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How to get an apartment without credit

Don’t let no credit history or bad credit keep you from renting  

If you have a good credit history, it’s a lot easier to get approved for a rental. But if you have bad credit — or no credit history at all — it doesn’t mean you can’t still find a great place to rent. Many landlords might be willing to work with you if you have marginal or no credit if you can show them that you will be a good renter. If you’ve been wondering how to get an apartment without credit, we’ve found some ways to help increase your chances of getting approved. By doing one of these things or a few of them combined you may be able to obtain a lease to your chosen apartment easier than you imagined.

Working on your credit?

10 ways to get approved for the apartment you want

1. Explain your credit history

If you don’t have a credit history at all, this means you don’t owe money or have to make monthly payments. Try using this to your advantage. Explain to your future landlord that because you don’t have debt and other monthly obligations, making rent is pretty easy.

If you’ve been intentional about not using credit because you don’t want to spend more than you can actually afford, explain that, too. Landlords understand it takes time to establish a credit history.

If you have a bad credit history, be prepared to explain why and what happened. Most importantly, share how you’ve changed your approach to managing your money and are focused on not acquiring any new debt. If your circumstances have also changed — like you got a different job and now earn more — share that, too.

Check your credit score by getting a current credit report. Identify areas that may need explanation. Your goal is to help them understand that you’re being intentional about your money and that they should trust you can afford what you say you can afford.

2. Prove your income or a savings balance

Landlords like to see a solid credit history, but more importantly, they want to know you have a reliable income to pay your rent. Volunteer to supply recent pay stubs, a W-2, and even a letter from your employer to help reassure a nervous landlord.

If you have a savings account balance, offer to show this to them as well. (Don’t forget to mark out your account number with a black marker. No need to share more details than they need at this stage of the game).

3. Get a roommate with good credit

If you were hoping to rent a place by yourself but aren’t having much success, you may be able to get around your lack of credit history by bringing in a roommate. Your roommate will have to have sufficient income — and a strong credit history — to help compensate while you build your credit.

4. Pay an extra month of rent up front

If you have a poor credit history (or lack of credit history) but have started to set aside savings, consider offering to pay an extra month of rent upfront. An extra month’s rent acts a little bit like rent payment insurance for your landlord and just might help them move your rental application from “denied” to “approved.”

However, when you combine an extra month’s rent with your first, last, security deposit and application fees, it can really add up. Here’s what that can actually look like:

Rent itemAmount
First month$1200
Second month$1200
Last month$1200
Security deposit$1200
Fees$75.00
Total $4875.00
How to get an apartment without credit: Estimated upfront costs

If you take this route, ask to include language in the lease that the “extra safety month” be refunded to you at the end of 12 months or be applied to your last two months of rent.  

5. Rent an apartment from an individual owner

Many independent landlords, compared to property management companies, are a little more flexible than large, corporate-owned apartment properties. If you can prove income and good character, they’re more likely to take a chance on you.

Craigslist.org and Google Marketplace tend to list a higher concentration of independently-owned properties.

6. Offer to move in the next day

If you come across an apartment building with multiple vacant units or it’s been on the market a while, you may have some negotiation room. You can search for time on the market on apartment listing sites like Zillow.

It’s expensive for landlords to maintain vacant units and meet their occupancy goals, so they may be more receptive to taking a chance on you instead of letting the apartment sit vacant.   

7. Reduce risk with a shorter rent agreement or go month-to-month

It can take a landlord months to evict a tenant and is a real hassle worth avoiding. However, if you sign a shorter lease and don’t work out, then your lease doesn’t get automatically renewed and you have to move out. You’re moving in knowing that you’ll always pay your rent, but you may need to prove it to your landlord first before they agree to a longer lease.  

8. Use your good character to show you’re reliable

Landlords prioritize good tenants who can pay rent and are reasonable to work with. It’s less hassle for them. Prove your character by providing professional references from past employers, professors, or teachers.

The general assumption is those who are responsible at work and school are more likely to be responsible with their money and take care of where they live. These character references are a good way to show you’re a hardworking, responsible person who won’t be late with the rent.

9. Ask a family member to co-sign

If you’ve run out of options, ask a parent, relative, or friend with a strong credit history and income to co-sign on the lease. This essentially means that if you miss your rent, they’re on the hook to pay it. It also means any of your payment behavior — say, paying rent late — could impact their credit score (and probably your relationship with them, too).

10. Pay for a lease guarantee

If you don’t have family or a friend who’s willing to co-sign, look for a company that basically acts as a co-signer on your lease — for a fee. These services are sometimes offered directly through your landlord or property manager and may apply only to certain apartments. Check out places like The Guarantors or Leap.

How credit impacts your life

Your credit score has a massive impact on your life. When you don’t have a credit history — or have a poor one — it can seem pretty tough to move forward. The good news is that you can still get a great place to rent. You just need to get a little creative and take intentional steps to improve your credit.

Building and improving your credit won’t just help you rent the place you want, it’ll pay off across the board: lower rates on loans, cheaper furniture rental or appliance rentals, and lower-cost auto insurance.  And pay your rent on time. Even your rent payment can impact your future credit report!

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Last Updated: September 24th, 2021