How to Get Approved for an Apartment With Bad or No Credit 

Peter Chambers

Jun 6, 2023

how to get approved for an apartment

We are reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Your living situation has become untenable. Perhaps you can’t stand staying under your parents’ roof a day longer, or your landlord increased your rent, pricing you out of a home you’ve held for years. There’s only one problem — how to get approved for an apartment with your credit. 

It’s hard to believe that credit scores have only existed a hair over 30 years, and now they run every aspect of your life. It’s even more frustrating if you’ve ever tried to reach one of the agencies that more or less determine life choices like renting apartments and buying cars by phone — their AI customer service shield is so high you often never speak with a human. However unfair the present situation is, you face it when you need a place. 

What can you do? You’re in a tough spot, but there are ways to navigate through it. Here’s how to get approved for an apartment with bad or no credit. 

Choose Your Landlord Carefully 

Your first step in getting approved for an apartment with bad or no credit is to choose the right landlord. Making the wrong move here can be costly, and there’s bad news for introverts — you’ll need to talk to people. Promise yourself a reward afterward and get it done if you want to save your cash. 

Application fees can eat through the deposit you worked hard to accumulate. Although they used to be around $30 apiece, it’s not unusual to see prices as high as $75 — which adds up if you keep applying anywhere that seems promising. 

Instead, talk to the people at the front desk when applying to large apartment complexes. They’re typically familiar with the process, including who wins approval and who doesn’t, and they can give you insight into your chances. 

Better yet, look for a private landlord. What’s that? It’s someone who lists their property without a broker on sites like Craigslist and Nextdoor. While many such individuals will insist on a background check, they may be more willing to work with someone with bad or no credit. It’s a crapshoot — those burnt by bad tenants in the past could prove stubborn, but most people are easier to negotiate with than computer systems.  

Such scenarios rely on the human element, not an algorithm invented by some corporate honcho. For example, you might have bad or no credit because you recently escaped or are trying to flee a domestic violence situation. A computer won’t care — but a living, breathing person who understands life happens may be willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. 

Talk to Your References 

Another way to help landlords see you as a person and not a credit score is to talk to those who know you best and ask for letters of reference. Many landlords will insist on character references, anyway, so it helps to get your docs in a row. 

What should such letters include? Here’s a short list of information to cover:

  • Your full name and contact information: Prospective landlords must know how to reach your references. 
  • The nature of your relationship: How you met and how long you have known each other.
  • A testimony to your good character: A list of qualities that make you the best possible tenant for the apartment. 
  • Signature and date. 

Furthermore, there is some information you should not include under the Fair Housing Act, including:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Sex 
  • Age
  • Nationality 
  • Disability 
  • Family status
  • Medical condition 

Document, Document, Document

Character references help, as do explanations of your financial situation. However, our competitive system makes everyone inherently mistrustful of each other and nervous that someone will take advantage of them and leave them with little realistic recourse. Your testimony will go further if you can back up your claims with cold, hard facts. For that, you need the right documents, including some you might omit if you had a better financial situation. 

For example: 

  • If you historically had a low income: Proof of present paystubs can help if your income has been down for a stretch. 
  • If medical debt caused your hardship: While health information is private under HIPAA, providing proof of the cause of your financial hardship can sway some landlords. After all, you didn’t ask to get sick. Use your judgment about what you disclose. 
  • If relationship issues interfered: Again, you don’t have to disclose private information, but you might choose to if it helps you secure housing. 
  • If you work for yourself: If you work for yourself, proof of your income is a must. Tax returns are your best bet, but what if you’re new? 1099 forms, bank statements, profit and loss statements and self-employed paystubs can bolster your standing. 

Consider a Co-SIgner or Guarantor

Many young adults who move out for the first time have their parents or caregivers sign for their first apartment. It’s often easier to get approved for an apartment when you have a second party who can pay if you can’t. However, there’s no age limit on using a co-signor or guarantor. Here’s the difference:

  • A guarantor: Is responsible for adhering to the lease terms, typically making rent payments, but is not authorized to occupy the apartment. 
  • A co-signor: Has more rights, including living in the apartment. It’s basically taking on a roommate. 

In many cases, a guarantor only pays if you don’t. Please ensure you and the guarantor clearly communicate what you are each ready and willing to do to uphold the bargain between you. They’re acting as a valuable port in a storm. 

What about a roommate? You might find this arrangement preferable, especially if you don’t have the best relationship with your childhood caregivers and lack anyone else to support you financially. 

1. Finding the Right Roommate

Often, good friends move in together and end up enemies by the end of the lease term. Avoid such scenarios by asking the right questions before you sign on the dotted line. You might find it insufferable if you’re a morning person, but your roommate keeps you awake night after night, shouting at their game console until 3 a.m. Liking each other at the pub doesn’t necessarily translate into living together — make sure the arrangement works for you both. 

2. Dealing With Roommate Problems 

Issues can arise even if you ask the right questions. Another key to a solid roommate relationship is to establish ground rules you both agree to uphold and put them in writing before moving day. They might cover things like keeping common areas clean or how long and often you can have overnight guests. 

Pay a Hefty Deposit 

You were dirt poor but got a lucky Scratcher ticket in your holiday stocking. If you have a hefty sum to use as a deposit, you can use it to secure your dream apartment. 

Security deposits typically protect landlords from property damage, and many jurisdictions have strict rules governing how much owners can request, typically no more than two months’ rent. However, you can certainly offer more, paying your rent in advance for the privilege to stay.

Get Approved for an Apartment With Bad or No Credit 

The housing situation is tough, and getting approved for an apartment with bad or no credit is challenging. However, difficult doesn’t mean impossible. 

Use the above tips to get approved for an apartment with bad or no credit. Once you secure your property, pay your rent on time and do what you can to improve your financial situation. 

Did you enjoy this post? Join the Renovated community!

A house is more than just where you live. It's where you build a community. We'll give you all the latest trends you need to make your home your haven. Subscribe and never miss out!
Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

About The Author