Good credit indicates to landlords that you’re a responsible tenant who will most likely pay your bills on time. Renting an apartment with no credit can feel overwhelming or impossible, but it’s possible. There are more options than you might expect. You can rent with no credit from a private landlord, at a no-credit-check rental, by renting with roommates, or by asking a guarantor.
Can you get an apartment without credit? Yes! And we’ll show you how.
Why most landlords require a credit check
Landlords want to know that you’ll pay on time and don’t pose an additional risk. They also want to know you won’t destroy the apartment. While referrals or references are used to check that you won’t leave holes in the walls, a credit check will show them any past eviction as well as your current credit score.
Some landlords have a minimum credit score requirement for rentals to ensure that tenants are financially responsible. This policy is generally a reasonable strategy. But almost 20% of American adults have no credit score.
If you want to rent with no credit because you’ve avoided taking any line of credit while earning and building savings, a lack of credit score can be an obstacle in demonstrating financial responsibility.
How to get an apartment without credit
To rent with no credit, you need other ways to demonstrate to the landlord that you’ll pay on time. It’s generally best to be upfront with the landlord, as they’ll find out anyway. Let them hear it from you, then offer a solution. Here are the most common ways to get an apartment without credit.
Find apartments with no credit check
Some private owners offer apartments with no credit check. Even with no-credit-check rentals, landlords will ask you for proof of income. Of course, choose a place that’s within your budget, even if you can get approved for a more expensive apartment.
Unfortunately, some no-credit-check rental apartments are scams. Be sure to show up in person and check out the apartment to avoid being scammed. In general, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Other signs that a no-credit-check rental could be a scam, according to the Federal Trade Commission:
- The landlord asks for a security deposit or first month’s rent before you’ve signed the lease (or seen the apartment).
- The landlord says they’re out of the country, and you should meet someone on their behalf.
- The landlord asks you to send money overseas or wire them money. Once you wire money, you won’t be able to get it back.
Use a guarantor
A good guarantor is someone trusted and who has a good credit score. A guarantor acts as your backup to assure the landlord of your financial responsibility when you rent with no credit. A guarantor makes sense, especially in cities or competitive markets where you’ll need to quickly demonstrate to the landlord that you can cover rent.
A guarantor generally signs the lease with you, guaranteeing that they will pay the rent if you fail to do so. This factor will reassure the landlord that you’re a good choice even when renting with no credit.
Apply with a co-signer or roommate
Similar to a guarantor, a co-signer or roommate with a good credit score can provide sufficient evidence of good credit history. Co-signers can be anyone you plan to share the apartment with, such as partners, friends, or roommates. If you find a roommate before applying for apartments, their good credit score can increase your chances of getting approved for rental when you rent with no credit
Even with no-credit-check apartments, a co-signer can help create a good impression and secure the rental opportunity. Of course, getting a roommate has other advantages. Namely, you’ll be sharing rent costs, which will keep your budget down.
Provide recommendation letters
Character references or recommendation letters can also ease landlords’ minds when you rent with no credit. Recommendation letters from past landlords should note your history of on-time payments and that the apartment was kept in good condition.
Character references are letters from colleagues, professors, or your boss that speak of your professional responsibility. Generally, landlords will assume that someone who is of good character and demonstrates responsibility at work or in school will also be financially responsible.
Offer a large security deposit
If you want to rent with no credit, you can also offer a large security deposit or several months’ rent upfront. This way you show the landlord that you’ve got cash in hand, and, at least for a few months, they won’t have to worry about on-time payments.
Just remember to get the deposit noted in the contract and the terms of what happens when the rental contract ends. You’ll want it returned to you (assuming the apartment is in good condition) or applied to last month’s rent on rental termination.
As a variation on a large deposit, you can also ask for a month-by-month or three-month rental contract to prove you’ll pay on time and build trust while you rent with no credit history.
Provide proof of income and savings
Proof of income is typically required, but going the extra mile to provide proof of savings can help you secure the apartment. There’s no set amount you’ll need in savings to rent without a credit history. That will vary by region, building, and overall apartment costs.
Of course, the more you have in savings, the better. If you’ve got three times the entire year’s rent in savings, most landlords won’t turn you down.
