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How to Rent With Bad Credit

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We’ve all heard about the importance of your credit scores when it comes to buying a home. But credit is important for renting as well. Some landlords won’t rent to people with low credit scores. This doesn’t mean you can’t rent a home or apartment, though. There are some ways to get around this and prove to a potential landlord that you can afford the home and will make payments on time.

1. Find a Co-Signer

You may have bad credit, but if you have a friend or family with good credit, ask them to help you out. (But know they would be doing you a huge favor; adding someone’s name to your lease is a big benefit for you and carries significant risk for them.) A co-signer is someone who signs the lease with you, taking on the legal responsibility to ensure the rent gets paid. A co-signer with good credit should ease your potential landlord’s concerns. 

2. Offer a Larger Deposit

If you want to show your landlord that you won’t skip out on payments, you can offer a higher deposit. Often landlords require first and last month’s rent when you move in. If you can save up more and give them a few month’s rent upfront, they may overlook your poor credit scores. Be careful, though, because while this offers the landlord more security, it offers you less.

3. Have a Personal Referral

If your credit is bad but you have a good rental history, ask a former landlord to vouch for you. Hearing from a previous landlord that you have paid your rent on time in the past can carry a lot of weight with a potential landlord. He or she may be willing to overlook that low credit score and accept your application.

4. Talk About It

Don’t avoid the elephant in the room. Address your bad credit frankly and honestly. You can explain why your scores are low and why that doesn’t accurately reflect your ability to routinely pay your rent. Landlords are aware of the difficult economy of the past few years and may appreciate your honesty.

5. Find a No-Credit-Check Rental

Not all rentals require a credit check. Look for smaller landlords who don’t do a credit check as part of the application process. It may require some more legwork, but it can be worth it.

6. Improve Your Credit

Even if you do find a rental with bad credit, immediately begin working to improve your credit for next time. Make your payments on time. Reduce your debt. Monitor your credit reports, which you can get for free from each of the major credit bureaus once a year, and your credit scores. (You can use a free tool like Credit.com’s Credit Report Card, which updates two of your credit scores every month.) Make yourself a more attractive rental candidate so you don’t have to worry about it when you move.

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