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How to get an apartment with bad credit

Strategies to Get Approved for an Apartment when You Have Poor Credit » Housing: How to Overcome Challenges with Your Biggest Expense » Strategies to Get Approved for an Apartment when You Have Poor Credit



Are you facing difficulties in getting approved for an apartment due to your poor credit score? Having a low credit score can indeed be a challenge when it comes to securing housing. Landlords and property managers often use credit checks as a measure of financial responsibility and reliability. However, there are strategies you can employ to increase your chances of getting approved for an apartment, even if you have poor credit. In this article, we will explore effective tactics that can help you overcome this obstacle and find the apartment you desire.

When your credit score is less than ideal, it’s important to be proactive and strategic in your approach to securing an apartment. By implementing specific strategies, you can increase your chances of getting approved, even with poor credit.

What is Tenant screening?

Tenant screening is the process of evaluating and assessing potential tenants before renting out a property. It involves conducting various checks and assessments to gather information about the prospective tenant’s background, financial stability, rental history, and suitability as a tenant. The primary goal of tenant screening is to minimize risk and ensure that the selected tenant is reliable, responsible, and capable of fulfilling their obligations as outlined in the rental agreement.

Tenant screening typically involves several components, including:

  1. Credit Check: A credit check provides insight into the prospective tenant’s credit history, including their credit score, payment history, outstanding debts, and any past bankruptcies or evictions. This helps landlords assess the tenant’s financial responsibility and their ability to manage rental payments.
  2. Background Check: A background check involves searching for any criminal records associated with the potential tenant. This helps landlords ensure the safety and well-being of other tenants and the property itself.
  3. Rental History Verification: Contacting previous landlords or property managers to verify the applicant’s rental history is a common practice in tenant screening. This includes checking for any past evictions, lease violations, or complaints.
  4. Employment and Income Verification: Verifying the applicant’s employment status, income level, and stability helps assess their ability to afford the rent and meet their financial obligations.
  5. Reference Checks: Contacting personal or professional references provided by the applicant allows landlords to gather additional information about the tenant’s character, reliability, and suitability as a tenant.

The information gathered during tenant screening helps landlords make informed decisions about whether to approve or deny a rental application. It enables them to assess the potential risks associated with a prospective tenant and determine whether they meet the criteria and standards set for renting the property.

It’s important to note that tenant screening must be conducted in compliance with fair housing laws and regulations, ensuring that all applicants are treated equally and without discrimination based on factors such as race, religion, gender, or familial status.

Can A Renter Contact The Tenant Screen Company?

Yes, in most cases, renters have the ability to contact the tenant screening company to inquire about their screening report or to address any concerns or discrepancies. Tenant screening companies typically have customer support or client services departments that handle inquiries from both landlords and tenants.

If you are a renter and have questions or issues regarding your tenant screening report, it is recommended to reach out directly to the tenant screening company that conducted the screening. They should be able to provide you with information about the report, clarify any aspects that may be unclear, and address any concerns you may have.

When contacting the tenant screening company, be prepared to provide relevant information such as your name, the rental property address, and any reference or identification numbers associated with your application or screening report. This will help the company locate and assist you more effectively.

Remember that tenant screening companies are responsible for maintaining the accuracy and confidentiality of the information they provide. If you believe there are errors or inaccuracies in your screening report, you can request that the company investigates and corrects them as necessary.

It’s worth noting that the ability of a renter to contact the tenant screening company may vary depending on the specific policies and procedures of the company and the regulations in your jurisdiction. Therefore, it is recommended to review the terms and conditions or contact the company directly to understand the process for renters to engage with them.

Here is a list of companies that provide tenant screening services:

It’s important for renters to be proactive, stay informed, and understand their rights and responsibilities when it comes to tenant screening. By being knowledgeable about the process and their rights, renters can navigate the rental application process more confidently.

