How to rent an apartment with bad credit

How To Rent An Apartment With Bad Credit

December 3, 2020 5:54 pm Published by Leave your thoughts
Last Modified: April 4, 2024 5:43 pm
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Don’t let bad credit hold you back from renting an apartment! Your credit score can determine the types of apartments that you qualify for. However, there are many things that you can do to help you still rent an awesome apartment that will work for your budget. Learn the tips and tricks to better your credit score, but also alternative steps you can take to lease while you still have low credit.

Your credit matters when renting an apartment because it serves as a key indicator of your financial responsibility and reliability as a tenant. Landlords use your credit history to assess the likelihood of you paying rent on time and fulfilling your financial obligations. A positive credit history, characterized by on-time payments and responsible financial behavior, is generally viewed favorably by landlords, reducing the perceived risk associated with renting to you. 

A poor credit history, marked by late payments, defaults, or bankruptcies, may raise concerns about your ability to meet rental obligations. Your credit score can influence lease terms and conditions, impact your competitiveness in a rental market, and play a crucial role in establishing a trusting and positive relationship between you and the landlord. Understanding the significance of your credit in the rental process is essential for navigating the challenges of securing an apartment. Through obtaining certain information and taking the necessary steps, you can still find your dream home despite your credit score.

Renting an apartment with bad credit

What is considered ‘bad credit’ for apartment rentals?

Before you continue with your apartment rental process, it’s important to note what is considered “bad credit”. There are many misconceptions about what bad credit is and what that means. Bad credit refers to your financial situation and typically means that your score falls within a certain threshold. Your credit score is based on credit-based transactions, your debt, late payments, and payment behavior.

Credit scores, ranging from 300 to 850 in the United States, are calculated based on an individual’s credit history, payment behavior, outstanding debts, and other financial activities. A low credit score, often below 580, indicates a higher risk. A low credit score can signal to a landlord a history of late payments, defaults, or other negative financial behaviors. Scores from 620 to 650 are considered “fair.” Renters with scores in this range may face slightly higher deposits.

How do landlords check credit history?

Landlords typically check a future resident’s credit history as part of the rental application process to assess their financial standing. It’s also important information considering the tenant will be responsible for making monthly rent payments. Landlords work with credit reporting agencies to access the applicant’s credit report, which includes information about their credit accounts, payment history, outstanding debts, and any negative financial events such as late payments or defaults. Landlords rely on this information to evaluate whether this prospect is a good fit for their community. The better the credit report, the more likely the property is to move forward with this tenant.

Steps To Renting With A Bad Credit Score 

Although you may not qualify for every apartment complex, by taking the right steps, you can still rent with a bad credit score. Use the information below to stay informed on how you can proceed and ensure that you have all of the necessary information. Having an accurate idea of what’s on your credit report will be beneficial in knowing if you should apply or not. Then, once you can see what’s on your credit and where it is at, work on raising the score. The path to your new apartment might not be as simple, but it’s still doable!

Assessing Your Credit Situation

Before you begin your apartment search, you need to start assessing your credit situation. Rather than being ashamed of a low credit score, take the time to review exactly how and why your credit score got to where it is. You will also want to spend time reviewing various elements of your credit score so that you can have a greater understanding of where you’re presently at.

Assessing your credit situation involves a systematic review of your credit report to understand its overall health. Begin by obtaining a free copy of your credit report from a reputable source, such as AnnualCreditReport.com. Be sure to review the report for any inaccuracies or discrepancies, verify personal information, and ensure that all listed accounts are familiar.

Take the time to identify negative items such as late payments, defaults, or accounts in collections, and take note of their impact on your credit profile. If there are errors, dispute them with the credit bureau to rectify inaccuracies. This thorough evaluation provides a clear picture of your credit standing, enabling you to take proactive steps to address any issues and improve your overall credit health.

Follow the steps below to fully assess your credit situation! 

  1. Obtain a free credit report.
  2. Review and understand your credit score.
  3.  Identify negative items on your credit report.
  4. Dispute inaccuracies
  5. Addressing outstanding debts

Understanding Landlord Perspectives

Any landlord wants to see that you have a positive rental history before letting you rent. However, not all expect your credit score to be perfect.
While renting with a poor credit score can be challenging, engaging with landlords who prioritize rental history or income stability over credit can increase your chances of securing an apartment.

There are many landlords who through extra documentation and conversation will agree to let you rent. This is not the case for every landlord, so don’t be discouraged by those who require a high credit score. The more you understand their perspective, the better you can communicate so that you can be considered as a potential renter.

Communicating openly with potential landlords

  • The best approach is to communicate openly and honestly with your future landlord. Rather than trying to hide your financial history, you can give them a transparent look at where you’re at. This is the only way to further secure your spot as a future tenant. 

Providing references and proof of financial responsibility

  • Ultimately your credit score is not the only sign of your financial health. Your income, previous rental history, and proof of financial responsibility can all make a difference and be taken into consideration. Be sure to inform your landlord of these additional elements and provide them with the items they request. 

