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Credit Score Needed to Rent an Apartment

Credit Score Needed to Rent an Apartment; When you’re searching for the perfect apartment, chances are your credit score isn’t top of mind.
Jacqueline DeMarco
Jacqueline DeMarcoUpdated December 12, 2023
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Editor’s note: Lantern by SoFi seeks to provide content that is objective, independent and accurate. Writers are separate from our business operation and do not receive direct compensation from advertisers or partners. Read more about our Editorial Guidelines and How We Make Money.
When you’re searching for the perfect apartment, chances are your credit score isn’t top of mind. Location, light, amenities, and price are all likely higher on your list of concerns. But before you start looking for your new digs, giving your credit score some thought can be a good idea. Let’s look at what credit score you might need to rent an apartment and other important things you need to know about your credit when it comes to renting. 

What is the Average Credit Score to Rent an Apartment?

The average credit score to rent an apartment is typically between 550 and 850. Apartment property managers generally like to see tenants with a FICO® Score or VantageScore® of 650 or higher.Some landlords may charge risk mitigation fees and demand a sizable security deposit if your credit score is between 550–649.Getting approved for an apartment leasing application can be quite difficult if you have a bad credit score between 300–549.Recommended: What Is a Good Credit Score?

Does Renting an Apartment Build Credit?

Renting an apartment can help you build your credit if your landlord reports your rent payments to one or more of the three main credit bureaus.Not all landlords do this reporting. If yours doesn’t, then you can request that the landlord either starts reporting your payments or lets you pay your rent via a rent payment reporting service that will report your rent payments. The landlord may not say yes to these requests, but it can’t hurt to ask.

How to Get Rent Payments Added to Your Credit Report

You can’t report your own rental payments to credit bureaus. However, as mentioned above, landlords do have the option of reporting rent payments to third-party platforms, such as a rent payment reporting service. If your landlord doesn’t want to report your monthly payments to a credit bureau, rent payment reporting services might be an acceptable alternative to help you build your credit.However, you should be aware that this service can cost renters extra, as the service providers may charge a fee.Recommended: Why Is Your Credit Score So Important?

Does an Apartment Credit Check Hurt Your Credit?

An apartment credit check can hurt your credit score if the landlord conducts a hard inquiry into your consumer credit report. Hard inquiries can cause your credit score to drop several points.Some apartment complexes may run a soft credit check, which doesn’t affect your credit score. You can ask apartment property managers whether their tenant background checks involve a hard or soft credit inquiry.Seeing multiple hard inquiries on your credit report can cause a lender or landlord to worry that you’re overextended since it can look as if you might be applying for a lot of credit products to help cover your expenses.If you’re going to apply for multiple apartments, it’s best to do so during a short period of time. Having multiple hard inquiries within a short timeframe, usually 14 to 45 days, may count as just one hard inquiry. That’s because the credit bureaus understand that you may need to shop around for things like loans or apartments.

Can I Be Denied an Apartment Because of Bad Credit?

Unfortunately, it can be more challenging to find an apartment (and good credit products) with a low credit score. But while you might be denied a particular apartment, you may still have access to affordable housing.One option renters with less than ideal scores have is to rent from landlords that don’t do credit checks or that have lower credit score requirements. It may help renters to ask about credit requirements before submitting an application. That way you may be able to avoid an unnecessary hard pull if you’re unlikely to qualify for the apartment.Landlords do consider other factors aside from credit scores. Here are some ways you can make your apartment leasing application stand out if you have bad credit or no credit:
  • Highlight a high income. Having an income that’s three to four times what the rent will cost is a great way to catch a landlord’s eye. Applicants who can demonstrate that they have a steady salary that’s high enough to pay the rent each month may be able to counteract a low credit score.
  • Pay more upfront. If you can afford to make extra payments, you may be able to secure an apartment even with a poor credit score. The maximum security deposit a landlord can charge may vary by state. Section 1950.5 of the California Civil Code, for example, allows landlords to collect a maximum security deposit equal to three months’ rent to a furnished residential property.
  • Tell your story. If there’s an understandable reason for your having a lower credit score and you can prove you’ve overcome any financial hardships, you may be able to appeal to the landlord with a written letter explaining your situation. This kind of explanation may give a landlord the confidence to rent to someone with a low credit score. Asking your current landlord or employer to write a letter of reference may also help.
  • Find a roommate. If there are multiple people paying the rent, the amount of qualifying income on the lease shoots up. Finding a roommate with a strong credit score can also help make finding an apartment easier. 
  • Find a cosigner. Asking a family member or friend with good credit to act as a cosigner can help make your low credit score application stand out. It can be challenging to find a cosigner, however, because if you default on your payments, the cosigner will need to foot the rent bill or risk credit score damage.
Recommended: Is a Guarantor the Same as a Cosigner?

Your Whole Credit Report Matters

When you’re renting, a credit score is not necessarily the only thing landlords care about — they’re typically interested in a renter’s entire credit report.The reason landlords look into the credit history of applicants is the same reason lenders do: They want to know how likely a renter is to pay the rent on time. Landlords can look at your credit history to see how you handled paying off debt and managing your bills. That way, they hope to gain a sense of how financially reliable and consistent you are.A tenant screening report can also show landlords any past evictions you may have had in addition to your creditworthiness.

The Takeaway

Consumers with bad credit may have limited options. That’s true whether you’re looking to rent an apartment or buy your first home with a mortgage loanIf you’re seeking to build credit, Lantern by SoFi can help. The Lantern marketplace allows you to find and compare credit cards for building credit. You can also explore other funding solutions. Lantern helps you find financing for a variety of purposes.

About the Author

Jacqueline DeMarco

Jacqueline DeMarco

Jacqueline DeMarco is a personal finance writer and editor based in Southern California. While she spends the bulk of her time writing about complex financial issues, she also tackles a variety of subjects ranging from food to fashion to travel. Her work can be found across dozens of publications such as Credit Karma, LendingTree, Northwestern Mutual, The Everygirl, and Apartment Therapy.
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