Before you can rent an apartment, you’ll have to go through a screening process. While the exact sequence of events can vary depending on the landlord, tenants should expect to answer questions about their lifestyle and finances and go through a credit check. If you’re in the market for an apartment, you may be wondering what credit score you’ll need.
Average Credit Score to Rent Apartments
The exact credit score required for a particular apartment is at the landlord’s discretion, but there is no industry standard. The average U.S. renter’s credit score was 638 in 2020, according to a study performed by the apartment industry blog RENTCafe.
That same study found that the average credit score needed to rent an apartment varied based on the price of the apartment building itself. The data in 2020 showed three minimum scores:
- High-Priced Buildings: 669
- Mid-Range Buildings: 626
- Low-Cost Apartments: 597
Required credit scores will also vary based on geographic location, with urban apartments costing more than buildings in suburban or rural areas. Regardless, these numbers reflect the scores of today’s renters, so they may help you establish a ballpark range for understanding your rental prospects.
Minimum Credit Score for Renting Apartments
The good news is that there’s no minimum credit score to rent apartments. Since there’s no industry standard, landlords won’t always set strict limits on their renters’ credit history. In fact, some landlords, especially owners of smaller properties, may not even look at your credit score at all.
For instance, some landlords may prefer to evaluate your credit history instead of your final credit score. The difference lies in the fact that your credit score is a single, arbitrary number, whereas your credit history reflects the actual full record of your bill payments and other financial data. Many landlords will place more weight on your credit history than they will on your current credit score.
All of that is, of course, if your landlord chooses to perform a credit check at all. The owners of smaller apartments may simply ask a few basic questions about your finances, roommates, and pets. As long as your references check out, your rental application may be approved.
Credit Checks and the Tenant Screening Process
As of 2022, 15% of American household renters were behind on their rent payments. Some of these renters have undoubtedly been struggling, given the costs of inflation, but others have simply been delinquent in their payments.
Regardless of the reason, late or missed rent payments represent lost revenue for landlords. That means they must therefore screen their tenants to ensure they’ll take proper care of the property and that they already have a history of making on-time payments. Alongside personal references and a potential credit check, renters can expect to answer questions such as the following:
- How long have you lived at your current residence?
- Have you ever been evicted?
- Do you have any pets?
- Are you a smoker?
- Where do you work?
- What is your monthly income?
- Do you intend to have roommates?
- Do you have a relevant criminal history?
While no screening process is foolproof, landlords generally use systems like these to ensure that their tenants can make reliable and timely rent payments.
What Is a Rental Credit Check?
While there’s no minimum credit score to get an apartment, a low credit score can cause your landlord to consider you with greater scrutiny and therefore look at other economic factors, such as:
- Your debt-to-income ratio (your monthly debts divided by your monthly income)
- Bankruptcy history
- Defaults on loans
- Delinquent accounts
- Charge-offs (instances in which a creditor closed your account due to unpaid debt)
- Property repossessions
Landlords aren’t likely to worry much about high credit card balances, but if your credit history contains things such as foreclosures or bankruptcy, they could affect your eligibility for an apartment.
If you have a low credit score, yet your credit history doesn’t contain any major issues involving bankruptcy or foreclosure, you stand a better chance of the landlord approving your application, especially if you can demonstrate creditworthiness through other factors.
Will Evictions Show Up on My Credit Report?
Your credit report will not always include information about evictions or your history of paying rent. The only way for rent payments to appear on your credit report is if your previous landlord submits that kind of data to a rent reporting service. Missed rent payments, bounced checks, and even property damage won’t typically be reflected on your credit report.
However, landlords can obtain something called a “rental history report,” a document that can come through services such as Experian RentBureau that includes a more detailed history of your rent payments, broken leases, and other crucial details.
Apartments: An Important Stepping Stone
Renting an apartment can be a big step in securing housing for you and your family. It can also be a transition step between your current residence and future home ownership. Strong credit can improve your eligibility for an apartment, but you can secure an affordable apartment even if you have imperfect credit.