How To Get The Apartment You Want With No Credit (Or Bad Credit)

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Be upfront about your credit situation when talking to landlords about apartments.

I have some confessions to make.

I have almost no established credit. My boyfriend has bad credit. He’s looking to switch jobs in the near future. I’m a recent college graduate who has not held my job for very long. Oh, and we have a cat.

So, basically, we’re a landlord’s worst nightmare. Of course, we didn’t know this until our application for an apartment we really wanted was rejected.

***

Since that happened, I’ve talked to several landlords and real estate agents about what landlords look for in tenants. Their response, in two words: minimal risk.

Landlords want to feel secure that you will pay rent on time and you won’t trash their apartment—something people with credit issues are definitely capable of doing. If you didn’t get the apartment you wanted because of your credit or think you’ll be in this situation in the future, consider doing the following when apartment hunting.

Dress Nice

When you look at an apartment, wear professional attire. It immediately gives the landlord the impression that you’re clean, respectable, and professional.

My boyfriend and I learned this the hard way. We showed up to an interview sweaty and covered in paint (from painting my Jeep). The landlord looked at us, took a step back, and asked, “What do you do for work again?” This reaction was rude and, hopefully, not that common. Still, proper attire is the way to go.

Have Your Checkbook Ready

After hearing about my credit situation, a real estate agent urged me to be ready to pay my first, last, and security—within 2 days of submitting my application.

Willingness to immediately put down that money tells the landlord that you’re financially stable, passionate about the apartment, and ready to commit. If you have no credit and ask for extra time to come up with your deposit, you could make a landlord nervous about your financial situation.

Bring Proof From Your Employer

Don’t tell your potential landlord anything that might lead them to think your income is unstable. My boyfriend made the mistake of saying that he planned to find a better job soon. Whoops.

Fortunately, the landlord was very nice and asked if my boyfriend could provide some sort of proof that he was not in danger of losing his current job. He eventually produced a letter from his employer that basically said he wasn’t getting fired any time soon. Having this on hand with our application would have made the process easier—and prevented the landlord from worrying.

Similarly, if your landlord knows you have bad credit, it might ease their nerves to show them a bunch of zeroes on your paystub (before the decimal point, that is).

Provide A Credit Reference

If your credit score is poor (or nonexistent), consider including a credit reference with your application, i.e., an organization or individual who can confirm your ability to make payments on time.

My boyfriend used his bank. If you never overdraft your account and have automatic payments coming out, they can attest to that. I used my electric company. If you don’t pay any bills currently and don’t have any credit cards (you lucky duck), another option might be a personal reference. Have a trustworthy source attest to how responsible you are.

Find A Guarantor

This is the ultimate thing to have when apartment hunting with out-of-whack credit. A guarantor is someone with better credit than you who guarantees they’ll pay your rent if you don’t. If you have a parent or other relative with good credit who’s willing to do this, I recommend it. It might be good to bring them with you when apartment hunting to fill out the forms right there.

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These tactics won’t work every time. Some landlords have very specific requirements about credit. Ask before submitting an application. There’s no sense getting your hopes up if you know you won’t get the place.

Have you scored the apartment of your dreams despite credit woes? Let us know what helped you in the comments. 

(Photo: Salem Eames)

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