  1. TransUnion SmartMove: TransUnion SmartMove offers comprehensive tenant screening services that include credit checks, eviction history, criminal background checks, and income verification. They provide customizable reports and offer a user-friendly online platform for landlords and property managers.
  2. Experian RentBureau: Experian RentBureau is a specialized division of Experian that focuses on rental history and tenant screening. They provide rental payment data and eviction records to help landlords assess the risk associated with potential tenants.
  3. CoreLogic Rental Property Solutions: CoreLogic Rental Property Solutions offers a range of screening services, including credit checks, criminal background checks, eviction history, and employment verification. They provide detailed reports and offer integration options with property management software.
  4. AppFolio: AppFolio is a property management software that includes tenant screening as one of its features. It allows landlords and property managers to conduct credit checks, criminal background checks, and eviction history searches. It also provides an online rental application platform.
  5. RentPrep: RentPrep offers tenant screening services that include credit checks, criminal background checks, eviction history, and employment verification. They provide fast turnaround times and offer multiple screening packages to suit different needs.
  6. National Tenant Network (NTN): NTN provides tenant screening services for landlords and property managers. They offer credit checks, eviction history, criminal background checks, and verification of rental references. NTN also provides an online platform for accessing screening reports.
  7. MyRental: MyRental offers tenant screening services that cover credit checks, criminal background checks, eviction history, and employment verification. They provide comprehensive reports and offer online access to screening results.
  8. Tenant Background Search: Tenant Background Search offers a range of tenant screening services, including credit checks, criminal background checks, eviction history, and employment verification. They provide affordable screening options for landlords and property managers.
  9. RentSpree: RentSpree offers an online tenant screening platform that allows landlords and property managers to request and review comprehensive screening reports. Their services include credit checks, criminal background checks, eviction history, and income verification.
  10. ScreeningWorks: ScreeningWorks is a tenant screening service that offers credit checks, criminal background checks, eviction history, and employment verification. They provide customizable reports and offer integration options with property management systems.

Please note that this list is not exhaustive, and there are other companies available that provide tenant screening services. It’s important to research and evaluate each company’s offerings, pricing, and customer reviews to determine the best fit for your specific needs as a landlord or property manager.

Understanding the Impact of Poor Credit on Apartment Applications

Landlords and property managers often conduct credit checks to assess an applicant’s financial responsibility. A low credit score can be seen as a red flag, indicating a potential risk of missed rent payments or other financial difficulties. However, it’s essential to remember that poor credit doesn’t necessarily define your ability to be a reliable tenant.

Has your rental application been denied by an apartment complex or landlord? Maybe you’re afraid to turn in an application at all because you fear that poor credit will slam the door on your chances for approval.

If so, don’t be too hard on yourself for overdue payments, loan defaults, or other factors that contributed to your less-than-desirable credit score. With time and effort, you can repair your credit. Meanwhile, however, you need a place to live.

So, how can you convince an apartment manager or landlord that you’ll be a tenant who pays on time?

Building a Strong Rental Application

To compensate for your poor credit, focus on building a strong rental application that showcases your positive attributes as a tenant. Here are some strategies to consider:

Know Where You Stand

Before you begin shopping for an apartment to rent, get a free copy of your credit report from That way, you’ll know what your credit score is, ways to improve the rating, and areas that could raise a red flag to potential landlords.

Don’t dive into a review of your credit report without knowing how to make sense of the information. You can find plenty of online resources explaining how to understand your credit report.

Be Honest About Your Credit

If an apartment complex or landlord plans to run a background and credit check before approving you as a tenant, get ahead of the situation by being upfront about your low credit score or payment history issues on your credit report.

Then assure the landlord that you have since learned important financial lessons and are working hard to rebuild your credit.

Providing References and Recommendations

Gather references from previous landlords or reputable individuals who can vouch for your character and reliability. A positive recommendation can hold significant weight and help offset the concerns raised by your credit score.

Offer Alternate Proof Of Payment History

If you’re trying to rent an apartment before you have an adequate credit history or you have a spotty payment history on your credit report, don’t despair. Instead, present alternate evidence that you pay your bills on time.

Options for proof of financial responsibility could include cell phone and utilities history. If you’re haunted by poor payment history with a creditor that you’ve since paid, try to obtain a letter from that creditor stating that you paid the debt in full or stuck to an arranged payment plan.

Show That You Have Savings As A Backup

Even if you’re impatient to rent a new place, try to save at least $1,000 in a savings account before applying. Having designated savings for emergencies shows a potential landlord that you have a better chance of covering rent when you have unexpected expenses.

Go into the rental situation with the expectation that when you live on your own, it’s a matter of when – not if – you have an unexpected expense. Having emergency savings will help you cover the rent and help protect that credit score you’re trying to improve.

Offering a Larger Security Deposit

If a shaky payment history and poor credit score threaten to evict you from consideration, offer to pay a larger deposit or even a couple months’ rent in advance. Paying more can help the landlord feel more secure about getting paid on time should you struggle financially later.

By offering a larger security deposit, you demonstrate your commitment to fulfilling your rental obligations. Landlords may view this as a sign of financial stability and may be more willing to approve your application.

Presenting Proof of Income and Stable Employment

Highlight your steady income and stable employment to reassure landlords of your ability to pay rent consistently. Provide recent pay stubs or employment verification documents to strengthen your application.

