Business & Finance

How to Rent an Apartment with Troubled Credit

Landlords seem to earn the easiest money. After all, they only need someone to move in and those rent checks will start flowing in. On the contrary, property management can be a pain. A problematic tenant can prove to be a costly headache. That’s why landlords will check a prospective renter’s credit score, history of broken leases, prior evictions and credit judgements to determine if they are reliable.

Unfortunately, if you have bad credit, you could be caught in the crosshairs of these checks. That makes it harder to get into the apartment you want. Nevertheless, you can still land a great place with a poor credit score. Here’s how.

1.    Check Your Credit Report

Your credit might actually not be as bad as your current score insinuates. So start off by requesting a credit report from all three major credit bureaus before you kick off your apartment search.

Go through the reports meticulously to pick up any inaccurate or outdated information. If you find an entry that’s wrong, lodge a credit report dispute to have the errors removed. The less the negative information on your credit report, the easier it will be to convince a prospective landlord that you’re creditworthy.

2.    Find Landlords Who Don’t Do Credit Checks

Not every landlord will perform a credit check. Apartment complexes owned or run by large property management companies have a rigid process that includes a mandatory credit check on all applicants. Your application will be turned down due to your poor credit. However, you have a better shot with individual landlords.

Some individual landlords won’t run a credit check. And even if you encounter one who runs checks, they can bend their rules if you demonstrate that you are reliable, such as by showing a good, stable income.

So where do you find individual landlords? Your first stop should be the housing section of Craigslist. Many individual property owners advertise their vacant units here. There is a growing number of management-owned property ads on Craigslist so you may have to sift through multiple ads to get to an individual landlord listing. Craigslist is of course not the only online classified for apartment rental — there are others.

Second, check the housing classifieds section of leading local newspapers. Third, ask a local real estate agent. It will cost you for the service but realtors often have the most exhaustive knowledge on which vacant properties are individual-owned.

3.    Get a Recommendation

Getting a reputable person to vouch for your credibility and financial responsibility can stand in for poor credit. Get in touch with current/previous landlords, current/previous employers, your bank or utility and request for a reference letter or an account statement affirming your financial discipline.

If you have any outstanding balances with utility companies and current/past landlords, you are less likely to receive a favorable response from the landlord. So pay these before you request a recommendation letter.

Perhaps there’s a legitimate reason why you ran into financial problems. Job loss, medical bills and divorce are examples of situations that can lead to bad credit. Write a letter explaining the circumstances that caused your bad credit, list the steps you’ve taken to restore your financial health and detail the reasons why you can handle the apartment’s rent.

When it comes to recommendation letters, don’t hand them over upfront as part of your apartment application. Maybe the landlord had no intention of checking your credit history. When they receive the letter, it will pique their curiosity and compel them to run the check. Landlords have to obtain your permission to check your credit so you won’t be caught by surprise if they intend to do so. Only then should you produce the recommendations.

4.    Demonstrate Sufficient Stable Income

For some landlords, a good income can offset bad credit. Perhaps the bad credit came at a time when you were stuck at a low-income job but had huge responsibilities to take care of. If your income is now at least 3 or 4 times the monthly rent of the apartment you are interested, the landlord will be more amenable to your application.

It’s not just about the size of your income but its stability too. Provide proof of a stable income such as three months of pay stubs. Stable income reassures the landlord that even if you are late on your rent in future, you have a good chance of getting back on track thanks to your steady, predictable income.


Note that even if you do succeed in getting your dream apartment using these tips, the landlord may require that you pay more money upfront than usual. You could be asked to pay a larger security deposit or several months of rent before you can move in.