But landing a first apartment without having a credit history is absolutely possible, and it’s important not to get discouraged. Remember that almost everyone who doesn’t live at home had to get a first apartment at some point in their life, so you can too! Here’s how you can get a landlord to rent to you without having a credit history:
Get a Co-signer
The #1 best way to land a great first apartment without credit is to find yourself a really responsible co-signer with great credit, like a parent or an older sibling. Even if you do have credit, landlords like to see co-signers for young renters because it gives them a safety net—if you can’t pay, your co-signer is liable.
Keep in mind that this legal liability could seriously hurt your co-signer’s credit if your landlord files a lawsuit or tries to evict you, so make sure you’re acting responsibly and not taking the support of your co-signer for granted.
Find a Roommate
A roommate can help in much the same way a co-signer can, as long as they have a good credit history. If your combined income and one person’s credit history is good enough, many landlords will take the chance and rent to you.
Again, when you’re relying on your roommate’s credit, it’s important to take the situation seriously. If you don’t hold up your end of the rental agreement, that could seriously affect their credit rating … and your friendship!
Find an Independent Landlord
Landlords who are renting their own independent unit are more likely to be flexible with applicants than an apartment management company or a condominium association, so if possible, seek out independent landlords.
Show Proof of Income
If you don’t have a credit history, the next best way for a landlord to tell if you’ll be able to afford rent each month is for them to know if your income is sufficient. Generally, landlords look for an income that’s about three times what they’re asking in rent, so make sure to keep your search narrowed down to about a third of your income.
Before apartment hunting, gather your two or three most recent pay stubs, which should provide landlords with at least an estimate of your typical monthly income when you apply.
If you have any assets or money in savings, make sure to include these, as well.
Offer to Move In Immediately
It can be very expensive for landlords to have unrented properties. While properties sit vacant, the landlord or property manager is still responsible for mortgage, utilities and property taxes without reimbursement. In this case, and in the case of a property that isn’t in high demand and has been sitting on the market for a while, you may be able to get your foot in the door without having an established credit history.
Many landlords find it sufficient when applicants attach a letter to their application explaining their credit history. If there’s an understandable or legitimate reason you don’t have credit history, or there are other reasons you’d make a great and responsible tenant, it can’t hurt to explain them.
Again, keep in mind that independent owners will be more willing to work with you and take your personal experiences into account than larger rental companies.
Pay More Up Front
A great way to land a first apartment without credit is to offer to pay more upfront than what the landlord is asking. Paying a larger security deposit or offering to pay two months of rent right away is a good way to show landlords you’re serious, responsible and have money saved. Larger security deposits also give them more peace of mind since they have more money they can fall back on.
Ask for a Short-Term Lease
Though it’s pretty standard, a 12-month lease is more of a commitment for both the renter and the landlord, so landlords want to find someone they can absolutely trust for the full term. If you’re talking with an independent landlord, consider asking them to give you a short-term trial lease so you can prove your responsibility.
Giving a renter a three-month lease is a lot less risky for the landlord, and if all goes well, they can extend the lease after you’ve proven you can handle it. If you go this route, make sure you’re paying either on time or early every month.
Most landlords ask for previous landlords’ and employers’ contact information anyway, so see if you can provide them with full written recommendations instead. Having employers or even college professors endorse you is a great way for landlords to get a feel for your dependability.
Even though it’s possible to land an apartment without a credit history, it’s a good idea to start building one as soon as you can. Having good credit is important for applying for apartments, but it’s also essential for buying a car and applying for loans, which you could need within a matter of years. Ask your bank about opening a secured credit card with a low limit, which is a great way to build credit without risking a lot of debt.