Yes, You Need A Credit Report AND A Credit Score To Rent An Apartment!

View Of San Francisco Bay

Looking to rent an apartment in a hot market? You need a credit report and a credit score to be considered by landlords.

I've been a landlord since 2005 in San Francisco and I always ask for a credit score and a credit report. These two pieces of information are basic.

The Competitive Rental Market

When I hosted my open house for one of my rentals last fall the demand was overwhelming. Over 50 parties showed up and by the end of the day I had 20 applications on my dining table. Each application contained at least one bank statement, an earnings statement, a letter of reference, sometimes a resume, and of course their latest credit score.

My asking price was $3,300, which in retrospect was probably $200 a month too low given the amount of demand I received. I felt too guilty raising the price after the advertisement, so I let it be, hoping someone would offer more instead. I was offered free meals and back massages instead curiously enough.

The good thing about so much demand is that I got to be more picky because nothing is worse than having a problem tenant who always complains, makes a lot of noise, and is always late on rent.

Thank goodness I haven't had one of these type of problem tenants yet, and I don't ever plan to have one if I maintain a disciplined approach to screening.

With so many applications on the very first day, guess which document I looked at first to screen? The credit score report of course!

You Need A Credit Score And Credit Report To Rent An Apartment

About seven of the twenty applicants had a credit report, but no actual credit score. I was flummoxed, wondering whether the report was missing a page? 

It turns out that the applicants used a service that provides one's credit history (important for fraud and false reports), but no actual score by which to judge!  Thanks to the comments on the post, “Who Should Check Their Credit Scores?” I finally realized what these reports were.

At the time I thought providing a credit report with no credit score was very fishy and annoying frankly.  As a result, I put those seven applicants in the bottom group.  Don't they want to know what their credit score is at least? I kept thinking to myself.

I then separated the rest of the applications between those who had over a 720+ (good enough for me) credit score and those who did not.

Best Group: Nine applicants all with credit scores above 720.

Middle Group: Four applicants with credit scores between 680-719.

Bottom Group: Seven applicants with good incomes but no credit scores, just reports.

After spending several minutes sorting out the applications by credit score, I then looked at income, assets, occupation, and any letters of references from the best group first. With nine applications in the best group with credit scores over 720, the other 11 applications really had little chance unfortunately.

Landlord's Perspective When Evaluating Credit Scores 

If there are nine applicants with 760 credit scores, $80,000 in liquid assets, who all make over $150,000 income, why would anybody choose another applicant with a 680 credit score, with the same income and assets?

Sure, the applicant with a 680 credit score might be really thoughtful and nice, but so are the other applicants! You can't risk going with a lower credit score applicant unless that's all you've got.

One of the applicants was a third year cardiologist who made $320,000 a year. Unfortunately, he only had a 675 credit score because he whiffed on his medical school payments! No thank you buddy! I don't care how much you make if you don't pay your bills!

The Credit Score Is A Window Into One's Soul

Just like how employers screen the first cut of applicants based on grades, landlords do the same with credit scores. If you're one of those job applicants who purposefully omits their GPA on their resume, like the seven applicants who included a report but had no score, you're going to be looked at with suspicion.

Your other criteria will be highly scrutinized to the point where the landlord/employer will find reasons not to choose you.

Don't provide a credit report without a credit score. If you do, it will drive your landlord NUTS! Spend the time to find out what your credit score is before you even bother applying.

Landlords don't have time to go through every single line-item in your credit report. They want that credit score and any explanations you care to add.  

The credit score is the first thing landlords look at in a tight rental market. Having a credit score is MUCH better than having a credit report with no score. Don't let landlords start wondering what else you may be hiding!

Finally, if you don't want to provide your credit score or credit report, that's fine as well. Just know that your landlord has every right not to accept you as a tenant.

Nobody is forcing anybody to do anything on both sides. If you want a tenant bad enough as a landlord, you may let things slide. If you want the apartment bad enough as a tenant, you're going to do everything possible to prove you are a credit worthy person.

Recommendations For Renters

Refinance Your Expensive Debt:

With a good or improving credit score, you should highly consider refinancing your expensive student loan, mortgage, or credit card debt with Credible. Credible is a top lending marketplace that provides real quotes, all in one place. It is the efficient way to get the best deal out there.

