Because landlords want to know that you’ll pay your rent on time, they typically conduct a credit check on prospective tenants. While not all require a specific credit score — or even look at your score at all — they do take various financial factors into account. Depending on the individual landlord and apartment location, they may use a tenant screening service, look for a specific rent to income ratio or use other methods to ensure that you can pay the rent on time.
If you’re looking for ways to rent an apartment with no or poor credit history, this post gives you 10 different ways to consider.
Landlords may take a closer look at your credit details and finances if your FICO® Score falls in the fair range, which is anywhere from 580 to 669. However, the cutoff score for renting can depend on the specific property manager, the local market, your income and the rent amount. In some cases, a landlord won’t take your credit score into account at all, instead considering factors like payment history, debt, bankruptcies and criminal background. If you have poor credit or no credit, the following suggestions can help you prove your trustworthiness to a landlord.
If you can’t qualify for an apartment on your own, consider asking trusted friends or family members to help you out by acting as cosigners, guarantors, roommates or references.
Cosigners agree to make your rental payments if you do not. Because they assume legal responsibility for your rent — plus associated late fees and collection costs — their credit can take a hit for any missed payments. Cosigners can live in the apartment if they choose since they sign the lease and share the financial responsibility. Having a cosigner may make the landlord feel more at-ease, knowing that if you’re unable to make payments, the cosigner will.
Guarantors also sign the lease with you and promise to make any rental payments you don’t. Unlike a cosigner, however, guarantors have no right to live with you in the apartment. This option may make sense for you if you need someone to vouch for you financially. Depending on your rental income and credit history, however, the landlord may require the guarantor to pledge collateral in the event you default on your payments.
Finding a roommate with good credit may improve your chances of getting the apartment you want (and help you split costs as well). If the landlord runs your roommate’s credit first, your low credit score may pose less of a problem. However, regulations and requirements vary by apartment complex and rental company, so this solution may not help in all cases.
If you don’t have much credit history, positive references may give you additional credibility. Letters of reference from past employers, current co-workers, family friends, or previous roommates can help demonstrate your reliability in meeting your obligations.
If your credit history is short, proof of sufficient funds may help reassure your landlord of your ability to pay. Offer bank statements, W-2 tax forms or pay stubs for the past 6 to 12 months (rather than just a few weeks) to show financial stability.
A common budgeting rule is to spend no more than 30% of your gross income on rent. So landlords need to see proof that you can afford at least that amount. If you make $3,000 a month, for example, you may want to look for apartments that cost less than $1,000 a month. You can offer proof of income by showing pay stubs, tax forms or a letter from your employer verifying your salary., 
If you don’t have a strong credit history, you may still have a chance to negotiate with the landlord. Opting for a shorter lease or sooner move-in date may encourage them to rent to you.
If you have poor credit, paying more money up front may help ease your prospective landlord’s concerns. You can offer to put down a larger security deposit or even to pay several months’ rent when you sign the lease.
If your lack of credit worries prospective landlords, consider asking for a shorter lease or even going month-to-month. While this may increase the monthly rental price, it may also make landlords more willing to rent to you due to the shorter commitment period.
If you’ve tried the above suggestions to no avail, don’t lose hope. The options below may help you move into a new apartment sooner than you think.
While searching for a new place to live, consider looking into “no credit check” apartment rentals. If you have a poor credit score or no credit, these apartments may rent to you without pulling your credit. However, research your options carefully, as some of these landlords may try to extract higher fees or offer substandard living conditions.
Private property owners often have more lenient requirements than property management companies. Individual landlords may only ask for proof of steady income — and not check your credit at all — making it a great option for renters without a strong credit report. Word of mouth and neighborhood “for rent” signs can help you find these apartments, but keep your eyes open for any potential rental scams that ask for a commitment before you see the apartment.
If your rental applications keep getting denied despite your best efforts, it may be time to work on building your credit. The sooner you improve your own credit history, the closer you can get renting the apartment you want — without depending on others.
A credit status of “unscored” means you don’t have enough active credit history to generate a score. In order to have a FICO® credit score, you typically need at least one account open for six months or more and one account reported to the credit bureaus within the past six months.
Over 90% of top lenders use the FICO® score  when checking credit, so it’s important to understand the factors involved in calculating your score. The FICO® scoring model includes the following five categories of credit information, in order of importance.
Several strategies can help you build credit — and hopefully increase your chances of qualifying for a new apartment.
Renting an apartment with bad credit may seem like a difficult task if you don’t have the credit score, solid payment history, and income-to-rent ratio landlords are looking for. Even without a specific credit score cutoff, they may rely on tenant screening services that automatically qualify renters based on debt-to-income ratio, number of bankruptcies, delinquent accounts and any criminal history.
Finding a roommate, getting a cosigner, or paying more upfront may enable you to rent an apartment even without a good credit score. Because having a strong credit history is the best way to prove your financial stability, however, you may improve your chances by building your credit before you begin the application process.
If a landlord rejects you based on a tenant screening report, you have rights as a rental applicant. For starters, the landlord must notify you of the denial in writing, electronically or orally. They must also notify you of your right to dispute inaccurate information, inform you of your right to request a free copy of the report and give you the contact information of the company that provided the report.
If your rental application was denied — or the landlord requires a cosigner or higher deposit than other applicants — follow the steps below:
Whether you have a thin credit file or are rebuilding after financial difficulty, Self has the tools and information to get you on the right track. Our credit-building services can help you establish credit, build positive payment history and reach your financial goals.
Disclaimer: FICO is a registered trademark of Fair Issac Corporation in the United States and other countries.
Ana Gonzalez-Ribeiro, MBA, AFC® is an Accredited Financial Counselor® and a Bilingual Personal Finance Writer and Educator dedicated to helping populations that need financial literacy and counseling. Her informative articles have been published in various news outlets and websites including Huffington Post, Fidelity, Fox Business News, MSN and Yahoo Finance. She also founded the personal financial and motivational site www.AcetheJourney.com and translated into Spanish the book, Financial Advice for Blue Collar America by Kathryn B. Hauer, CFP. Ana teaches Spanish or English personal finance courses on behalf of the W!SE (Working In Support of Education) program has taught workshops for nonprofits in NYC.
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