As you get ready to start applying to a new apartment, you must also start getting your documents ready to make the best impression on a landlord. With demand for good rentals going up and as news about rent bidding wars are starting to make rounds, you may have to provide more than the necessary information to get the rental home you love. There is however, one document that has become very popular among landlords to screen tenants with- the credit report.
Landlords use a credit report to check more than your credit score. It is more of a background check to make sure the information you provided in your application is accurate and you can be trusted to pay the rent on time and take good care of the property. However, your credit score and financial information is what they are looking for to determine your trustworthiness.
What is included in a credit report?
Landlords often use tenant screening services like Tenantcube to get what is known as a “soft check” on rental applicants. A soft check does not affect the applicant’s score and will often have the following information:
- Name and contact information
- Current and former addresses
- Education history
- Employment history
- Financial/Debt information
- Public records information
What is a good credit score for tenants?
Every landlord may have their own yardstick on what credit score they would like to see on a credit report. It depends greatly on the neighborhood (suburbs vs college towns), demographic (family vs students), and general demand (the more the demand, the higher the expectation). But in general a score of 670 and above is considered “good”.
How to maintain good credit scores?
The best way to maintain a good credit score is to always regularly clear off credit card debts and other debt like student loans, automobile loans or mortgages. But realistically, not everyone will be able to do that. Here are some tips on how to improve your credit score:
- Pay off loans or bring payments up-to-date
- Fix reporting errors
- Have only a finite number of tradelines and keep up with payments
- Try not to hit your credit card limit
What to do if you have a low credit score?
A poor credit score may nail the coffin on your hopes of getting a good rental. If it comes to the point where you will have to apply to rentals with a bad credit score, try doing the following:
Offer explanation: try being upfront with the landlord on your credit score and the reason for that. You may be recovering financially from a divorce, or you may have hit a rough patch and not been able to make regular payments on time before but then got a better job. Let them know you have a valid reason for a bad report.
Have a cosigner: This is a tactic used by students who have little to no credit history. If you have a parent or guardian who can sign your lease as a guarantor, landlords may consider it.
Provide strong proof on income: The easiest way to convince a landlord that you can make regular payments despite your bad credit report is to show that you make money. Provide employment letters, recent pay stubs to show consistent income.
To sum it up, avoiding a credit check while getting a rental home may not be possible, so make sure you have your records straight and maintain a healthy debt level. If you could not do that, make sure you provide alternate solutions to landlords to convince them of your trustworthiness.