Before a landlord agrees to rent an apartment to you, they want to make sure you’ll be able to pay your rent every month. Afterall, a landlord’s worst fear is not getting rent paid in a timely manner every month. To see how likely you are to make on time rent payments, they run a tenant screening or rental credit check when you submit your rental application.
The thought of this can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you’ve found your dream apartment and are just waiting to get approved. But, there are some things you can do to prepare for your prospective landlord’s credit check.
Let’s break down what to expect and how to prepare so that you can move into the apartment of your dreams.
What’s Included in Their Credit Check?
Like we said, landlords run credit checks to make sure you’re a trustworthy person to rent to. The good thing is that you have to give them approval to run your credit check. Usually you do so when you sign on your tenant application, but occasionally, you’ll have to sign a separate screening document.
What’s included in the tenant screening report?
- Your Full Name
- Social Security number
- Date of Birth
- Current and former addresses
- Credit History
Sometimes the reports will also include:
- Your Credit Score
- Criminal History
- Eviction History
- Debt to Income Ratio
- Bankruptcy History
- Sex Offender History
- Employment History and Verification
Yes, it’s pretty invasive. A lot of landlords get these reports from the 3 major credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) and landlords associations or special tenant screening service companies.
The good news here though is that there isn’t a universal minimum credit score to rent apartments. In fact, you can get approved for an apartment with no credit or a low credit score. Every landlord or property manager is going to have different standards in terms of who they will and won’t rent to based upon the renters credit and information in the tenant credit report.
How to Pass a Landlord Credit Check?
If you’ve found the apartment of your dreams but you’re worried that you might not pass the credit check, try not to worry. Like we said, each landlord has their own standards for who they will or won’t rent to. And, there are some things you can do to be proactive and prepare for any questions they might ask you about the information in your credit report. Which of course starts with knowing what’s in your credit report to begin with.
#1. Check Your Credit Report
In order to be able to effectively answer any questions your potential landlord might come at you with, you want to anticipate what those questions might be. You can get a free copy of your credit report from each credit bureau (Experian, TransUnion, Equifax) once a year thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
So, the first thing you’re going to do is order your credit report.
#2. Fix Any Errors
Once you’ve got your credit report, you want to check it carefully and make sure there aren’t any errors. Is your payment history correct? Did you pay off a debt but it’s not listed on your report?
These are errors you want to challenge. To do so, reach out to the credit bureaus by phone or email. The bureaus have 30 days to respond to you and if they agree with you, they have to change the errors immediately which could do wonders for improving your credit.
#3. Look for Alternative Ways to Prove You’re Responsible
If you have bad credit or just don’t have much credit history at all, be prepared to show that you pay other bills on time like your phone, internet, or utility bill. That will go a long way toward proving that you’re trustworthy and sometimes landlords ask for another paid bill as a way to verify your identity anyway, so it’s just good to have them handy.
#4. Provide Proof of Income or Get Letters of Recommendation
Another way to reassure your landlord that they’ll be getting their rent from you on time every month is to demonstrate proof of income or savings so that they know you’re financially solvent. If you’re traditionally employed, you can show them your pay stubs and bank account. A letter of recommendation from your boss can also help demonstrate how valuable you are to your employer and that you’re responsible.
If you’re self-employed or a freelancer, showing your bank account and even statements from your clients that indicate the length of your contract or their intentions to renew their work with you can go a long way toward demonstrating that your income isn’t going anywhere.
If you go the letter of recommendation or providing proof of your contracts route, make sure you provide a phone number in case your potential landlord wants to reach out to learn more.
#5. Get a Co-signer or Roommate
If you know your credit report isn’t that great because you’ve struggled to make on-time payments on your debts in the past or even been evicted for being consistently late on rent, consider getting a co-signer or roommate. Your co-signer will guarantee to pay the rent if you don’t and a roommate will share the rent load, making you less risky to rent to.
#6. Put Down a Big Deposit
If you can afford to, putting down a bigger deposit that includes a few months rent upfront can go a long way toward easing any worries a potential landlord might have about you. You could offer to put down more in damages or even pay for a full year's rent upfront.
Money does talk after all!
#7. Be Honest
Don’t try to keep anything about your credit history from your landlord. One, it will probably come out when they run your credit report. Two, being upfront and honest about issues or gaps in your credit history will go a long way toward helping you establish trust and a good relationship with your landlord. Show them what you’ve done or are doing to get back on track—we’re sure they’ll respect and appreciate your honesty.
Go Forth and Rent!
Now you know what’s involved in a landlord credit check and how to proactively prepare for one. Remember there’s no minimum credit score for an apartment rental. But, if your credit score isn’t the best, you can use EXTRA to help build your credit.
Now it’s time to scroll through Zillow to find your dream apartment!