NMLS ID# 1681276, Address: 320 Blackwell St. Ste 200, Durham, NC, 27701

Get renter's insurance:

Once you rent a property, it's important to get renter's insurance to protect your belongings. Some thorough landlords require renter's insurance as well. Renter's insurance is actually quite cheap. Check out PolicyGenius to get the best and cheapest renter's insurance policies today.

Invest in real estate:

Real estate is a core asset class that has proven to build long-term wealth for Americans. Real estate is a tangible asset that provides utility and a steady stream of income if you own rental properties.

Even as a renter, you should invest some of your assets to keep up and beat inflation. Check out Fundrise. Fundrise is a way for accredited and non-accredited investors to diversify into real estate through private eFunds. Fundrise has been around since 2012 and has consistently generated steady returns, no matter what the stock market is doing.

Photo: View Of San Francisco Bay

About The Author

80 thoughts on “Yes, You Need A Credit Report AND A Credit Score To Rent An Apartment!”

  1. It’s people like you that victimize responsible individuals. You do know many of us have zero credit scores because we reject credit?” We always pay cash? I own three homes and have never had a credit card. I have never been late paying any type of bill. It’s people like me who become Landlords because we didn’t follow your speculative lust of credit. I’m secure. All of your properties are leveraged and could go bye bye. You are know wiser than your tenants who have great credit. Very dumb financial education.

  2. Very interesting thread.
    I have developed a new credit scoring method that analyzes renters financial behaviour based on predictive analytics, aimed to predict the likelihood of tenants not withstanding its monthly rent payment.

    This is not a publication I will be more than happy if someone would cooperate with me.

  3. Just wondering if Sam (writer) really understands someone may not have a credit history at all and hence experion or other credit scoring agencies cant score them. I also wish Sam that (he or she) has the privilege of moving to a foreign country for work ( or assignment) and struggles to find a flat due to no credit score (in lieu of no credit history).
    Then one can realise the utility of credit score. Hey you are taking prepaid money as rent. Only for postpaid services credit scores are important. I agree everyone has the right to make choices and life is’t fair. Ha ha ha.

    1. No credit? That’s OK. Develop relationships, show your trustworthiness by doing other things, and pay cash.

      Start building credit. I was in Cambodia last week and am in Taiwan today and it’s all about cash.

  4. I had a credit score of 816; letter from my landlord that I was a good tenant for over 15 years, excellent credit history, proof of income (more than 40x the monthly rent) and yet my rental application was denied based on my credit report. Totally baffled.

  5. NewbieLandlord

    I will have to agree with the author. A rental property is an investment and not charity. It is meant to provide income to the landlord as simple as that. Banks require credit checks before they hand out loans on homes, cars or whatever the client needs it for. Also, when you apply for a job, they will run your credit and do a background check. It’s normal precidure to check someone’s credit when you are intending to do business with them such as renting your investment (property) to them. In a business there is no room for sob stories.

    I fully understand why the author chooses to be that strict about his screening procedures. During a time where professional tenants (tenants that do not pay) run rampant, one cannot be too careful.

    I recently had to evict such a terrible tenant. I unfortunately let this tenant reel me in to her sob story of how terrible her life was, that I looked the other way and rented to her. It was the worst mistake of my life! The lost rent, lawyer fees, eviction fees, damages were ALOT! I’ve lost out on about roughly $9000-$10000!!! My property was only for $800 a rent though, which is the norm for the area it’s in in souther california.

    From now on I’ve vowed to check credits, eviction, and backgrounds at all times when a prospective tenant is interested.

    For those of you that are scrutinizing the author, get a life! He owes you nothing!!! It’s his property and he can do as he pleases! I’m sure if you had a house and were renting it that you wouldn’t want someone who can’t afford it living there. A credit score is a huge indication of how you can handle your debt and if you are deemed more reliable! Not his fault, that some people have piss poor credit. They can always go to a different property and try to rent there! I’m tired of people thinking that everybody owes them something. This is what’s wrong with the U.S. because everyone has a sense of entitlement.

    Bottom line is, I totally understand the author! It’s his investment and legacy! Also, a non paying renter is a nightmare!! It causes to much stress financially and emotionally that I would check everything I legally could before I rented out my house….

    1. That is terrible you had to spend 12x your monthly rent on Lawyer fees to evict your tenant due to non payment!

      It’s unfortunate there are so many people who try and take advantage of others and welch on an agreement. Best of luck to you with your future tenant. Thanks for the support.

