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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 July 13, 2022
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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?

 Analyzing more than five million lease applications, RENTCafé found that the average credit score of U.S. renters in 2020 was 638. While there’s no specific credit score that consumers are generally required to have in order to rent an apartment, this average gives you an idea of where you may need to be. Where you want to live can also influence what your credit score needs to be. Renters living in high-end buildings average credit scores of 669, whereas those in mid-priced buildings have average scores of 626. Renters living in low-end buildings have an even lower average score at 597. Although there’s technically no minimum credit score required to rent an apartment, the higher your score is, the more you’ll stand out among other applicants who want to rent an apartment. 

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. If your landlord reports your on-time payments, that can help improve your credit score and/or establish your credit history.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 (as low as $6.95 a month). While paying this extra fee each month may not sound very appealing, building a good credit score could save you thousands of dollars on interest payments for financial products in the future. 

Does an Apartment Credit Check Hurt Your Credit?

When a landlord pulls an applicant’s credit score, it’s a hard credit inquiry. Hard inquiries can have a negative effect on credit scores, but are often necessary when you’re applying to rent a home. Seeing multiple hard inquiries on your credit report can cause a lender or landlord to worry that you’re overextended since it can look like 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, counts 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, chances are that you will ultimately be able to find some apartment.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, and you may be able to make your application stand out by taking the following steps.
  • 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 lower credit score. It isn’t uncommon for landlords to require renters with low scores to pay up to three months’ worth of rent upfront as a deposit. If the landlord doesn’t require this but you do have a low credit score, you  might want to offer to do this as a gesture of good faith.  
  • 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. 

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 credit report can also show landlords any past evictions, bankruptcies, loan defaults, and late payments, as well as let them know if you have any accounts in collections. 

The Takeaway

Improving your credit score can take time, but it may also open more doors for you. Even beyond helping you get an apartment, it gives you access to better financial products and opportunities. Paying bills on time, keeping debt levels low, and not applying for too many new credit products are all great ways to build a stronger credit report and score. As you improve your financial health, you may start looking at getting another credit card or a personal loan of some kind. With Lantern, you can fill out one simple form and get multiple offers from our lending partners. That will let you compare and contrast what’s available to you, all in one place, and easily make the best decision that’s available to you.

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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