How to Get an Apartment with No Credit: 9 Tips for Renting an Apartment Without a Credit Check

When you lack a credit history or have a lower credit score, you may find yourself wondering whether you can find an apartment rental without submitting to a credit check. While this is possible, there are some important considerations to keep in mind to ensure you’re finding a legitimate and safe living situation.

Whether you’re searching for apartments in Denver, rentals in Boston, or properties anywhere else in the country, this Redfin article provides essential information to help you determine if a no-credit-check apartment is the right choice for you.

Street view of city apartments

What are no-credit-check apartments?

A no-credit-check apartment is an apartment that can be rented by anyone, regardless of their credit history. The landlord or property manager does not check your credit report during the application process, instead relying on other information to prove that you can make your rental payments on time.

Apartment rentals that do not require a credit check are rare in most places. Smaller towns with cooler rental markets are less likely to have credit checks, while hotter rental markets with a ton of demand are far more likely to involve credit and income requirements in the rental application process.

How to get an apartment with no credit

There are few strategies you can use to get an apartment if you don’t have a credit history or have poor credit. Make sure you’re prepared to approach your prospective landlord beforehand to make your case.

1. Get a cosigner

The easiest way to rent with bad credit is by leasing with the help of a cosigner. A cosigner is a person with great credit and income who can vouch for you. Keep in mind that your apartment cosigner will be responsible for any unpaid rent you leave behind. Most renters work with a parent, guardian, or trusted family member. Your cosigner will need to meet some basic qualifications like a minimum credit score and a stable income.

2. Find a roommate with good credit

In addition to splitting the cost of rent, living with a roommate can make it easier to secure an apartment without credit. If your roommate has a high credit score, they can help you secure an apartment that would otherwise be out of range. Keep in mind that any unpaid rent would legally be your roommate’s responsibility. This option provides all the benefits of a cosigner while saving you some money every month.

3. Show proof of income

Your recent pay stubs plus a year or two of tax returns will show your landlord that you make enough money to cover your rent. In many places, especially competitive rental markets, you may also need to show your bank statements. This provides proof that you have enough savings to cover you if you hit a rough patch.

4. Use a reference

Providing a reference, especially an employer who can affirm that you are a valued employee, is a great way to bolster your application. References can help push your application to the top of the pile. Your reference should provide a short written note with a phone number, so the landlord can follow up if they need to.

5. Provide a higher security deposit

Another way to sweeten your application is by offering a larger security deposit at the start of your lease. This is money that provides a cushion to your landlord in the event that you don’t pay your rent. Typical renters provide the equivalent of one month’s rent, so offering two or three months can give you an edge. This strategy won’t work everywhere, as some cities have strict rules regarding security deposits.

6. Offer to pay rent upfront 

If possible, offer to pay a few months’ rent upfront. This can mitigate the landlord’s risk and show your commitment. This approach can be particularly effective if you have a steady income, but lack a credit history or have a low credit score. It reassures the landlord that they will receive payment despite your credit situation, and it can make you a more attractive candidate compared to others who may not have the ability to make such an offer.

7. Consider renting from private properties

Working directly with the landlord is generally easier than working with a property manager. The property manager has one goal: rent out units to well-qualified tenants as soon as possible. Property managers make money on the rent paid, and that’s it.

Landlords, on the other hand, make money off rent but also gain equity and tax breaks through their property. Because their investment is a little more dynamic, they are naturally more open to negotiations.

8. Offer to move in quickly

Landlords and property managers always value a quick move-in. You don’t even have to physically move into the apartment, so long as you’re paying the rent and utility costs. In some markets, renters offer to pay a week or several weeks in advance of their actual move-in date to secure their apartment.

9. Explain your situation

Be honest about your credit situation and explain any extenuating circumstances. Transparency can sometimes help sway a landlord’s decision. For instance, if your credit issues stem from a specific event such as a medical emergency, job loss, or other temporary setback, sharing this information can provide context to your credit history. Highlighting how you’ve managed your finances since then and any steps you’ve taken to improve your situation can also be beneficial. This demonstrates your responsibility and commitment to improving your financial standing.

Couple discussing options for renting with low credit

How to build credit for an apartment

While it is possible to rent an apartment without a credit history, taking steps to build and improve your credit can significantly enhance your rental options and overall financial stability. Establishing a strong credit profile not only makes it easier to secure future housing but also provides access to better rental terms and reduces the likelihood of needing co-signers or large upfront payments. In the following section, we’ll explore practical tips and strategies to help you boost your credit score and achieve greater financial stability.

