How to Rent an Apartment with Low or No Credit

Strategies credit-challenged consumers can use to win a landlord’s approval.

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5. Consider getting a cosigner. Having a cosigner to guarantee rent payments can help build trust with landlords, especially if you're a recent graduate moving into your first apartment. However, as Benson points out, that person needs to have good credit or the landlord is no better off than before. If you can't get a cosigner (or simply don't want to impose on a friend or family member with good credit), a roommate with good credit could also give the landlord some peace of mind and help you save money by reducing your rent-to-income ratio.

[See Financial Strategies for a Lifetime.]

6. Focus on independent landlords. According to Benson, large management companies may have preset criteria for tenants to comply with fair housing laws, but smaller, independent landlords may be more willing to work with tenants on an individual basis.

7. Suggest a shorter-term lease. Landlords hate having vacancies or evicting tenants who are behind on rent, so shorter-term leases are less of a gamble. Says Benson, "You'll sign a lease for three to six months and then that way, you can prove that you're able to pay. Once the lease is up, they can consider renewing the lease or if it turns out you're not paying, they can just not renew the lease without having to evict."

8. Offer to move in immediately. Given the choice between an applicant with good credit who can't move in for a month or two and someone with less-than-perfect credit who can move in right away, many landlords would choose the latter. "An owner wants to start realizing revenue as soon as possible," says Melle. "They'll assume more risk for someone who's going to move in quicker if they can show stability."