If your credit history shows a pattern of irresponsibility with your finances, landlords may question your ability to pay your rent on time each month. Since it's easier to reject than evict an applicant, it might be a challenge to find a landlord who is willing to give you chance, unless you have a reasonable and convincing explanation of your circumstances. If the information on your credit report is erroneous, you can challenge it with the credit bureau to show the landlord that it doesn't reflect how you handle your creditor obligations.
Know the contents on your credit report before you apply for a rental. AnnualCreditReport.com allows you to order a free yearly credit report from each of the three major bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. For a fee, you can also request your credit score.
Explain each item on your credit report that you suspect may be of concern to the landlord when you submit your application. If necessary, put the information in writing as an attachment. For example, if you have an eviction because you did not pay your rent, there may have been extenuating circumstances, such as the landlord's refusal to fix a major system, such as heating or plumbing, that made the unit inhabitable.
Tell the landlord why you filed for bankruptcy, if a bankruptcy appears on your record. If it was a result of a failing business or unexpected medical expenses, the landlord might take this into account if in the meantime you've attempted to repair your credit by paying all your bills on time.
Challenge outdated or erroneous items by supplying proof of the errors. If you have filed disputes with credit bureaus, attach copies with supporting documents. If you have not disputed entries, show the landlord paperwork, such as canceled checks and zero balance statements, proving that you are have paid your creditors the full amount owed.
Point out the progress you have made in repairing your credit report, if there are no reasonable explanations for your history. Show how you have fulfilled your financial obligations in a timely manner for a specific number or months or years. If your income is high enough to support the rent and other monthly responsibilities, you might provide copies of your pay stubs for the landlord to review.
Offer to pay for several months in advance or a larger deposit amount. This can put the landlord's mind at ease. After you pay your rent on time during your lease, you can ask your landlord for a reference letter to help you qualify for another rental if you have to move.
- Maintain your composure when you meet with your landlord, regardless of the outcome, to show that you are a reasonable person who is working hard to repair your poor credit and have made great gains. Understand the building owner's perspective in renting to a stranger who appears to be a financial risk.
- Have a co-signer lined up before you apply for the rental. This person should have good credit and qualify as a renter. Ask the landlord if adding a co-signer on the lease will be sufficient for renting the unit.
Carol Deeb has been an editor and writer since 1988. Her work has appeared in magazines, newspapers and online publications, as well as a book on education. Deeb is a real-estate investor and business owner with professional experience in human resources. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from San Diego State University.