  6. With 3300 dollars monthly rent apartment and all that requirements you want ask I do really think as landlord you are not the best. Believe me if I do have in my bank account 12 times that monthly rent I rather get a down payment in my own house than have an annoying landlord checking every single detail to backfire at the first minute. You are talking about SF like the it is Switzerland or Dubai where properties are more luxurious and landlords are not that ridiculous.

  7. I’ve rented many apartments, with a decent credit score.

    Here’s what I’ll say, those who place a “score” (which is really designed most of all for companies that are considering thousands of applications, not dozens) over taking the time to look at actual reports = huge red flag as how they’ll be as your landlord. If they’re cutting corners here rather than thinking of you as a human when you’re applying, how do you think they’re going to treat you as a tenant?

    The other side is that I’ve found a direct inverse correlation between how much a landlord requires in personal supplementary material and how they are as, well, a landlord.

    Those who act like, you know, people, and ask for just the necessary info, but are willing to look through it and consider, are generally the best landlords. I would be terrified to rent an apartment from the author (or buy anything at all from them to be honest), who clearly sees his tenants as numbers and profit and nothing else. I can only imagine what would happen the first time something goes wrong in the apartment that he might be on the hook for.

  8. Paul LaFontaine

    I have been renting a home for the past 12 years..some monthly rent was late but for the past 3 years rent has been on time every month Past reasons were job payment were slow in coming in. Now I am on a pension that covers all my expenses by the first of each month. And I am planning to move out of state and rent another home. Question….I have what is called a thin file. I have a secured credit card to restart my credit. Would a land consider me a bad risk… With thin credit history, but money in the bank and able to set up a direct deposit of rent to them..payable on the first of each of each month.

  9. Are you American? I think so, reading this post.
    You are “flummoxed” about the missing score in the applications of 7 people. The amazing thing about Americans I learnt in the past two years is they live like in a giant island: they have their own things, their own attitudes, their own tools, their own way of measuring, they cannot even think that EVERYBODY ELSE in the world does something different than all of this, mostly because they have seen none of the rest of the world, they don’t travel and they don’t study much about non-US things.

    You have to know that in many countries there is NO such thing like the credit score and it is NOT normal to make DEBTS and pay them back to proove that you are a GOOD payer. You can just never have debts in your life and that is considered VERY GOOD. Also is NOT normal that PRIVATE companies know EVERYTHING about your life and that is rather EASY to get these information in US, yes here the meaning of ‘privacy’ is completely different than Europe for example. And you have assets in San Francisco, city that is full of people from Europe, you cannot think everybody knows what THE F**K has to bring on an open house. People like me are new to the system, they are trying to learn your strange attitutes. Sure you did not force us to come here, but we really try our best!
    “THE CREDIT SCORE IS A WINDOW INTO ONE’S SOUL” — are you serious? In life there aren’t only money, maybe you have seen a lot of them in yours and think only about that, but believe me that my soul is something different and the f**ing credit score US bank system invented and tells nothing about me (and yes I have a good credit score if you wonder, still tells very little about me other than I am trying to be nice here and live within the ‘rules’).

    I agree you have to protect yourself and your assets, so sure you should ask for income and/or paystubs, but that the credit score is ESSENTIAL is only in American’s minds. Of course they born where everybody tells you need this and you believe it. But sure credit companies are pushing a lot you to use credit cards and I am sure they are pushing to keep the system like it is, because they EARN MONEY this way, this is the ugly truth, right?
    Who prevents someone to have a good score (which is easy to obtain) and then decide to screw you up? Nobody. Seriously. Or even simpler, they have good score, good job, but then they loose it, not their fault, then they cannot pay you back.

    Anyway no worries, I am sure your loan is much less than $3200/m that was in 2012 (based on first comment), probably today in 2014, seeing the prices of SF, you could easily ask at least $4000+/m, did I guess right?
    The other annoying thing is: here in San Francisco, landlords are so greedy that they ask $3000+ for a mediocre unfurnished apartment and they don’t even care to renovate it a fu**ing minimum, like repainting walls and/or having a decent kitchen that doesn’t fall a part just seeing it.
    It is disgusting seeing how people are caring only about their green dollars and not actually giving a real service to someone for a fair market price.
    And this now is pissing of Americans too that lived all their lives in San Francisco and now they “accuse” the Hi-Tech companies that overpay employees.
    Seriously? Americans cannot realize that this is the unregolated capitalism that don’t give a f**k who you are, but just $$ and credit score is all that matters. So who is to blame here really? The Google bus or your own society that you built, the “free world” around big corporations and people that have money, but at the end it crashed anyway (and will crash again).

