These days, more and more landlords are relying on credit checks for potential applicants before any lease offer is made. Thus, it’s absolutely critical that one checks their credit report, fix any mistakes / errors, and be prepared to explain any negative remarks when hunting for an apartment!
I’m sure you’ve seen the plethora of “Free Credit Check Offers” that promise a free credit report… but once you visit those sites they invariably ask you for credit card information to “sign you up for a free trial, which turns into a 4.99/9.99/19.99 subscription if you forget to cancel!”
MADNESS. I SAY!
Here are two places where you can get a REAL credit report for FREE (Yes – you can put away your credit cards):
This is the first and ONLY site set up by the big three credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, & Transunion) in the United States, to furnish free annual credit reports, as required by federal law. Accept no imitators (well, maybe except CreditKarma – see below). A full discussion on AnnualCreditReport.com can be found by clicking here.
Unlike AnnualCreditReport.com, you’ll get your FICO credit score. This site’s business model is ad-based, so how they make their money is to send emails / offers to your inbox. Just set your junk mail filters carefully – and all will be well! A full discussion on CreditKarma can be found by clicking here.
OK, so we’ve got our credit reports – what now?
Once you have the report, PDF/save/print it, and be prepared to submit it along with any apartment application. (Note: Most landlords will still want to confirm the info provided & get an independent credit report – expect this to happen, as this is perfectly normal.)
If you have good-excellent credit: Great news! Having this info available on demand will put you ahead of the pack!
Conversely – if the credit reports show up blemishes, review it now/see why it is, & make sure it’s accurate! (Wrong / bad info can often be corrected.) If the negative remarks are accurate, be prepared to explain how the issues happened – and what you can offer to the decision maker (either landlord or property manager / “PM”) to help guarantee against late / non-payments from occurring again. (i.e. You’ll need to convince the decision maker that payment problems won’t happen.)
Hint: Have fair, bad, no credit? A possible work around is to offer additional months of security (that are refundable after a certain amount of time passing with on time payments) and/or higher than asking rents may do the trick. (Doesn’t always work though – but the worse they can say is “no!”)
Best of luck in the search!