The short answer, as with so many things in life, is: it depends. Obviously, the better your credit score, the better chance you have of landing in your dream apartment. However, there is no legally mandated minimum credit score to rent, so don’t worry if your credit isn’t in perfect shape.

Instead of trying to nail down an exact minimum credit score needed for renting an apartment, it can be more helpful to take a look at the average scores of other applicants to see how you compare. In 2020, RentCafe collected data from over five million lease applications and found the average credit score was 638. Obviously, not everyone with a credit score below 638 had their application denied, but knowing the average will help you decide if you’re ready to start applying with abandon or if you want to try and improve your score first.

Checking your credit score

Knowing the credit score you’d like to have is one thing, but figuring out what your actual score is can be daunting. The good news is finding your credit score is fairly straightforward and there are a few different methods to choose from.

  • Monthly statements: Some credit card or loan statements (like auto loan statements) include your credit score on the monthly statement.
  • Credit score services: Credit card companies can provide you with your credit score, sometimes for free! Be sure to check the terms and conditions as some services require you to pay a monthly credit monitoring fee while offering “free” credit score reporting.
  • Buy it: Credit reporting companies will let you buy your score directly from them.
  • Housing and credit counselors: HUD-trained counselors are often able to get your credit score and help you review it

How to improve your credit score

If you’re worried that your credit score will keep you from being approved to rent an apartment, there are some straightforward steps you can take to improve your score.

  • Avoid new debt. Applying for credit only when absolutely necessary is a sign you aren’t relying on it too heavily.
  • Pay statements on time. Catch up on any past-due bills and try to pay all future bills on time.
  • Keep credit balances low. Credit utilization — your balance to credit limit ratio — above the 30% mark will hurt your credit score.

It may take time and diligence, but raising your credit score can dramatically increase your chances of being approved for an apartment lease.

Apply when you’re ready

A low credit score isn’t the end of the world, but it can make it difficult to get an apartment application accepted. If your score is low but there is an application opportunity you can’t pass up, consider creative options like offering a larger deposit or an extra month’s rent up front to help bolster your case.

In the long run, however, taking the steps to raise your credit score will result in better odds of your application being accepted by a wider range of leasing companies and give you more control over where you live. It might take time to get your credit score application-ready, but it is an investment worth making.

Questions before you apply? Contact us! Ready to check out our available apartments? Check out what’s currently available.