When you apply to rent an apartment, you can expect nearly all landlords to run a credit check. As a general rule, you’ll want a credit score of 620 or higher. But there’s no hard and fast number – it varies by landlord, and is only one factor in your rental application.
When the landlord checks your credit score and report, they’re looking to be assured that you’ll pay rent on time, and a strong credit history gives them peace of mind.
When you get ready to apply, it’s common to have a few questions in mind, including:
- What is the minimum credit score to rent an apartment?
- Do landlords only look at the credit score, or are they reviewing the report, too?
- Can you get an apartment with fair or bad credit?
- How can I figure out if my credit score is good enough?
If you are searching for your next apartment and want to understand what role your credit score may play, here’s what you need to know.
What Is the Minimum Credit Score to Rent an Apartment?
Technically, there isn’t a mandatory minimum credit score to rent an apartment. There isn’t a law that says a person has to have a particular score or any rules that prevent landlords from setting the minimum anywhere they’d like.
As long as landlords apply the minimum credit score they choose to all applicants equally, landlords can generally select any cutoff point. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some norms.
Usually, the minimum FICO credit score to rent an apartment falls somewhere between 620 and 650.
However, some landlords may be open to scores of 600 or lower, while others may consider 700 to be the lowest qualifying score.
Most landlords use FICO credit scores to determine if an applicant qualifies for an apartment. The typical categories for those scores are:
- Exceptional: 800 to 850
- Very Good: 740 to 799
- Good: 670 to 739
- Fair: 580 to 669
- Poor: 300 to 579
That can be a bit confusing for some applicants. After all, 620 and 650 are both in the “fair” range, so they may wonder why a landlord isn’t open to renting to a person with a 580 FICO score. It’s completely up to the landlord. They don’t have to follow the brackets; they just have to select a minimum and apply that requirement equally.
Are Landlords Only Looking at Credit Scores or the Whole Report?
In most cases, landlords are going to look at both your report and credit score. In many ways, your credit score is a summary. It lets landlords know at a glance your overall creditworthiness, and may be used to determine if the rest of your application is worth reviewing.
However, if your credit score doesn’t automatically disqualify you from renting the apartment, they are likely going to review the rest of the report.
Generally, landlords will want to review your credit reports for potential red flags, such as:
- Late payments
- Accounts in collections
- Recent hard inquires
- Bankruptcy history
- High debt payment amounts (in comparison to stated income)
Whether any of those details make you ineligible for an apartment may vary from one landlord to the next. Additionally, there may be state laws that prevent landlords from considering certain information that may appear on your credit report, though this can differ depending on your location.
Can You Get an Apartment with Fair or Bad Credit?
While a minimum of 620 or 650 may make it seem like individuals with credit scores on the lower end of fair or in the poor range can’t get an apartment, that isn’t the case. Not all landlords have a minimum credit score to rent an apartment from them, and many are willing to look at the big picture before making a decision. Others may have certain options available – like the option to add a cosigner – to help you qualify.
When you’re trying to rent an apartment with bad credit, diligence matters. Additionally, setting your sights on the right properties may increase your odds of getting approved.
While you might not be able to secure your dream place, you can likely find an apartment that will do for now. Then, you can boost your credit score by making smart financial choices, allowing you to work your way up to your ideal apartment.
How You Can Figure Out If Your Credit Score Is Good Enough
Before you rent an apartment, it’s smart to take a look at your credit report and score. With credit reports, the process is fairly simple. Each year, everyone can pull one copy of their credit report from each major bureau for free through AnnualCreditReport.com. The federal government supports that site, making it the ideal place to start.
It’s important to note that those credit reports don’t contain your credit score. If you want your credit score, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Exactly where you should turn may vary. For example, some credit card issuers let cardholders see their FICO scores for free. If you have one of those cards, it’s an easy place to turn when you need to get a glimpse at a reasonably recent credit score.
While the VantageScore also ranges from 300 to 850, just like FICO, how it is calculated is different. That means there’s a good chance your FICO and VantageScore don’t match.
At times, the scores may only be a few points apart. However, there’s also a chance the difference is dramatic. They could be dozens of points apart or put you in different categories (such as one saying your credit is fair while the other list you in the good range).
Now, this doesn’t mean your VantageScore isn’t worth monitoring, particularly if it’s the only one you can track for free. If you’re trying to improve your credit or keep an eye on it, changes to your VantageScore may indicate that a similar change took place on your FICO.
For example, if your VantageScore goes up by 20 points, there’s a strong likelihood that your FICO score rose. While your FICO score may not have climbed the same 20 points, there’s a good chance that positive progress happened there, too.
However, you’ll only know the state of your FICO score if you check it specifically. Do be wary of online ads for free FICO scores. Some may give you your score, but you might have to sign up for a service (usually one that comes with monthly or annual fees) to get it. If that’s the case, you end up spending a lot on that “free” score. Before you move forward or hand over your credit card information, read the fine print to make sure that “free” really is free.
What to Do If Your Application Is Rejected Because of Your Credit Score
If your application was denied due to your credit score, you should receive an official notification; that is actually required by law to be provided. It will be sent by the reporting agency and will show you the score that the landlord saw, as well as instructions on how you can request a copy of your credit report for free.
The reason you have the ability to check your report for free is to ensure you have a chance to review it for errors. That way, if you were rejected due to a mistake, you can reach out to the credit bureau to have the issue corrected.
Unless there was a mistake on your credit report, the landlord isn’t required to work from you if you don’t meet their minimal cutoff. However, if you have access to a cosigner who can help you cross the threshold, you can certainly ask if they’d be willing to reconsider with a cosigner on the application.
If not, then your best bet is to move on. Luckily, you now know the exact state of your credit score, and that may help you during your search. You can focus on properties where your credit score won’t be a disqualifier, or that will let you move forward with a cosigner. You can also choose to work to boost your score before you apply for a place again if you don’t have to move right away.
Ultimately, the important part is not to get discouraged. It is possible to recover. Take what you know now and use it to create a new plan. In the end, your diligence will likely pay off.
For more information, see our full guide on how to rent an apartment.