Top Ten Tips for Rental Credit Check Success

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Passing a rental credit check doesn’t have to be stressful if you prepare in advance. Before applying for a lease, be sure to check your credit report and fix any errors, gather pay stubs or bank statements to verify your income. You can also talk to friends or family to find a willing cosigner, save enough to pay a higher deposit or multiple months rent up front, collect references from previous landlords and, above all else, be honest with your potential landlord.

Credit checks are nerve-wracking at the best of times—and if you need to pass a credit check to rent your next apartment, the pressure’s really on. Wondering how to make the grade? Don’t worry. Credit repair, cosigner agreements, bigger deposits and simple honesty can all help you pass a rental credit check. 

In this article, we’ll explore those four solutions in a little more detail—and we’ll dive into six other ways you can increase your chances of credit check success.

  • Why Do Landlords Perform Credit Checks?
  • How Do I Pass a Rental Credit Check?
  • What to Watch for as a Tenant
  • What if You Have Bad Credit?
  • The Rental Credit Check Wrap

Why Do Landlords Perform Credit Checks?

Landlords perform credit checks because they want to make sure that a prospective tenant is trustworthy. Some landlords use additional screening tools, like consumer reports, before making rental decisions. Occasionally, landlords look at potential tenants’ public social media profiles before issuing leases—so be careful what you post online.

Your prospective landlord or letting agent must get your permission before running a credit check. Your signature on a rental agreement could serve as written permission, or you might have to sign a separate credit screening document. 

What’s Included in a Rental Credit Check?

Some landlords use services provided by landlord associations or tenant screening companies, while others request credit reports directly from credit bureaus. The reports they receive will generally contain your:

  • Full name
  • Social Security number
  • Date of birth
  • Current and former addresses
  • Credit history

Credit reports pulled on potential tenants sometimes include credit scores. Tenant screening and landlord association reports often include the following additional information:

  • Criminal record
  • Sex offender information
  • Eviction history
  • Employment verification and history

How Do I Pass a Rental Credit Check?

Worried about your next rental credit check? Here are ten proactive things you can do to improve your chances of success:

1. Check Your Credit Report

Knowledge is power, so order a copy of your credit report from all three bureaus—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion—before you do anything else. Thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), consumers get one free report from each agency every year. Other free options include our free credit report card, which helpfully includes an Experian VantageScore 3.0 credit score that updates every 14 days.

Prefer a comprehensive all-in-one solution to the DIY approach? Sign up for ExtraCredit and you’ll get a full overview of each of your credit reports, plus access to 28 of your FICO scores. You’ll also receive personalized credit profile-building offers to help you strengthen your credit profile. ExtraCredit alerts let you know if things change on any of your reports.

2. Fix Reporting Errors

If you notice any errors on your credit report, challenge them right away. You can dispute mistakes at any of the three main credit bureaus online, via email or by phone. Bureaus have 30 days to respond to challenges, and if they agree with you, they have to remove the erroneous information immediately. 

While it is possible to challenge the accuracy of errors on your own, it can be tricky if you’re not super familiar with the process. If you’re too intimidated to tackle the process on your own, you can work with a professional credit repair firm.

3. Be Honest

Honesty is often the best policy—especially if you have bad credit. People with poor credit histories rent homes all the time, so you’re unlikely to fall completely flat. Talk to your potential landlord about your financial history and show them what you’ve done to get back on the credit wagon.

Honesty is often the best policy–especially if you have bad credit.

4. Provide Alternate Proof of Good Credit History

Don’t have much of a credit history? Time to think outside the box. Ask your prospective landlord or letting agency if you can provide your utility payment history or your rental payment record to prove how responsible you are. 

5. Demonstrate Provable Income

Money talks. If you show the landlord or letting agent solid proof of your income, you’ll demonstrate your ability to pay the rent. Pay stubs and bank statements can help paint a picture of your financial situation. You could also offer to pay your rent via direct deposit at the beginning of every month.

6. Shop Around

Don’t be afraid to shop around to find a receptive landlord or letting agency. Multiple credit inquiries of the same type within a short time—a few days, or a few weeks—usually count as just one hard inquiry. 

7. Find a Rental Without Credit Checks

Some landlords don’t check credit or consumer reports. Instead, they go on instinct and prefer a good old-fashioned hunch over a stack of paper. If you’re really worried about your credit history, try to find an old school landlord with a good reputation.

8. Get a Recommendation

Do you have a good rental or employment history? If so, get references from previous landlords, former managers or your current boss. Include one or more written recommendations with your rental application, and provide telephone numbers in case your prospective landlord wants to dig deeper.

9. Get a Cosigner or Roommate

If you’re new to the rental market or you’ve had problems paying rent in the past, you might need a cosigner. Also known as guarantors, cosigners promise to pay the rent if you don’t. Roommates can play a similar role.

10. Pay a Bigger Deposit

If all else fails, offer the landlord a bigger deposit. A couple of months rent in advance rather than one month, a larger damage deposit or a bulk payment for the whole year might land you a lease. 

What To Watch for as a Tenant

You know how to pass a rental credit check—but what should you look out for as a potential tenant? Avoid the following red flags:

  • Long distance landlords who don’t use property management companies
  • Landlords who insist on oral, rather than written leases
  • Landlords who don’t interview or screen their tenants in any way

Who Pays for a Rental Credit Check?

Rental property applicants almost always pay for their own credit checks. Most of the time, credit check fees are rolled into application fees. If you don’t feel confident that you’ll pass or you can’t afford the credit check fee, you may be able to obtain—and pass on—copies of your own credit reports from all three bureaus for free.

What if You Have Bad Credit?

Everyone starts off with a thin credit profile, so if you don’t have a robust credit history—or if your credit needs work—don’t despair. Instead, use the following tips to nurture your credit and improve your rental chances:

  • Pay your rent via a rental payment reporting firm like RentTrack
  • Get a cosigner or a roommate
  • Pay off credit cards and keep your credit utilization ratio below 30%
  • Sign up for ExtraCredit to monitor each of your credit reports in real time

ExtraCredit’s Build It tool adds rent and utilities as tradelines on your credit profile, too. You can use Built It to report on-time rental payments, utility payments and cell phone payments to all three credit bureaus.

What Credit Score Do Landlords Look For?

Some landlords prefer applicants with credit scores over a particular baseline, but many landlords examine their applicants’ credit reports in more detail. Most landlords simply want to evaluate potential tenants’ characters before issuing leases.

The Rental Credit Check Wrap

Rental credit checks are hard to avoid, but if you monitor your credit reports and fix any errors you find, you’ll get off on the right foot. Still worried? In that case, honesty, proof of income, a bigger deposit and a cosigner might all come in handy, too. Remember—where there’s a will, there’s nearly always a way.

Sign up for ExtraCredit today!

DISCLAIMER. The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to be, legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only.