When your credit score is less than stellar, consider these five tips to help you score your dream rental.
Submitting your credit history to potential landlords is a stressful exercise for all rental applicants—and doubly so for those with less than stellar credit. In fact, for renters who know their credit score is a liability, the best way forward may be to skip the credit check process altogether. As Rick Drew, residential property manager of Renters Warehouse in Miami, FL, notes, credit scores don’t always tell a landlord the renter’s full story. For one thing, he says, “A credit score might not tell you whether or not the tenant will pay their rent on time,” he says. “It’s [really] a marker as to how you feel about responsibilities.”
1. Look beyond rental service providers
A rental service isn’t the only option for finding the latest listings. Local message boards, classified ads, and websites such as Craigslist are also great places to start. In particular, Drew, the rental property manager, suggests looking for rentals that are listed as “by owner,” rather than through management companies or rental agencies. This puts you in direct contact with your potential landlord, who can evaluate you on your merits as a tenant and look beyond your credit score.
2. Use your current and prior landlords as references
Landlords know that even renters with perfect credit can be nightmare tenants. So even if your credit is sub-par, responsible tenants should actively use their current and prior landlords to advocate on their behalf. Drew says this can go a long way to smooth over any concerns prompted by low scores—especially if you can line up two or more prior landlords to prove your history of paying rent on time, treating the rental well, and generally being a great tenant.
3. Money talks
One untraditional way to show your potential landlord how serious you are is to offer your first month’s rent alongside a double security deposit to make up for a lackluster credit check. This double security deposit shows the landlord that you intend to make good on any potential damages or disputes while you are a tenant, and can put the landlord at ease far more than just the standard upfront payments.
Another lesser-known way to prove you are a responsible renter is through your current job. For Patricia Royal, a special education teacher in New York City, a former landlord’s respect for her career was helpful when it was time to seal the deal. “He later said my career played a big role in his feeling secure about renting to me without a credit check,” says Royal.
4. Flaunt what you’ve got
Believe it or not, inviting potential landlords to see your car and current home could garner you some tenant bonus points. Drew says both demonstrate a direct correlation of how you care for yourself and your surroundings. So, if they’re open to the idea, invite future landlords to come and take a look at how you are a steward of the things you already possess. But be judicious about the invite, however, as the reverse is also true. “If a car or a home is a mess, [the landlord] will know [you’re] not the right tenant for [their property,]” says Drew.
5. Have cosigners on speed dial
Some landlords will sidestep the credit check if someone is willing to cosign for you. Once again, Drew suggests offering up first month’s rent and a double security deposit as a gesture of faith for landlords who are willing to accept a cosigner. Just make sure your cosigner is aware that he or she will now be on the hook for the financial burden of the rental property and that his or her credit might also be subjected to a credit check before approval.