In almost all circumstances, a landlord or property manager will run your credit before renting out a place to you. But, what credit score is ideal for tenants and what’s the lowest three-digit number landlords deem acceptable?
The truth is, there’s some mystery shrouding this question. Unlike the home-buying process, where formal charts will help you figure out what rates you’ll qualify for based, in large part, on your credit score, landlords operate at their own discretion.
So, we posed this question—what credit score do you need to rent out an apartment?—to 15 experts. Most agreed that you need a credit score of at least 650 to snag an apartment without any additional hurdles, like extra deposits, guarantors, or paying extra months of rent in advance. Most of them also noted some caveats.
Here’s a sampling of their responses:
- “NYC landlords typically require credit scores of 650 or above. Some landlords may be a bit stricter and require minimum credit scores of 700, but you’ll rarely find a landlord that’ll accept a credit score below 650. Landlords don’t usually offer lower rents for applicants with higher credit scores, but they may choose to turn their heads the other way if another aspect of a renter’s application isn’t up to par (i.e. their income falls just short of 40x the monthly rent).”—Omer Sultan, a Triplemint agent
- “Typically, you need a minimum credit score of 650 in order to qualify to rent an apartment. This is not set in stone and can vary by managements. One can expect the large management companies to be more rigid, while the smaller companies or boutique agencies to be more flexible in accommodating those who have lower credit scores or marks against them.”—Benjamin Holzer, a Triplemint agent.
- “I’d say the general consensus is around 700, but yes it absolutely varies depending on the landlord or building. Some value credit more so than income, so it has to be stellar. Others will be fine with a 650-ish score if you have substantial income. Some landlords won’t even run your credit if you put up enough upfront months of rent or security.”—Brandon Major of Warburg Realty.
- “Most landlords will request prospective tenants to have a credit score of 620 or higher, but it can vary by the situation. However, some buildings require credit scores of 700 or higher.”—Samantha Scalzo, broker at S&S Global Corporation
- “For our rental units, we require a credit score of at least 600. Credit score requirements vary depending on the individual landlord.”—Shawn Breyer, with Breyer Home Buyers, a real estate company that rents out units in Grand Rapids, Michigan and Atlanta, Georgia. (It’s worth noting: Breyer says there are different classes of rentals, ranging from luxury, high-end rentals to more modest rentals, and it’s unreasonable to require the same credit scores across all types.)
What to do if your score isn’t ideal:
Since somewhere around 650 appears to be the bare minimum score many landlords want to see, many millennials will just barely eek past that requirement. Most millennials have fair credit, with the average score of younger millennials (age 22 to 28) being 652, according to Experian. Older millennials (age 29 to 35) have an average score of 665.
So, what are tenants to do if their credit scores don’t wow their landlords?
Don’t get too discouraged, says Scalzo. Oftentimes, the landlord or rental company will work with you and ask for more upfront rent, additional references, or a larger deposit.
Also, your credit score isn’t the only thing landlords are looking at when they’re determining your financial responsibility. Even if you have a credit score in the high 600s, some seemingly small issues can cause extra hurdles, explains Ilan Sionit, a real estate agent with Douglas Elliman in Brooklyn, New York. For example, late payments, maxed out credit cards, and any judgements can be red flags for landlords, Sionit explains.
So if you’ve got a lower-than-desired credit score or some of these smaller credit issues, expect a landlord to ask for first and last months’ rental payments and a security deposit, Sionit says. Bigger issues (think: bad credit and a housing-related judgement against you) may require six months of upfront payments or a cosigner with strong credit.
Sinoit explains that he’s had instances where tenants with no credit or a low credit score, but without late payments or credit issues, were able to put less money down than someone with a 600 or higher score, but with some credit issues dinging their score.
Housing judgments, of course, are huge red flags for landlords.
Holzer says he once worked with a client who had one, and he explained the situation to the landlord and the client offered to pay an entire year’s rent up front. The landlord agreed to rent her the apartment. “This was a smaller landlord,” he says. “The scenario most likely would not have worked if it were a large, corporate-type management company.”
Will a higher credit score get you perks?
When you’re buying a home, a 760 or higher credit score can save you thousands of dollars in interest over the years, because it will help you get the lowest interest rate.
But a stellar credit score isn’t likely to help you get lower rental rates. “Rental rates are based on the market value and the individual or company’s urgency to rent,” says Scalzo.
On the upside, excellent credit scores will help you keep your funds liquid, because you won’t have to put as much down to move in.
Even if you have a credit score in the high 700s or above, it’s not likely a landlord will offer a reduced security deposit that’s less than one month’s rent, says Sarah Hill, CEO of Perfect Strangers, a New York City company that will connect you with roommates and rentals. Don’t get your hopes up, but if you’re a strong applicant, you may be able to get a reduction in monthly rent by $50 to $100. The key to this is to make the request when applying, she says.
Hey, it doesn’t hurt to ask, right?