    Anyway this is not a comment against you, I just find odd American society, if you come here and earn too much then they blame you, if you come here and don’t follow “weird” rules about credit report and score they blame you. If you don’t earn enough money or don’t have enough long credit history then they blame you. I mean WTF!

    best of luck with your assets

    1. Marco, can you share where your anger and frustration is coming from?

      Should Americans adjust to foreigner’s ways of lives, or should foreigners adjust to the American system if they want to work and live in America?

      If you don’t like the American system, why not just work and live in Europe then? I’ve been going every year for two weeks for the past three years and it’s a great, kick back lifestyle.

      Check it out:

      I lived in six different countries growing up and speak three different languages btw. So I think I have some decent perspective.

      1. I appreciate a lot Americans that travel and even better the ones that lived outside their “island”, I give them a lot of respect and usually they have much wider view than Americans that barely have visited half of the US states in their entire life.
        The anger actually comes from Americans first, they live in San Francisco and they are pissed of against immigrants that earn too much money and they made impossible to have a decent rent rate in the city. Even worse if they have to buy.
        My anger comes in learning such a complicate way of living which imo is not modeled around people, but around big companies.

        So my questions to you, are the following:
        since you have a lot of experience here and outside this island, don’t you see that American society is (still) sickly based on banks, corporations, big lobbies and rich people and the silly (imo) credit report is just based on this sickness of making debts with money you don’t have?
        Don’t you think that unregolated market in general and no rent control is at the end a very bad thing?
        Don’t you think is actually unfair for landlords that if you have an house in SF built before 1980 then is under rent control, while your neighboor with an house built after 1980 can do whatever it wants?

        I don’t understand, I feel US did not learn enough about the enomical crash it had and this post does not honor your experience on the field. But again, it is just my point of view which may (for sure?) differ from 99% of Americans, I guess.
        Surely Europe has its own defects and my own country even more than that, primarily the one to be a US colony basically.

        Best of luck with your assets!

  10. Nightvid Cole

    No credit score = bad?

    Ok, you won’t rent to someone who has the audacity not to spend money they don’t have? I’ll take my business elsewhere.

    1. This is great! And will help landlords better evaluate candidates. This is the beauty of the free markets. You’re free to not have a credit score or know your credit score and rent to a landlord who doesn’t care about credit. It just gets tougher in high demand markets like San Francisco.

  11. Here in NC some landlords look at credit scores and some don’t, it all depends. Many just want to meet you and make sure you won’t trash their property and if you have a steady income then you’re in. Also, for $3300 per month here in the south east you can rent a mansion unless you’re on the coast where property values are inflated but even then $3300 will get you a very large and nice home.

  12. I can sum it up to one symbol. “$” thats it. Here is an example. This particular thread is talking about an APARTMENT for over $3000.00 a month. On the business end, that is a major investment and a landlord must be careful who he or she lets in to complete that investment, not to mention that with an apartment at that price, im sure a landlord would want to make sure it is well oiled and constantly spinning a constant flow of income. Now, on the other hand, lets look at my area. I live in MA. Rent can go anywhere from 550 a month to over 7000. that 550 apartment will look at all income and references first then run the credit check, just to see. Now what I am learning at this moment, any rent over 1200 a month in MA usually wants GOOD CREDIT. they dont care about the income at that point, they want to know they arent wasting their time. My wife has very limited credit history, but she also has a 700 fico score. She did not qualify for the place we picked out not due to a low score, but because she hasn’t had a history for long enough. Personally, I think it is stupid, considering we were approved to buy a home, but couldnt find one we liked in our price range. So there you have it, the more money the more important the investment, the less money, the quicker it can be filled with someone else. @ Leigh

