Finding an apartment to rent can be a challenge for any tenant. For prospective tenants with no credit, renting an apartment is even more challenging. Many landlords are hesitant to rent to a tenant with no credit history. Here are ten tips for renting an apartment with no credit. A solid credit history is important for many reasons — including acquiring credit accounts or cell phone contracts, as well as getting an apartment.
If you don’t have a credit history yet, here are several ways to work around it and get approved for your first apartment.
A roommate can help in much the same way a co-signer can, as long as they have a good credit history. If your combined income and one person’s credit history is good enough, many landlords will take the chance and rent to you.
Again, when you’re relying on your roommate’s credit, it’s important to take the situation seriously. If you don’t hold up your end of the rental agreement, that could seriously affect their credit rating … and your friendship!
2. Find an Independent Landlord
Landlords who are renting their own independent unit are more likely to be flexible with applicants than an apartment management company or a condominium association, so if possible, seek out independent landlords.
3. Show Proof of Income
If you don’t have a credit history, the next best way for a landlord to tell if you’ll be able to afford rent each month is for them to know if your income is sufficient. Generally, landlords look for an income that’s about three times what they’re asking in rent, so make sure to keep your search narrowed down to about a third of your income.
Before apartment hunting, gather your two or three most recent pay stubs, which should provide landlords with at least an estimate of your typical monthly income when you apply.
If you have any assets or money in savings, make sure to include these, as well.
4. Show Them the Money
Money talks in many cases. Make copies of your last three bank statements to prove you have sufficient income to pay rent. If you have a savings account, provide documentation of your current balance. Be aware that your monthly rent should not exceed one third of your monthly income, so if the rent is $1,000 a month, your take-home pay should be at least $3,000 a month.
If you can swing it, you should also carry $1,000 cash with you during the apartment hunt so you can instantly put down a deposit to secure a place. Just make sure you get a written receipt before you leave the premises if you do, and that it’s signed by the person you gave the money to. You can also offer to pay two or three months rent up front or a hefty security deposit to convince them you are financially solvent and put their mind at ease.
5. Offer to Move In Immediately
It can be very expensive for landlords to have unrented properties. While properties sit vacant, the landlord or property manager is still responsible for mortgage, utilities and property taxes without reimbursement. In this case, and in the case of a property that isn’t in high demand and has been sitting on the market for a while, you may be able to get your foot in the door without having an established credit history.
6. Explain Yourself
Many landlords find it sufficient when applicants attach a letter to their application explaining their credit history. If there’s an understandable or legitimate reason you don’t have credit history, or there are other reasons you’d make a great and responsible tenant, it can’t hurt to explain them.
If your potential landlord is wary about not giving you the apartment because you don’t have credit, explain to them why you don’t have credit. Explain the fact that you are a valid immigrant or visa holder and that you have not had a chance to build a credit report yet. Your reasons may make sense to them and will put them at ease.
7. Ask for a Short-Term Lease
Though it’s pretty standard, a 12-month lease is more of a commitment for both the renter and the landlord, so landlords want to find someone they can absolutely trust for the full term. If you’re talking with an independent landlord, consider asking them to give you a short-term trial lease so you can prove your responsibility.
Giving a renter a three-month lease is a lot less risky for the landlord, and if all goes well, they can extend the lease after you’ve proven you can handle it. If you go this route, make sure you’re paying either on time or early every month.
8. Provide References
Most landlords ask for previous landlords’ and employers’ contact information anyway, so see if you can provide them with full written recommendations instead. Having employers or even college professors endorse you is a great way for landlords to get a feel for your dependability.
Even though it’s possible to land an apartment without a credit history, it’s a good idea to start building one as soon as you can. Having good credit is important for applying for apartments, but it’s also essential for buying a car and applying for loans, which you could need within a matter of years. Ask your bank about opening a secured credit card with a low limit, which is a great way to build credit without risking a lot of debt.
9. Show that You have No Credit Because You Have No Debt
This slots in with our first point. Showing them your lack of debt to prove your lack of a credit report will substantiate your explanation. If you show them you still have to build credit in the U.S. and that your lack of credit score is not for some other dodgy reason or for not honoring past commitments, they could be willing to offer you a lease.
10. Be Prepared to Pay a Little More
Another way you may be able to get around a credit check when renting an apartment or house is by offering more cash upfront. Most landlords or management companies will require tenants to pay a security deposit before moving in. If you have poor credit, it’s possible they’ll ask you to pay a higher security deposit so they can minimize their risk.
If you have the cash on hand, consider offering to pay a few months’ rent in advance. This should help the landlord feel more comfortable accepting your application and will give them a few months of extra security in the case that you default on your payments.
11. Co-Signer: A Last Resort
Using a co-signer to rent an apartment is often an easy option. Parents, siblings, other relatives and close friends may even offer to co-sign for you, but beware of the pitfalls. If you default on your rent payments, the co-signer is legally bound to pay your debt, which can cause bad blood that isn’t easily washed away. This legal liability can also damage the co-signer’s credit score if the landlord sues or attempts to evict you for any reason. In short, just make sure you know exactly how your lack of responsibility could potentially hurt someone who put their faith in you.
12. Smaller Complexes
Smaller complexes are more likely to be owned and operated by an individual than larger ones. These landlords aren’t bound by rules and regulations often stipulated by management companies. Once you find one, you should be able to easily find out (usually at no cost) who owns the property so you can proceed more quickly and avoid asking the landlord if they are the property owner.
