Mention Bad credit on rental application?
June 16, 2014 3:02 PM   Subscribe

Due to reasons that don't matter, I did not pay my college tuition from my first college at the time. In October I paid off the entire $9000 balance at once. I am filling out rental applications (going to grad school). Do I mention in the additional information why I likely have a sucky credit score (I do not know my score, I know it's on my report though)? Or do I not draw anymore attention to it and just hope beyond hope?
posted by Aranquis to Work & Money (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
To be honest, I don't know any landlord that would believe your reasons for a low credit score, so I wouldn't bring attention to it. The landlords that believe in credit scores would view you (correctly) as a poor credit risk, and the landlords that don't believe in credit scores wouldn't pull your credit anyway. Look for landlords that don't pull credit; they do exist, especially for landlords that only rent one or two properties.

The real solution here is to find out how this is affecting your credit. You can get a free credit report each year from all major credit bureaus. Further, you can get a free Transunion score from Creditkarma and an Experian score from Quizzle.
posted by saeculorum at 3:06 PM on June 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have pulled my credit reports but I haven't been able to since I paid it off due to bad timing (except for transunion which my college doesn't report to). Also I'm kind of in a bind because due to low vision I can't drive and most of the apartments in walking distance are pretty unsafe so I don't know what I'm going to do. It's depressing to think this may stop me from going to school. I've had 4 potential roommates that all went with someone else so I'm running in to no luck renting from individuals.
posted by Aranquis at 3:13 PM on June 16, 2014

If they're pulling credit reports, then why wouldn't you mention the reason for the low credit score? I had a foreclosure on my credit report and told my current landlord about it and he said that everyone has something on their credit they aren't happy about. I've been living here 5 years.
posted by xingcat at 3:17 PM on June 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

You can pull your credit score from the aforementioned CreditKarma every 7 days and every 6 months with Quizzle (which apparently now uses Equifax rather than Experian). It also looks like you can also get your score from CreditSesame every month.

Do note that people with poor credit rent all the time - you just might have to pay an extra deposit and/or get a cosigner for the lease.
posted by saeculorum at 3:18 PM on June 16, 2014

You need to find out what your credit scores are with all three bureaus. I like My Fico.

So do that first.

Most landlords will work with you if you have shitty credit, you may have to pay first and last, or more of a deposit, or whatever. But wait to find out before bringing it up. For all you know, your credit is good enough for landlord X.

Now, if it becomes an issue, you can negotiate. If you're in a tight rental market though, all bets are off, approach your prospective landlord with paystubs, bank statements, and money up front.

Also, if you have a disability to your university to see if there's special housing for students with special needs, or live in a dorm.

You have options, don't buy trouble.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:26 PM on June 16, 2014

No graduate housing, though yes I have an autism spectrum diagnosis in addition to low vision.
posted by Aranquis at 3:33 PM on June 16, 2014

You might have better luck with mom 'n pop landlords, they don't always check credit score.
posted by radioamy at 3:53 PM on June 16, 2014

I just checked it on credit sesame, which pulls from experian and it was much better than I thought - 683. So I'm feeling better already.
posted by Aranquis at 4:07 PM on June 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

683 is perfectly acceptable for renters unless you are in a highly competitive market. But many online sites are not super accurate.

I am a landlord of two units. I currently have a very good tenant who had a bad credit score. She mentioned it up front, which got bonus points from me, and she explained why and how to fix it. So I would actually encourage you to mention it up front, especially if you pay an application fee, since they will just see it anyway.

Not only that, many (small time) landlords cannot actually see your score. The few sites I've used allow me to choose a credit score cut off and they just tell me if the tenant passes that or not. I don't get to see the items on your report either. I do get to see judgments made against you, so the really big items would show up.

But if you have a somewhat poor credit score, I can set the bar lower so that I know you haven't filled bankruptcy, for example. Otherwise, you might 'fail' and I have no idea why, and I'd just move onto the next applicant.
posted by ethidda at 9:50 PM on June 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

The fact that you paid the bill, even if it was late, matters a lot. If you have a renting history, that will help a lot. If you don't, but you can provide a bunch of cash upfront, they will often overlook it.

FWIW, I mentioned my poor credit upfront with all my landlords (dropped out of college for financial reasons, filed bankruptcy) and have never been rejected. I'm a very good tenant though, because I always pay rent first, and my past landlords have been happy to corroborate that.
posted by Rach3l at 10:18 AM on June 17, 2014

I've been approved! I did mention it, so I'm super relieved that I'll be living at my first choice.
posted by Aranquis at 1:06 PM on June 25, 2014

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