  13. It is clear that having shelter is now a mere business/political operation. This is absolutely alarming.What is this world coming to – when having something as basic as housing (RENTAL housing to be specific) requires jumping through rings of fire? When did having a roof over your head become this stupid game of monopoly where gluttons for wealth decide the best ‘get rich quick’ scheme nowadays is to acquire shit loads of properties, likely through some government provided LOAN (or FAMILY) in order to play out some childish game of house? The comment from the article’s author about how property managers are gung-ho about prying into the financial cracks and crevices of tenants because of THEIR financial obligations (ie debt) really is very telling. Clearly, property management companies aren’t the bastion of financial stability they are seeking. And really it explains so much. Despite perpetuating the idea that this “risk” is one way, any prospective tenant should be JUST as leery of a property company that is so adamant about “credit” because it signals they probably don’t “own” the property” in the true sense of the word and are insecure because a vacancy could mean loss. Otherwise, why wouldn’t a deposit and even a couple months rent suffice? So they must attach to anything that “seems” to lower their risk of loss, regardless whether there is a scientific basis for their assumptions or not. Meanwhile, people with bad/no credit are at risk of homelessness in droves and “loyal” excellent credit tenants are STILL moving out after the end of the year lease. BULLSHIT is the perfect word to explain this practice.

    1. Thank you!!!You have said what was on my mind!Where I live the rental market is so overpriced,basically we are paying someone else’s mortgage and yet the stuff they ask for are quite frankly sickening.If I had perfect credit history I would not be paying for YOUR house but buying my own house!!! I had a credit score close to 800 3 yrs ago, and then my husband went into business with someone who’s finances got affected and he decided to leave us with no money without any notice.Now because of that our credit was affected greatly not being able to pay and not being able to secure a job in time.Where does that leave us now with 2 kids?Basically on the street.Sometimes when I think about it I’d rather be homeless than under someone else’s roof who does not appreciate anything.

    2. Here’s the other side of that win/win deal for landlords (at the expense of renters), when renters are so credit-score bound: if you’re living in a multiple dwelling apartment building, for example, and not receiving vital services (no heat and hot water, for months, for instance), no longer is the traditional rent strike a viable option, even with an escrow account with the court, because people don’t *dare* do anything that might screw up their credit score, and *any* outstanding rent will effect your credit score (which – – as we know – – doesn’t go into any situational explanations) regardless of the reason. I blame this on the government that allows it. It’s one thing for the owner of a single-home property to have the right to safeguard him/herself against potential destructive or deadbeat tenants. But it is another to allow “industrial strength” property owners and holding companies, that have, sometimes, *scores or hundreds* of multiple-dwelling apartment buildings, to practice this financial *DISCRIMINATION*, and to be able to deny tenants necessary services, in violation of their leases, in order to boost their profits, while playing a game that determines that fines will not outweigh the costs of providing services. Don’t blame landlords for this; blame the government that allows it. Nearly 600,000 people were homeless, as of the winter of 2014 – – and I feel quite certain that this business with the credit checking and financial requirements of yearly income needing to be 40 times, 60 times, 100 times(!) the monthly rent (capriciously; at the landlord’s whim) is a great contributor to the problem of homelessness, that one would think – – would have already been *solved*, with laws prohibiting this, were our government actually concerned with the issue of homeless people. Instead, the law allows it. And if you don’t think that this is a form of discrimination *other* than financial (bad enough!), think again: this is a nifty way of not renting to minorities, using this excuse.

    3. You are so right. Right now I’m in a homeless shelther in nyc. Hence they gave me a program that pays $1,515. They pay the landlord a year upfront plus security plus $3,500 to accept the voucher plus a month rent to take the apartment off the market while the paper work gets processed and the checks a written. And they still deny me cause of bad credit. And the only reason i have bad credit is because i co signed on a ex boyfriends car and he let it get repossessed. Honestly i feel like it should be illegle to deny someone a home based on credit.

  14. Sam,

    Credit reporting agencies are private companies that collect their data and charge businesses to access it. As a consumer you were original not allowed to access your report at all. The government realizing how many times these reports were used in decision making passed the Fair Credit Reporting Act to allow consumers to view and challenge the information gathered in their credit report. However, concern about consumers bypassing businesses paying for credit reports from the services prompted the act to include certain provisions to protect reporting agencies. In summary they are: (1) A consumer ran credit report may never be used by anyone other than the consumer or agents thereof. (2) A consumer has access to one free report each year and CANNOT pay or otherwise run their own credit report, additionally a credit report ran by lawfully by one business (in this case landlord) may not be used by another business (landlord).

    In short you can’t bypass paying for the service by demanding that consumers supply their own report it is against a federal law and carries a $5,000 penalty per illegally obtained report.

  15. If you own a rental property in any south eastern states, you will have different perspective. I’ve a friend who own a rental property in Florida. He is allowing sub par credit score applicants because it is hard to rent his property in a rural Florida with high unemployment rate.

