Renting your first apartment is one of those rites of passage that just about everyone goes through. But if you’ve never had a credit card or you don’t have much of a credit history, getting a landlord to give you a shot can be difficult. Landing an apartment may require a little more legwork on your part but it’s not impossible. Before you start checking out properties, it’s a good idea to to weigh your options for renting your first place so your credit (or lack thereof) isn’t as much of an obstacle.
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1. Look for an Owner-Rented Property
Credit checks are a standard part of the application process at apartment complexes, but you may be able to get around it if you’re renting directly from the property owner. Finding these kinds of rentals usually means browsing the classifieds or cruising Craigslist. If you can track down a rental that isn’t a scam, you may be able to convince your would-be landlord to give you a lease based on things other than your credit score. Just be prepared to prove that you’ve got a stable income and money in the bank to cover your expenses.
2. Get a Co-Signer
Having a parent or other relative to co-sign on your lease the first time out may not feel very grown-up, but in some cases, it’s what it takes to get the deal done. Choosing someone with a steady income and decent credit can get you into the property and it may minimize the amount of security deposit you have to pay. Just keep in mind that if you ask someone to co-sign, they’re just as liable as you are for the rent payments so if you fall behind, your landlord may come after them for what’s owed.
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3. Offer to Pay in Advance
Showing a rental agent or property manager that you’re earning enough to cover your monthly rent payments can put you in a better position to get an apartment but if you’ve got no credit, you may need to take things one step further. Offering to pay the first two or three months in advance or doubling up on the security deposit shows that you’re committed to being a good tenant and it may be enough to sway the landlord in your favor.
4. Take on a Roommate
Getting a roommate offers the same benefits as having a co-signer, with the added plus of having someone to share the rent and utility costs. Choosing someone who’s already established their credit and is in a position to cover their half of the bills can help you get your foot in the door of your first place. If you’re considering a roommate, you may want to think about drawing up a separate agreement apart from the lease that spells out what each of your obligations are. These agreements can head off conflict down the road and give you some legal recourse if your roomie decides to leave you high and dry.
5. Suggest a Month-to-Month Arrangement
Month-to-month leases offer more flexibility from a tenant’s perspective since you can get out of the property fairly easily if you need to. For landlords, they’re less convenient since it can take time to find someone new to take up the slack if you vacate early. The trade-off of a month-to-month lease is that landlords can typically charge more in rent to make up the potential cost of having to re-lease the property later on. If you agree to a month-to-month deal, the landlord gets a little extra cash and you both have the option of ending the agreement if it turns out to be a poor fit.
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