1. Review your credit report

Begin by taking a full, honest look at your financial situation. You can pull a free copy of your credit report from all three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Make a list of what’s causing your low credit score and needs to be addressed. Common culprits include:

  • High credit card balances
  • Late payments
  • Balance in collections

2. Set a credit score goal

Setting a score goal is a great way to motivate yourself and track your progress. Most landlords and rental agencies are happiest with scores at or above 720. But, many will accept scores as low as 680. Just remember that you may be competing with other prospective renters, so the higher your score the better.

3. Pay off debts

Debt is the number one killer of good credit, and there are three debts that have a big impact on your score:

  • Collections debts: unpaid bills that are now with collections agencies
  • Credit card debts: unpaid balances on a credit card
  • Other loan debt known as “good” debt, such as a student loan

Debts in collections hurt you the most and have the longest-running impact, even after the debt has been paid. Pay these down first. If you have any bills with late payments, you’ll also want to address those as soon as possible. After this, you can move on to paying off your other debts.

4. Get a secured credit card

You need credit to build credit. Getting a secured credit card is a great way to build credit. You may start with a low balance, typically less than $500, that you pay in full beforehand (prepay). After some time, your lender or creditor may offer you a traditional credit card with a revolving line of credit.

5. Take out a loan

Another way to build credit is by getting an installment loan and paying it off on time every month. You may need to work with a community bank or credit union. And you may need to provide a cash deposit to back your installment loan.

6. Consider living with a roommate

A roommate with better credit can make things easier for you while you continue to build your credit. If you have a high income, you may be able to join forces with someone with a lower income but higher score. You should also find it easier to save money as living expenses tend to be lower with roommates. Just make sure you know how to find a good roommate that fits with your lifestyle.

7. Make payments on time

A positive payment history is an important part of your credit score. Making payments on time every month is critical in building and maintaining good credit. Late payments become less relevant as they age, and as you continue to make your payments on time. Eventually, late payments will “fall off” your credit history.

8. Monitor your credit over time

Checking your score at least once a month is a great way to ensure you’re staying on top of your financial obligations and meeting your goals. It’s also important for ensuring that incorrect information stays off your credit report and allows you to catch suspicious activity early. There are many free services that allow you to track your score.

Future tenant looking for no credit check apartments

Renting an apartment with no credit – FAQs

1. Do you need credit to rent an apartment?

No, you do not necessarily need credit to rent an apartment, but having a good credit history can make the process easier. Many landlords and property management companies use credit checks as part of their screening process to assess a tenant’s financial responsibility. However, there are several ways to secure an apartment without a credit history or with poor credit. 

2. Is it hard to rent an apartment without credit?

Yes, renting an apartment without credit can be more challenging. Landlords and property management companies often rely on credit checks to evaluate a potential tenant’s financial responsibility and ability to pay rent on time. Without a credit history, you lack the financial track record that gives landlords confidence in your reliability as a tenant. This can make them hesitant to rent to you.

3. Is no credit worse than bad credit?

In most cases, landlords will be more hesitant to rent to tenants with bad credit. While having no credit simply means a lack of credit history, bad credit is the result of missing or late payments, which are much riskier for landlords.

4. What credit score do you need to rent an apartment?

The minimum credit score you need will vary depending on the apartment, location, and landlord. However, many landlords will find it difficult to accept scores below 680 when prospective tenants with higher scores are available. Many landlords won’t even consider an applicant with a score below 620.

5. Why do landlords check your credit for an apartment?

Credit checks are an important part of the screening process for landlords. Your credit score isn’t a perfect indicator of creditworthiness, but it is useful for landlords trying to gauge whether a tenant will pay their rent on time. In addition to a credit check, most landlords will perform a background check and ask for proof of income.

6. What should I look out for with no-credit-check apartments?

Landlord’s who promise a no-screening process may not be legitimate. Beware of deals that seem too good to be true or lack pictures or adequate descriptions. These are likely rental scams. You should always be wary of any listings with glaring red flags.

Though a no-credit-check apartment could be legitimate, there may be other factors that make living conditions less than ideal.

7. What if I can’t get an apartment?

A possible alternative to a traditional apartment is to rent a privately owned property. Some homeowners might be willing to rent rooms out of their homes. As we mentioned earlier, private property owners are usually more flexible than large property management companies, so they may be more willing to look past your lack of credit history or bad credit.

While it can be hard to find a no-credit-check apartment, there are some out there. In the meantime, using some of these tips can help you land a rental even if you don’t have a credit history to lean on.

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