Landlords want to have tenants that won’t be a financial risk and are reliable in every way. Have an old landlord recommend you and possibly write a letter or statement on your rental history. This goes a long way because it shows you are reliable and have had a good rental history in the past. Even having a letter of recommendation from a boss or employer is a good thing to show because it shows how reliable you are.

It is very doable to find an apartment that fits your needs, even if you have low credit. You should always be trying to improve your credit so that when your lease is up, your score is raised even higher.

Renting with bad credit

Budgeting for Apartment Success

Budgeting for an apartment rental is crucial as it ensures financial stability and helps prevent potential financial strain. Start by creating a detailed budget that will allow you to fully assess your income and review your expenses and savings. This process is tedious but it allows you to see how much you will be able to allocate to rent, utilities, and other expenses. You never want to rent to put you at an extreme detriment related to your finances.


A common guideline is the 30% rule, where rent should not exceed 30% of your income. You must examine your budget beforehand to avoid overspending. You also want to leave room for your savings and have enough for unexpected challenges! The right budget will help you afford your rent, while also building on your other financial goals.

Exploring Alternative Rental Options

  • Considering co-signers or guarantors

If you’re living by yourself and don’t have the proper score to get approved, some places will let you have a co-signer. Renters with scores below 600 have a 20% lower approval rate. Renting an apartment with bad credit just means that landlords want more assurance you will pay your rent on time. This means that another person such as a parent, friend, or partner who has a better score is signing on with you.

Essentially, they are renting with you and their name and credit are attached to that lease as well. This can make the deposit cheaper and overall be a great way to cut costs and get approved. Make sure you have the income and means to pay your rent and take care of your apartment. Be aware that if you get evicted, it will also go on your co-signer’s credit history under the public records section.

  • Seeking out landlords who may be more flexible

If you know that your credit will possibly pose an issue for renting, consider partnering with a landlord who may be more flexible. Some property management companies have very strict rules related to credit scores, and it may not even be worth exploring those avenues. However, typically local landlords that aren’t a part of a larger corporation are easier to work with.

Renting with bad credit often involves exploring less conventional rental markets, such as private landlords or smaller rental communities, where individual considerations may outweigh credit concerns. You can also suggest more flexible leasing terms or develop more of a negotiation.

  • Offer to pay a larger security deposit

Renting an apartment with low credit means paying a bigger deposit. This can sometimes equal a double deposit or up to one month’s rent. However, landlords and developers want to see that you’re able to come up with a bigger sum of money to cover the risk of letting you live there. Of course, it is usually all refundable when moving out, but it is required upfront before they write up your lease. Plan to set aside more money than normal to pay a bigger deposit if you don’t have time to improve your score and need an apartment fast.

Building a Strong Rental Application

Let your rental application help secure your next apartment! Your rental application includes various information and isn’t only just about your credit score. Use your rental application to your advantage and it ensures that it makes you shine financially in other areas.

Take the time to emphasize positive rental or employment history. Include references from previous landlords, employers, or colleagues to vouch for your reliability as a tenant. Craft a compelling letter of explanation if you have any negative items on your credit report, emphasizing the steps you’ve taken to address them. Submit proof of stable income, employment, and a budget that demonstrates your ability to meet rent payments. Clear communication and documentation will be the best way to keep moving forward!

Credit score for rental application

Utilize Rental Assistance Programs

If your credit score poses a more significant challenge than anticipated when seeking your next apartment, rest assured that there are several options available to help you overcome this hurdle. Numerous programs are designed to assist renters with poor credit in securing their first apartment, enabling them to take positive steps toward improving their financial future. Start by researching both local and national programs that cater to individuals with credit challenges, including housing authorities, nonprofits, and organizations offering financial support. Consider exploring properties specifically designed for renters with low credit scores.

Another valuable step is to consult with a housing counselor from local agencies or non-profit organizations. Schedule an appointment to discuss your housing needs, financial situation, and challenges you may be facing. Be ready to provide documentation, such as credit and employment records, as the counselor can offer guidance on navigating the rental market and improving your credit.

Finally, explore legal resources available for tenants with credit challenges, including local legal aid services, workshops on tenant rights, and consultations with legal professionals specializing in housing law. These resources empower you with knowledge and can help you protect your rights.

Continue the search for your new apartment! 

Your new apartment is right around the corner, so remind yourself that it is possible to rent an apartment without an amazing credit score. The truth is it may require more information and additional steps, but it is worth it! Be patient with the process and use these tips and tricks to guide you into your new home. Find the landlord or property that is right for you. Showcase your financial health outside of your credit score. Once you get into your new apartment, emphasize improving your credit score for the future.

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This post was written by

Isabella Housel

Isabella Housel is a passionate and versatile professional writer with a deep love for words and a commitment to crafting compelling content that engages, informs, and inspires. With many years of experience in the industry, she has honed her skills across various genres, from creative storytelling to informative articles and technical documentation.


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