You may think that your credit score is only important when it’s time to purchase a new vehicle, buy a house or apply for a credit card. In truth, your credit history impacts many other areas of your life, including the cost of your automobile insurance and your options when you’re looking to rent an apartment.
Do Landlords Really Look at Credit Scores?
Large property management companies have long run credit checks as part of the application process for new tenants. In recent years, as technology has made it faster, easier and less expensive to request a credit history, smaller rental companies and even individual owners have climbed on the bandwagon.
Of course, a landlord or management company can’t legally request your credit report without your permission. However, a company that uses credit scores as part of the application process can and usually will simply decline to process your application without a credit history. If you choose not to sign the release, you’ll probably find yourself looking elsewhere for a place to live.
What if Your Credit Score Isn’t Good?
If your credit score isn’t up to par or there are negative items on your credit report, a landlord or management company may simply decline to rent to you. However, the outcome isn’t always so black and white. Some property managers will offer you the opportunity to clean up your credit report by paying off past due balances appearing on your credit history and providing receipts. Others may agree to rent to you, but require that you pay an extra month’s rent in advance.
Taking Positive Action
Before you start your apartment search, request a copy of your credit report and check it for negative items. Challenge any items that appear to be in error and, where you can, clean up delinquencies. It will generally take 60 days or more for your credit report to reflect changes, so plan ahead.
If you have your heart set on an apartment and are turned down because of your credit history, ask the landlord what you can do to make him feel more secure about renting to you. While large companies usually have specific policies, an individual owner may be open to an offer of a higher security deposit, paying three months’ rent in advance or other creative solutions to provide additional security.
Read more about how your credit score impacts your apartment search.