You’ve just found your dream apartment in your favorite neighborhood. You’ve got the funds, you’ve got the roommates, now all you need to do is pass your landlord’s tenant screening report, which includes a credit check.
Wait, the what? Yeah, landlords are legally allowed to run a credit check on you before approving your rental application. It’s called a tenant screening report and it typically includes information on payment history, criminal history, eviction history, and anything else important someone might want to know before turning over the keys to a property.
So, yes, your landlord can check your credit score. It’s why it’s so important to know your credit score, even if you’re not buying a house or applying for a credit card. Here’s what to know about landlord credit checks.
How Do Landlords Perform Credit Checks?
As mentioned, there’s often a screening process involved in the rental application process. Landlords can legally check your credit score, but they must obtain written permission to pull the credit report. So, you’ll know it’s going to happen before it happens.
Usually, there is a clause at the end of a rental application that authorizes that landlord or rental company to check your credit score. Or, they might sometimes have you sign a separate document. As well, you’ll have to provide standard information such as your name, address, birth date, and social security number.
Where do landlords get a credit score from? There are a few places. The National Association of Independent Landlords offers tenant credit reports to landlords and there are also tenant screening services that simply provide landlords with a credit range instead of a full report. Equifax provides landlords with a comprehensive report that features everything from credit score and criminal searches to eviction searches, employment verification, and rental history verification.
What’s Included in a Landlord Credit Check?
What are landlords checking for when they perform a tenant screening report? In short, they simply want to see that you have the income available to make rent payments on time and that you’ve made consistent payments on other accounts, too. However, a landlord credit check can include quite a few other things as well, including:
- Rental history
- Eviction history
- Criminal convictions
- Payment history (rent, bills, car loans, student loans, etc.)
- Debt owed
So, while they are checking your credit score, they’re also looking at other factors that determine whether or not you’d make a good tenant. They want to see that you don’t owe any debt to past landlords, but also that you have a clean criminal record and that you pay your bills on time.
How to Access Your Credit Report for a Rental Application
Sometimes, you might be responsible for providing your landlord with a credit report, not the other way around. If that’s the case, make sure that they let you know which reports are acceptable. You can show them your score via an app like Float, but they might want an official Equifax credit report delivered to their office.
All three of the major credit reporting agencies allow rental applicants to request a credit report for a small fee. While you’re entitled to a free credit report from each of the credit bureaus every 12 months, these requests are specifically for rental applicants and count as soft inquiries, not hard inquiries that affect your credit score.
Again, it’s worth asking your potential landlord what kind of credit report they’d like to see. Your credit score on Float updates every two weeks, so that might suffice depending on the landlord’s requirements, but there’s a difference between your credit score and a full credit report.
What If My Credit Score is Bad?
In general, most rental companies want to see that applicants have a credit score of at least 620. But, if you have a poor credit score then don’t feel discouraged. Aside from working to improve it over time, there are immediate fixes in order to be able to rent the property of your dreams.
This can include:
- Asking a friend or family member to co-sign the lease
- Paying a larger security deposit
- Making advance rent payments
- Having your current rent payments reported to credit bureaus
Remember that you can always speak directly with your landlord about your options. Some might be willing to take a co-signer off your lease after a certain amount of on-time payments. And, some might be willing to work with younger applicants who have no credit history.
Learn How to Check Your Credit Score
If you’re planning on renting in the future, you’ll want to go ahead and begin to check your credit score now. Knowing your credit score is a huge part of assessing your financial health and working towards improving it.
While you could access your annual credit report, we’d suggest something more frequent. At Float, we’ve created a fun way for you to access your credit score for free and it’s updated every two weeks. On top of an updated credit score, we’re also the only app that lets you help friends and family keep track of their credit, too.
Have fun improving your credit score and make sure you help friends along the way. Sign up for Float today to begin unlocking financial savings