Can You Rent an Apartment If You Owe Another One on Your Credit Report?

When looking for an apartment, the worst thing you can have in your credit history is an unpaid bill from a previous apartment. Owing on a previous apartment doesn't preclude you from renting a new one. However, delinquent rent probably reduces your options for a new place, or you may have to pay more for an apartment.

Identification

Nothing stops a landlord from renting to you under any circumstance, even when you owe money on a previous apartment. For practical reasons, a landlord probably wouldn't rent to you with a delinquent lease on your credit history, because you may break your new lease, too. Landlords often require at least an average credit rating — about a 620 — and no broken leases; the ideal applicant should have a rating of at least 670.

Considerations

Not all landlords require a credit check. Owners of large apartment complexes usually run a credit check on applicants, but landlords of smaller complexes may not run a credit check due to the cost. Mom-and-pop complexes may allow more flexibility as far as their credit rating requirements. You may have a chance to explain the delinquent rent, such as a period of unemployment causing you to miss rent and that you paid off what you owe to your previous landlord.

Paying Off a Broken Lease

Landlords usually don't report to the credit reporting agencies, so delinquent rent probably appears on your credit history because your previous landlord sued you in small-claims court or sold the debt to a collection agency. Talk to your previous landlord about settling the debt or paying it off in installments. A paid collection or judgment doesn't improve your credit rating, but it usually looks better than ignoring the debt.

Tip

Start repairing your credit history before you look for a new apartment. Bankruptcies and frequent late payments are red flags to a landlord, so make it a priority to pay bills on time. You may have to offer the landlord a larger security deposit than that required from a normal tenant, as well as let the landlord deduct rent directly from your bank account. You may also offer to prepay several months of rent or the entire lease.

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