How to rent when you have bad credit

When you fill out applications for a rental property, most include wording that gives them permission to check your credit report. So, the property manager uses the personal information to pull your credit report and can deny your application based on what was found. A reader of my column recently asked how he could overcome this challenge. Here’s how:

Improving your credit can take time – perhaps two years or more – so, if you are unable to maintain your current housing arrangement until you are able to reestablish your credit history, you do have some options that may help you qualify to rent now.

First, be up front with the property management team and let them know that you have bad credit before they find out from your credit report. Explain your situation and the step you’ve taken to improve it.

Next, if possible, get a reference from a former landlord that states the dates that you rented from him or her and your payment status – if you paid on time and as agreed.

Finally, if you have someone that would be willing to co-sign a lease agreement with you, let the property management know. Keep in mind that you are putting someone else’s credit in jeopardy when you request that they co-sign for you so you should only make the request if you plan to uphold your end of the bargain.

If you still find that you can’t qualify for a lease, you can try to rent from an individual who may not have the same pre-screening policies in place as larger apartment or condominium complexes. Or even if they do, an individual may be more willing to take a chance that you will indeed meet your obligations as a tenant, regardless of your past credit history.

Money Management International (MMI) is celebrating National Homeownership Month throughout June by providing potential and existing homeowners with valuable tips and tools. Visit the updated Homeownership and Home Loans section of to learn more.

You might also enjoy reading:

What to look for when renting apartment 
When renting makes sense
Things to consider when your lease is up 

Kim McGrigg is the former Manager of Community and Media Relations for MMI.