Improve your credit score
Not having a credit score should only be a one-time problem because there’s a lot that you can do to improve your credit score. This should be your last time trying to rent with no credit.
To start building credit, consider applying for a credit card for students or people without a credit score. You can also ask a friend or family member who has good credit to add you as an authorized user to one of their credit cards. That should give your credit score an immediate boost.
If you’ve been paying rent and utility bills on time, you can also get credit for up to two years of past payments with credit reporting services. Once you start, there are many ways to improve your credit score—but only if you pay all bills on time.
How to improve your credit score for an apartment
If you’ve decided to avoid renting with no credit, you can wait a few months to build your credit score. The strategies below will put you well on the way to improving your credit score now and in the years to come.
Pay bills on time and in full
Accounting for 35% of your credit score, on-time payments cannot be overemphasized. Late payments can stay on your credit report for seven years. If you do only one thing to improve your credit score, make sure you make at least minimum payments on time.
What types of accounts should you pay on time? All of them! But here’s what’s likely to be reported to the credit bureaus:
- Credit cards
- Retail accounts like department store credit cards or lines of credit
- Installment loans like auto loans or student loans
- Finance company accounts
While rental payments aren’t typically reported, once you have been paying them on time, you can get them reported to credit bureaus to boost your credit score.
Lower your existing debt
Carrying a large debt balance can harm your credit score. Spending less and working to pay off your balance will significantly improve your credit score, especially if you’ve been carrying a high balance. For maximum credit boosting, pay your credit cards and any other revolving lines of credit in full each month. However, even small steps in that direction can add up over a year.
Keep a low credit utilization rate
Creditors look at total debt and the ratio of debt to available credit. Generally, you want to keep your total debt at less than 30% of your available lines of credit. That means if you have a credit card with a line of credit worth $10,000, you’ll want less than $3,000 in debt at any one time—even if you pay it off each month.
If you’ve got $10,000 in debt on a card with a $50,000 credit line, the credit utilization ratio is 20%. Even though the debt is more, the credit utilization ratio is less than the person with $3,000 in debt above.
Whatever your credit limit, try not to exceed 30%—and try to only charge what you can pay off in full.
Don’t apply for new credit too often
New accounts can cause a temporary dip in your credit score. For most people, that’s 10 points or less. But if you apply for five new credit cards in a short time, you can see a significant drop in your credit score. Only apply for new credit cards when you need them. And don’t apply for more than two at once to avoid reducing your credit score with too many new credit applications.
Monitor your credit report
Every American is entitled to a free credit report from the three main credit bureaus—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. With that, you’ll be able to see what the credit bureaus are seeing to formulate your credit score. Through December 2023, all consumers can get a free credit report from all three credit bureaus every week.
You can access your credit report online, by phone, or by mail. The easiest way to access your credit report is at the government-maintained site AnnualCreditReport.com.
You can also call 877-322-8228. For TTY service, call 711 and ask the relay operator for 800-821-7232.
If you want to request your credit report by mail, download and complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to:
Annual Credit Report Request Service
PO Box 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281
When you monitor your credit report, you’ll want to look for incorrect information and request the correction of mistakes.
Final thoughts on renting an apartment without credit
Can you get an apartment without credit? Yes! And it is not as difficult as you might think with the help of a roommate, guarantor, or apartment with no credit check. But, even better, you can build your credit score quickly so you never have to rent with no credit score again. Make on-time payments and get credit for responsible financial habits—from paying credit card bills on time to paying rent and utilities each month.
Better interest rates and greater financial possibilities are available to you as you use the tips above and your new apartment rental to build your credit history.
Do you need credit to rent an apartment?
No, you don’t always need credit to rent an apartment. In addition to no-credit-check apartments, you can consider showing savings or asking a guarantor or roommate to sign the lease with you.
What credit score do you need for an apartment?
Individual landlords set different credit score criteria for apartments. Some will require a credit score of 700 or even 740 or above. Others are just looking for someone without a history of evictions. Talk to the potential landlord to see if they have specific requirements.
What’s the lowest credit score to rent an apartment?
That depends. With the strategies mentioned above, you could rent with no credit score. But we’ve also got you covered with tips to raise your credit score to qualify for more apartments.