Bad Credit? Here are Tips to Rent an Apartment

Do you have poor credit? These strategies can help you land an apartment.

  • Check your report
  • Discuss the issues
  • Get a reference
  • Sweeten the deal
  • Look for reasonable fits
  • Focus on the small operators
  • Get a co-signer

Is your credit poor? If it is, then you’ve probably figured out that it can make certain aspects of life difficult like finding a landlord who is willing to lease to you. Try these strategies to increase your chances of finding a good apartment when you have bad credit.


Check your report

Look over your credit report so you know exactly what it says. If you find something that is incorrect, file a dispute with that credit bureau.

In addition to making sure there aren’t inaccuracies, be proactive and improve your score with the following tactics:

  • Learn how to read and understand credit reports. Find a glossary that defines different terms used in credit reports, such as “30 days past due,” “account paid in full,” etc.
  • Pay credit cards by the due-date every month.
  • Resolve collections as quickly as possible.
  • Do not close credit line accounts that are open and report a perfect, or close to perfect, payment history.


Discuss the issues

When you apply for an apartment, it’s a good idea to explain to the landlord what went wrong by pulling your own credit report and attaching a note, explains certified public accountant Sally Herigstad:

“If either of you have negative marks for which you have an explanation, add a 100-word statement to your credit report.”



Two tips when creating this statement include:

  • Provide whatever proof you have that you disputed the item as a mistake.
  • Describe any steps you’re taking to reestablish your creditworthiness.

If the landlord wants to run the credit check themselves, you should include a similar message with your application.

Get a reference

Try getting a previous landlord to recommend you as a tenant through a reference letter. Typically, a landlord will want to hear from (or speak with) a previous landlord. Current landlords are sometimes unreliable because they just want to get rid of a problem tenant.

“If you have been current on your rent in previous apartments, ask former landlords to highlight that,” notes SFGate (link). “Give your references and cover letter to your prospective landlord along with your rental application.”

Sweeten the deal

Essentially, lower credit scores makes you unattractive to landlords. How can you make yourself more appealing?

  • Tell them you will take the apartment right away.
  • Suggest the idea of a shorter lease. Explain that if they’ll allow a shorter-term lease, it can help guarantee that your payments are consistent.
  • Tell them you will agree to pay a larger security deposit (although laws sometimes limit that). Essentially poor credit represents a financial risk to the landlord, so you reduce their risk by providing security cash as collateral.

It’s also a good idea to bring along your checkbook when you go look at an apartment. It’s can be especially compelling to a small landlord, if you are able to pay your rent immediately. As an alternative to the security deposit tactic, you might propose paying a few months of rent in advance.


Look for reasonable fits

If your income is relatively high, that’s certainly a plus. However, there is a price range that makes sense for everyone, and it’s easy to overreach. Typically a property owner will want the amount that you would be paying them in rent over the course of the year to be no more than 35 percent of your annual income – and even better if it’s lower, notes real estate agent Mia Melle. “If their rent-to-income ratio is only 25 percent, we would consider that a positive factor,” she says. “Staying within your affordability range also ensures that you’re less likely to stretch yourself too thin and potentially damage your credit later.”

Focus on the small operators

A landlord who owns a few buildings as an individual is often more willing to make “on the fly” lease adjustments, as opposed to a large apartment company, since the latter uses a more standardized approach.


Get a co-signer

Can you get a co-signer for the lease? That would be a person you know, typically a loved one, who will sign an agreement to cover the lease and pay your rent if you can’t.

When it comes down to it, being a co-signer is a big responsibility, with a lot of liability.  Plus, if it’s a friend, it could put a strain on your relationship. Tread cautiously with this approach and with who you choose to ask.


It can be extremely frustrating to have poor credit. However, it shouldn’t stop you from taking the steps you want to take in life. The point here, if you do have challenged credit realize the things that can swing the decision your way like dealing with a smaller landlord who has the authority to make their own adjustments.


Kent Roberts, the blog writer for, an online rental property network, is a professional writer.  He has contributed to the New York Times and The Onion, and co-authored a book for Random House. As a content writer, Kent has written many business articles for industries including real estate, rental property management, healthcare, law, marketing, and web hosting. Kent has an MA in English Literature and a BA from Brown University.