If you have no credit score, you’re not alone. 45 million American adults – 20% of the adult population – are in the same position. 26 million are “credit invisible”, with no credit record at all. Another 19 million have credit records so thin or out of date that it’s impossible to generate a credit score. These people face unique problems, including figuring out how to get an apartment without credit.
If you are looking for an apartment and you don’t have a credit score you are at a disadvantage. Many landlords will check your credit before renting to you. Some may simply be looking for records of evictions or foreclosures, but others may have a minimum score cutoff or be put off by your lack of a credit score.
That can be frustrating because having no credit score doesn’t mean that you’re financially irresponsible. It could mean the opposite: you’ve avoided using credit cards and loans in order to avoid risk. You might have a good job, savings, and an adequate income and still be encountering reluctant landlords.
So how do you get an apartment without credit?
11 Ways to Get an Apartment Without Credit
You can get an apartment without credit. These steps can get you started.
1. Look for Small Landlords
If you rent from a property management company they will almost always check your credit. Individuals who rent only a single unit or a few units often will not. If you aren’t sure, look at the apartment listing. Is it a company name, or an individual? Is the address an office building or a residence?
💡 Smaller landlords are much less likely to run a credit check. Try Google Marketplace or Craigslist for independently-owned properties.
2. Be Honest
If you’re applying for an apartment from a landlord that checks credit, tell them upfront that you don’t have a credit score. They’ll find out anyway, and it’s better if they hear it directly from you. Explain why you don’t have a credit score and why you’re not going to pose an excessive risk.
Be prepared with some of the evidence we’ll discuss further down this list. Remember that no credit is better than bad credit, and be prepared to make that point. If you have no credit, you almost certainly have no debt. That means you aren’t spending every month to make debt payments, which means more of your paycheck is available for rent.
3. Show Your Capacity
Landlords want you to pay the rent on time. Showing that you can do that is a persuasive argument. Pay stubs, a W-2 form, and a bank statement will demonstrate your capacity to pay. Remember that most landlords prefer tenants whose monthly take-home pay is at least 3 times their monthly rent. That’s also safest for you: taking on an apartment that will consume more than a third of your income is a risky move.
⚠️ If you provide personal documents as evidence of your ability to pay, be sure to black out critical identifying information like account numbers or a Social Security number. You don’t want those circulating in anyone’s hands!
4. Offer a Higher Deposit
Nothing soothes a worried landlord as well as a larger-than-usual deposit. If the usual requirement is a month’s advance rent and a month’s security deposit, consider upping the security deposit to two or even three months. That does two things: it shows the landlord that you have some money and it provides protection against any potential future arrears.
☝️ Be sure that the additional deposit is recognized in your lease contract and that you can apply it to your last month’s rent.
5. Offer a Short-Term Lease
Landlords may be wary of a long-term commitment to a tenant they can’t fully evaluate. If you offer to start out with a short-term lease or even on a month-to-month basis, you might alleviate some of those concerns.
6. Offer to Close the Deal Right Away
A vacant unit is not something any landlord wants to have: empty units are lost income. If you offer to move in or at least put money down immediately, you may be able to close the deal. Some apartment listing sites may tell you how long a unit has been on the market. A longer vacant period may mean a landlord who’s willing to take a small risk to find a tenant.
7. Get References
If you have references from previous landlords or from credible individuals, a landlord may be more inclined to take a chance with you.
8. Find a Roommate
If your credit record is likely to be a problem, consider sharing an apartment. If you can find a roommate with a better credit score you can put the lease in the roommate’s name and solve your problem.
9. Get a Cosigner
If you can’t find a roommate or you’d rather not share your place, you may be able to get a friend or relative to cosign your lease. Both you and the cosigner should be fully aware of the responsibility each of you is taking on. If you fall behind on your payments the cosigner will be legally responsible for the arrears.
10. Get a Guarantor
Companies like Leap Guarantor and The Guarantors will take the place of a cosigner and guarantee your payments. You may even be able to move in without a deposit. You will need to get approved and you will pay the company for its service.
☝️ Be sure to read the fine print and fully understand your obligations.
11. Take Your Time
You can get an apartment without credit, but it may take more time and effort than it would if you had a good credit score. Be patient. Keep looking, and you’ll find what you need.
Build a Credit Record
Any of these methods can help you get an apartment without credit. Using more than one of them at the same time will improve your chances. Once you’ve found a place to live, though, you may wish to assure that you don’t have to face the same problem again.
Credit can be scary. Credit means debt, and many of us have been taught from childhood that debt is a dangerous thing that we need to avoid. That belief can lock us into a place that limits our options. You can get an apartment without credit, but buying a car without credit will be difficult, and buying a house without credit is nearly impossible. Sooner or later you’ll want to begin building the kind of credit that will open the doors you want to pass through.
Fortunately, building credit is not that difficult.
Follow these steps to start the process:
- Begin by understanding how a credit score is calculated. The more you know about the process the easier it will be to take the right steps.
- If you have no credit score you probably have a thin credit file. Read up on what a thin credit file is and what you can do about it.
- There are many ways to build a credit record, but these 11 ways to build credit will get you on track without excessive risk.
The effort it takes to get an apartment without credit can provide an incentive to get started and build the credit record you want to have. If you’ve been managing your finances on a cash basis you have the discipline it takes, so don’t be afraid to move forward!