Providing a Co-Signer or Guarantor

If your credit score is blocking the path to a new apartment, ask the apartment manager if you could rent if you have a cosigner on the lease who can cover rent if you can’t pay. For instance, maybe one of your parents would agree to be a cosigner on the lease. Consider finding a co-signer or guarantor with good credit who is willing to take responsibility for the lease in case of any default. Having a financially reliable individual backing your application can significantly increase your chances of approval.

Be careful with this method, however. If you lose your job or can’t pay the rent for another reason, you may damage the relationship with the cosigner temporarily or irreparably.

Get A Roommate With Good Credit

How about that coworker with excellent credit? Is she looking for a place to live? If so, having a roommate with good credit on the lease can improve your chances for approval.

However, don’t choose a roommate on credit score alone. You want to be just as picky about the person you live with as the landlord is when it comes to choosing tenants.

Communicating with Landlords and Property Managers

Clear and effective communication with landlords and property managers is crucial in overcoming the concerns raised by your poor credit. Here are some tips:

Explaining Your Financial Situation

Openly communicate the reasons behind your poor credit and discuss any steps you have taken to improve your financial stability. Being honest and transparent can help build trust with the landlord.

Emphasizing Positive Rental History

If you have a positive rental history, make sure to highlight it during your discussions. Provide proof of timely rent payments, good relationships with previous landlords, and any positive feedback or recommendations you have received.

Demonstrating Willingness to Sign a Longer Lease

Offering to sign a longer lease term can be appealing to landlords as it provides them with more stability and reduces the risks associated with frequent turnover. This commitment may help mitigate concerns about your creditworthiness.

Seeking Alternative Housing Options

If traditional apartment complexes and property management companies prove challenging, consider exploring alternative housing options. Here are a few possibilities:

Renting from Individual Landlords

Individual landlords may have more flexibility in their decision-making process compared to larger property management companies. They might be more willing to overlook a low credit score, especially if you can demonstrate other positive qualities as a tenant.

Exploring Subletting and Roommate Opportunities

Consider subletting or finding roommate opportunities, as these arrangements often involve less stringent credit checks. Sharing an apartment with someone else can reduce the financial burden and increase your chances of approval.

Considering Temporary Housing Solutions

Temporary housing solutions such as extended-stay hotels, corporate housing, or vacation rentals can provide a short-term option while you work on improving your credit. These alternatives may have less strict approval criteria, allowing you to secure housing more easily.

Improving Your Credit Score for Future Applications

While you may be focused on finding an apartment now, it’s essential to work on improving your credit score for future applications. Here are some steps to consider:

Paying Bills on Time

Consistently paying your bills on time is one of the most effective ways to improve your credit score over time. Set up reminders or automatic payments to ensure you don’t miss any deadlines.

Reducing Debt and Managing Finances

Take steps to reduce your debt and manage your finances responsibly. Create a budget, prioritize debt repayment, and avoid accruing additional debt whenever possible.

Checking Your Credit Report for Errors

Regularly review your credit report to identify any errors or inaccuracies. Dispute any incorrect information and work towards having it corrected promptly.

Seeking Professional Credit Counseling

If you’re struggling to manage your finances or improve your credit score on your own, consider seeking assistance from a professional credit counseling service. They can provide guidance tailored to your specific situation.


Can I get approved for an apartment with poor credit?

While it may be more challenging, it’s still possible to get approved for an apartment with poor credit. By employing strategies like providing references, offering a larger security deposit, and communicating effectively with landlords, you can increase your chances of approval.

Should I explain my poor credit to landlords?

Yes, it’s important to be transparent about your financial situation and explain the reasons behind your poor credit. Honesty can help build trust with landlords and demonstrate your commitment to improving your circumstances.

How can I improve my credit score?

Improving your credit score takes time and effort. Start by paying bills on time, reducing debt, managing your finances responsibly, and checking your credit report for errors. Seeking professional credit counseling can also provide valuable guidance.

Are there alternative housing options for people with poor credit?

Yes, there are alternative housing options you can explore, such as renting from individual landlords, considering subletting or roommate opportunities, or opting for temporary housing solutions like extended-stay hotels or vacation rentals.

Can a co-signer help me get approved for an apartment with poor credit?

Having a co-signer with good credit can significantly increase your chances of approval. A co-signer acts as a guarantor for the lease and offers additional financial security to landlords.


Having poor credit doesn’t mean you have to give up on your goal of renting an apartment. By implementing the strategies outlined in this article, such as building a strong rental application, communicating effectively with landlords, exploring alternative housing options, and improving your credit score, you can increase your chances of getting approved. Remember to remain persistent, proactive, and positive throughout the process.

Get professional help to clean up errors in your credit report to get you approved for a lease.

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