcing couples mistakenly believe the divorce decree will separate joint accounts. While the decree should indicate who is court ordered to pay which debt, it does not dissolve your contractual responsibility on a joint account.

If possible, start separating any joint accounts now. That means closing the account completely or ensuring that one name is totally removed from the account.

If you don't currently have a credit card in your name only, consider opening one so that you can begin establishing credit in your name on an account that isn't tied to your ex.

Review Your Credit Report Before You Apply

Get a copy of your credit report before you apply for the rental, so there are no surprises. If you have accounts on your credit report that are past due, you will first need to bring them current.

Once current, you'll begin building a positive payment history. Having a positive credit history will help make the process of being approved for an apartment much easier, but it may be possible to rent an apartment even if you have had some credit difficulties.

Be upfront about your situation when inquiring about the rental. Some property management companies may be more willing to work with you than others.

What You Will Need to Rent Apartment

When you apply for a rental unit, you will most likely have to pay an application fee and provide proof of your income. Usually, the leasing company will check your credit history in addition to what is called a tenant screening report that shows your rental history. If you are approved for the apartment, you may be asked to pay a deposit before moving in.

Having both a clear rental history and a good credit report will increase your chances of being approved for an apartment and will reduce the likelihood that you will need a cosigner or have to pay additional fees in order to be approved.

Will Renting an Apartment Affect My Credit?

If you are trying to build (or rebuild) your credit history, your on-time rental payments can help you. Some leasing companies report their rental payment data to Experian via Experian RentBureau. Your landlord can now report your positive rent payments to Experian, which can help you establish a strong credit history and may even improve your overall credit rating.

Ask your landlord or property management company if it reports to Experian. If they do not report, and you wish to have your rent payments included, you may be able to work with your landlord or rent management company to sign up through a rent payment service that works with Experian RentBureau.

Utility and Cell Phone Payments Can Help Your FICO® Scores

If you're having trouble qualifying for credit on your own or are worried you won't qualify for an apartment, you may be able to increase your FICO scores instantly using a free tool from Experian called Experian Boost®ø.

Experian Boost allows you to add your monthly utility and cell phone payments to your credit report so that you get credit for making those payments on time. This is especially helpful for consumers with a "thin" credit file or scores below 680. A thin credit file is defined as having fewer than five credit accounts.

Signing up for Experian Boost is fast, easy, and free. You can learn more about Experian Boost on our blog.

Thanks for asking,
Jennifer White, Consumer Education Specialist

Learn More About Renting an Apartment

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