A solid credit history is important for many reasons — including acquiring various credit accounts or cell phone contracts, as well as getting an apartment. However, if you don’t have a credit history yet, here are several ways to work around it and get approved for your first apartment.
1. Rent an apartment from an individual owner
Most apartment complexes and management companies require a credit check. However, some individual owners will let you rent without established credit.
Generally, these landlords will still ask you to prove income stability. Only rent apartments within your budget, even if you can get approved for a more expensive place.
2. Offer to move in right away
Having one or more empty apartments is expensive for landlords. They have to pay the mortgage and utilities without any reimbursement in the form of rent. Because of this — especially if you live in a place with low rental demand — you may be able to rent a place without a credit history if you’re able to move in immediately.
3. Prove income or savings balance
If you don’t have an established credit history, you may be approved if your income is stable and will adequately cover the rent. It’s generally recommended that you keep rent expenses to less than one-third of your take-home pay, so if you make $3,000 a month, you’ll want to look at apartments with a monthly rent of less than $1,000.
If you don’t have a stable income, a high savings balance may suffice. The savings required will vary depending on the apartment complex or management company, but ideally it should cover several months of rent payments.
4. Pay a few months’ rent upfront as a security deposit
Landlords will be more likely to rent to you if they have the rent money in hand for a few months. By paying two to three months upfront, your landlord won’t run the risk of you not paying, at least for a period of time. Make sure this payment is well documented, so you can get it back at the end of your lease.
5. Provide reference letters
Prove your character by providing professional references from past employers, professors or teachers. The general assumption is those who are responsible at work and school are more likely to be responsible with their money. These character references are a good way to show you’re a hardworking, responsible person who won’t be late with the rent.
6. Offer to start out month-to-month or with a short lease
It can take a landlord months to evict a non-paying tenant if the tenant refuses to leave. By signing a three-month lease, or going month-to-month, the landlord can opt to not renew you for a longer term if you aren’t paying. Of course, you know you’ll always pay the rent on time, but you have to prove that to your landlord with a good track record of on-time rent payments.
7. If all else fails, get a co-signer
If there aren’t any other options, ask a close friend or family member with good credit to co-sign for you. Understand that if this person agrees, he or she will be liable for your rent payment if you fail to make it in a timely manner. To keep your personal relationships intact, always make your payment in full and on time.
There are several options for renting without a credit profile. If you have some time before renting your first apartment, follow these tips for building your credit score from scratch. If not, use one or more of the tips above. Enjoy your new digs!
This article was updated Aug. 11, 2016. It originally published May 7, 2014.