skip to main content

How to Get an Apartment With Bad Credit

Written by
Alex Huntsberger
Alex Huntsberger is a personal finance writer who covered online lending, credit scores, and employment for OppU. His work has been cited by, Business Insider, and The Motley Fool.
Read time: 7 min
Updated on January 29, 2024
young man showing an older man how to get an apartment with bad credit
Renting with bad credit is tough, but it’s not impossible. Here’s how to score your dream place even when your creditscore

Like the ghost of apartments past, one of the most sinister consequences of bad credit always seems to appear when you’re on the hunt for a new home. If you’re a renter, you’ll find that most landlords do extensive background checks on prospective tenants and, unfortunately, they often look for dings on your credit report. A bad credit score, spotty rental history, or no credit to speak of could put you in the “no” pile just as fast as an appearance on Hoarders.

However, don't worry; landlords rent to people besides tenants with perfect credit and spotless records. In general, landlords run credit reports and background checks for the following issues:

  • Delinquent accounts
  • Repossessed cars
  • Evictions
  • Late or missed rent payments

If you have one or more of these marks on your record, it may be difficult to find a landlord willing to rent to you. However, no matter how bad your credit, there are several things you can do to increase your chances of approval.

Consider where you’re renting

The more competitive the rental market in your area, the lower your chances of finding a landlord willing to overlook past financial mishaps. Think about it: landlords in trendy areas are typically flooded with applications. If they have a choice between renting to someone with rocky credit and a few evictions, or someone with stellar credit and a flawless rental record, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out who they will pick.

The lesson here is this: when your credit is poor, your chances of being approved for an apartment in a desirable neighborhood are not great. Instead, try looking in less competitive areas.

Check out up-and-coming neighborhoods, or if transportation isn’t an issue, consider moving to the suburbs where apartments may be cheaper.

In short, look for a place where you will be your landlord’s best option instead of their last resort.

Find a co-signer

Moving away from a competitive rental market might be a good option for some people, but it won’t work for everyone. If you need to stay within walking, biking, or public transit distance from your office, you may need to find another way to get around the bad credit block. One solution? Find a co-signer.

A co-signer is someone, typically a trusted friend or family member with solid credit, who is willing to vouch for you and take legal responsibility for your rent if you cannot. Landlords love renting to people with co-signers, as it gives them an extra layer of protection from a missed payment.

If you have someone in your life willing to co-sign on a lease for you, make sure you mention it to your prospective landlord before they have a chance to deny you outright.

Remember, your co-signer is essentially tying their good credit to yours. If you want to have a positive relationship with this person going forward, make sure you make all your payments on time so they don’t have to shell out any cash on your behalf.

Look to individual landlords over big rental companies

Renting from landlords who own a few buildings may be easier than renting from a giant rental company for a variety of reasons. Big companies often have issues providing timely maintenance for tenants, and they may have less wiggle room when it comes to renting to people with lower credit scores due to strict policies.

While a landlord who owns one building and lives on site may be willing to overlook bad credit for the right kind of neighbor, larger rental companies may not be open to negotiation.

If you want to give yourself a better chance of acceptance, research who owns the building in which you would like to live. You could save yourself a lot of time, and possibly an application fee, by avoiding large rental companies.

Put your money where your mouth is

Many landlords may be uneasy about renting to you if you have a bad rental history and do not have a co-signer. What is considered a bad rental history? It usually entails multiple missed or late rent payments and/or eviction(s).

If this sounds like a page out of your memoir, you might need to pay a little more to prove your worth to your future landlord. You have a few options here:

  • Offer to pay a bigger security deposit before move-in
  • Offer to pay multiple months in rent upfront
  • Offer to pay more per month for rent than the apartment is listed for (and show bank records to prove you can afford the higher monthly payment)

Money talks. If you have the funds to do so, paying a little extra can help turn even the most skeptical landlord into a true believer.

Consider looking for a roommate, not a landlord

Spend any time trawling Craigslist for apartments, and you’ll likely see a lot of posts like this:

“Roommate needed in 2 bed, 2 bath apartment! All utilities included!”

People who are looking for short or long-term roommates are often working on a short timeline; unless they find someone to move in ASAP, they will be on the hook for paying rent for the entire apartment. Therefore, they may be less inclined to ask potential roommates to submit a credit check, or even to sign a proper lease.

If you have blemishes on your report, finding a situation like this can be a great option; just make sure the landlord is OK with you living there before you hire a moving truck, and take proper precautions to vet your potential roommate to make sure you feel safe.

Explain yourself

If the marks on your credit report were the result of life situations beyond your control, you have a right to make that known. There is no harm in sending a detailed letter with your rental application to explain in advance what your landlord is likely to find when s/he runs your credit.

Use the letter to detail what happened, why it is unlikely to happen again, and include a few trusted references your landlord can call to corroborate your story and your current financial standing and responsibility.

Dispute discrepancies in your report

The FTC estimates that one in five credit reports include at least one error that could negatively impact a person’s credit. We’ve written before about why it’s so important to review your report as often as possible; errors in your report are a major reason why.

If it has been a while since you checked your report, visit to request a free copy from each of the three major U.S. credit bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. You’re entitled to one free download of each report every year, so you can either grab them all at once or spread them out every four months to get an update three times a year.

If you see anything suspicious on your credit report, like mystery credit cards or cash advances, evictions you didn’t experience, or even delinquent utility accounts you never opened, send a dispute letter to the credit bureaus. You can read the sample letter from the FTC.

According to the FTC, this letter should:

  • “Ask the credit bureau to remove or correct the inaccurate or incomplete information.
  • Include:
    • Copies (NOT originals) of documents that support your request.
    • Your complete name and address
    • Each mistake that you want fixed, and why
    • A copy of your report (circle the mistakes you want fixed)
  • Send your letter by certified mail and pay for a “return receipt” so you have a record the credit bureau got it.
  • Keep copies of everything you sent.”

Credit bureaus will typically investigate your dispute and resolve it within 30 days.

If you are considering borrowing money for any other purpose, and you have unanswered questions, read the OppU Guide to Bad Credit Loans.

California Residents, view the California Disclosures and Privacy Policy for info on what we collect about you.