3 Ways to Improve Your Chances for Approval on a Rental
There are other things landlords will look at apart from your credit score to determine whether they will give you a rental. If you’ve passed the credit score hurdle, you don’t want to get snagged on one of these. So here are a few additional tips to make sure you get your dream apartment.
Being organized will not only create a good impression, but it will convince your prospective landlord of your trustworthiness and your professionalism. They want to know you can take care of their property and that you will actually remember to pay your rent. So, have your application documentation (like work permits, proof of income and passport copies) readily available and be on time for your appointment!
Write a Cover Letter
Your application should have a cover letter explaining your situation and why you will be the best choice. A cover letter can provide additional information a normal application won’t. Remember, you are essentially selling yourself to the landlord. But don’t oversell! Write a succinct one-pager that would make you want to accept yourself.
Keep a Positive Attitude
Negativity won’t get you anywhere. Just because a few doors might close you have to stay positive and keep a good attitude. This will show when you present yourself to potential landlords and keep you energized in the process.
Improve Your Credit
While there may be a few ways to get around your poor or nonexistent credit history when renting a new place, it’s to your advantage to think about improving your credit over time. Credit scores can open a lot of doors, and the better your score, the more financial opportunities you will have.
Here are a few things you can do to try to increase your score.
Establish credit by opening a secured card. If you have little or no credit (also called having a thin file), getting a secured credit card is an easy way to jump-start your credit history and start improving your score. Secured cards work just like normal credit cards, but require a security deposit—which is often equal to the amount of your credit limit—when you sign up.
Pay outstanding debts and continue to make payments on time. Payment history is the most important factor in calculating your credit scores, and even one late or missed payment can have a negative impact on your scores.
Be mindful of your credit utilization ratio. Your credit utilization ratio is the second most important aspect of your credit scores and is calculated by dividing the total amount of credit you’re currently using by the total amount of all your credit limits. It is recommended to keep your credit utilization ratio around 30%—less than 10% is ideal.
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Renting an apartment or house without a credit check is possible if you’re ready to show your future landlord that you’ll be a responsible tenant. By continuing to improve your credit, you’ll not only make the renting process easier the next time around, but you’ll also improve your financial opportunities.
Ways to Build Credit, Fast
You don’t want to live with your roommate (let’s call him Frank) forever. He leaves the cap off the toothpaste and never washes his coffee mug. I know – it’s annoying. So let’s get you on the path to good credit, fast. In just six months, you could have a stellar FICO score! If you signed a short-term lease, you could be parting ways with Frank before you know it. Here’s how to build credit the right way:
Know where you are and where you want to go.
Are you sure you don’t have any credit? It’s worth checking annualcreditreport.com to see exactly where you stand. (This is a completely free, government-mandated website. Beware of any site that wants you to pay for your credit report or asks you for a credit card.)
If your credit really is non-existent, you want to aim for 750-850. This is “excellent.” Most apartment communities want a credit score of 600 or above.
Apply for a secured credit card.
A secured credit card is ideal for anyone who can’t get a regular credit card because of the whole “no credit” problem. A secured credit card works like this: You give the bank a certain amount of cash – let’s say $500. In turn, the bank gives you a credit card and you can charge up to $500. Be sure to look at different options – some banks might charge an application fee or annual fee.
Avoid those, because they’ll eat up the $500 very quickly. Make sure the issuer of the secured credit card reports to all three major credit bureaus (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian). Also – don’t keep this card any longer than you have to, and be sure to pay off the card every month (don’t keep a balance).
Consider a credit-building loan.
If you don’t want a secured credit card, get a credit-builder loan. These loans are specifically designed for people without credit. Find one with a very low, manageable monthly payment and a shorter term – 24 months or less. Apply for the loan. Usually, the money is deposited into a savings account and you can’t access it until you’ve paid off the loan. If you pay on time every month, you’ll walk away with cash and credit!
Get a car loan.
Sure, you’ll most likely need a cosigner, but this is a great way to build credit as long as you pay on time every month. And if you’re still driving that old hand-me-down with the ripped seats and rusted floor, it’s probably time for an upgrade.
Start paying your student loans!
Did you take out a student loan or two to help pay for college? That debt can come in handy! Start making payments on these and watch your credit score grow while your student loan debt shrinks. Make sure you pay your loans on time – if you are late or default on your loans, it will have a negative impact on your credit score.
Most applications refer to credit history. What if I don’t have any credit?
No credit is better than bad credit. Get a credit report on yourself. You might be surprised at the information you find there.
Is it possible to get an apartment without a credit history?
Yes, it is possible but not very easy. You just have to follow the right principles and do things right.
What is a co-signer?
Applicants who do not qualify to rent from Premier could possibly be eligible by getting a co-signer who does qualify. A co-signer agrees to be jointly responsible for payment should the first signer fail to pay debts in a timely fashion
If I get a roommate, what should we say in the cover letter?
Try to tie the household together with common interests, how you all met, that you get along well, perhaps that you have lived together on campus. Reiterate highlights from your resume, e.g. you are responsible, conscientious individuals who are science majors and need a quiet household for serious studying–only if you are, of course!
If a landlord sells a house, can they make me leave?
They can with a 30-day written notice to vacate if you are on a month-to-month agreement. If you are on a lease, they cannot. The new owner becomes your new landlord with the same terms and conditions of the original lease.
You don’t have to wonder how to get an apartment with no credit any longer. Apply the tips we provided above and get your personal loan. Getting a personal loan as a rental deposit is a great solution and will certainly help open a few extra doors. So don’t waste time and risk letting your dream apartment slip through your fingers.
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