When you are looking to rent a home, your landlord may want to check your credit report while evaluating your application. If your credit is less-than-perfect, all is not lost. Most landlords aren't looking for perfect credit – they just want to protect their investment. Here are 6 tested strategies you can use to improve your chances of being approved. We've succeeded using five of them!
Money up front: It's common to require your first and last month of rent up front, plus a security deposit. Offering additional funds can help your case. For example, you might offer to make a larger security deposit or pay an extra month's worth of rent. We personally offered a few months of extra rent to lease a furnished apartment with an ocean view in Santa Monica, California, and stayed there for more than a decade. Be careful, though – a shady landlord may be tempted to keep that money or take his time paying it back.
Engage small-time landlords: It's safe to assume that large rental agencies and experienced landlords will use tenant-screening services. However, a newer landlord or a laid-back property owner is less likely to go through your past with a fine-toothed comb.
Add a co-signer: A co-signer is somebody who signs your application with you and promises to make your payments if you don't make payments. Just like a co-signer on a loan, the co-signer becomes legally responsible for you (so your landlord can sue the co-signer), which is a generous and risky move. (This is the only tip we haven't personally tried.)
Get references: Your credit and background check tell a story, but you can add additional voices to that story. Ask your current and previous landlords to write letters or make phone calls describing your payment history and other experiences with you. Good reviews can go a long way toward easing potential landlords' concerns.
Provide bank statements: If you've recently fallen on hard times, landlords will wonder if you can keep up with payments. Show them that you're capable of paying the rent by providing bank statements with your income and regular expenses.
Be proactive: If there are any issues in your past, they're likely to come up when a landlord looks close enough. Discuss those issues up front. Explain your situation to prospective landlords verbally, or (if you don't know who makes the decisions) include a letter of explanation with your written application. Note that full disclosure can backfire – if the landlord doesn't order screening reports, you might be telling them something they never needed to know.