  16. Interesting…

    I make $60,000/year, and have never been late on a rent payment in my life (going back 23 years to my first apartment at age 19). Yet, if everyone thought like you do, I’d be HOMELESS.

    Some people can’t drink. Others can’t gamble. I can’t have credit cards. At this age, I’ve now established that and understand it. Credit cards have destroyed my credit. Yet, I’ve always paid off car loans, and once again, have NEVER been late on rent.

    I also have many years of positive feedback from landlords.

    I’m sorry, but a credit score is just a single tool among many. I’m not saying that you mindlessly cast people aside based solely on a 3-digit number – I haven’t read enough here yet to know if that’s the case. But I’ve been denied a laughable number of places to live (some that were truly crappy in retrospect), based on my FICO score and NOTHING else.

    Try as we may, humans cannot be put in simple little boxes. My current landlord is a fantastic, open-minded individual who looked at me and saw a half-dozen solid positives, one negative, and decided to “play the odds” and rent to me.

    He’s been rewarded with on-time payments, a green, well-cut lawn, professionally shaped shrubs, and a new toilet paid for and installed by me after the old one broke, as a thank you to him for putting his faith and trust in me.

    It’s never as simple as it seems.

    1. Mike – Put yourself in the landlord’s position. Would you risk renting a hugely important asset of yours to one of the 19 people who have good credit scores, or you who I’m assuming has a much lower credit score? It’s not personal, it’s business. Most landlords have mortgages THEY have to pay the bank, and therefore need a reliable lender.

      I don’t understand your story. You said you’ve never been late paying rent, but are you saying you’ve been delinquent in paying your credit card bills? If so, WHY? Why don’t you at least pay the minimum, then your credit score would not be hurt?

      A Credit Score is one of the most important metrics, but it is one of MANY metrics. Nobody said it is the end all, be all.

  17. Do you use a property manager Sam?

    Our property manager is extremely picky about who he rents out property to, and it’s done wonders for us so far. It’s worth it to be picky, in my opinion. I definitely think you’re doing it right.

    Would I rent to an axe murderer? Umm, like a murderer out of prison or someone who is a known axe murderer? If the latter then hell no, obviously. From an entirely business angle, someone who’s doing illegal activities will often trash the house and cause thousands of dollars of damage. My brothers tenant ended up turning his whole house into a pot growing facility, causing thousands in damage due to mold (humidity for plants had to be high) and appliance (he dried it in various appliances).

    1. Oh my gosh, LOVE the story about your brothers tenant! Hilarious!

      I don’t use a property manager b/c my property in SF is within a 7 minute drive of my house and I like to see the whites of my tenants eyes before I proceed with the transaction.

      I find if the tenant knows me as a person, they are less likely to screw me. I deal with people all day. I want to use my 6th sense during the screening process which averages about once every 2.5 years. Not a lot of time spent at all.

  18. I’ve been the renter for 2 lowish end apartments in decent neighborhoods on the SF Peninsula in the last 5 years, and I didn’t show a bank statement or a credit score on my credit report for either. For the 2nd, I was one of 23 interested people/groups.

    The lower price point may be why I can get away with this. I simply printed out the government required free annual credit report and wasn’t willing to pay the money to get the official score. I guess I would if I absolutely had to, but I would be loath to hand over a bank statement. In my mind, requiring this would be a ding against the potential landlord.

    Frankly, unless you pull the credit report yourself, there is no way to fully protect yourself against credit report fraud. Some landlords themselves check the credit report of only their chosen prospective tenant. They say they charge $50, but will refund the money if the they person rents the place.

    1. What was your price point when you rented each for the past 5 years?

      There are many factors to choosing a tenant. A credit score is on the top of my list when I’ve got to evaluate more than 3. I don’t have time to comb through every single line-item in the credit to come up with a GUESS as to what the score says.

      1. I understand you not wanting to guess, but there are plenty of people out there who have terrific credit scores BECAUSE they have a lot of debt. I would never simply look at a credit score and think the person was a good risk. What I would be looking for is low to zero payment obligations. You have to go into the details of the credit report to have any chance at determining this and even then, who really knows. For instance, I don’t think child support would show up on there.

        Price point of my experience?

        5 years ago – $1200 for a basic 1 br in an upscale town – they are currently trying to get $1750 for the same apartment type. This is a large, professional landlord that likes to really push on the rent. They have 2 br places for rent in a better neighborhood for $3500+.

        3 years ago – $1000 for for an even more basic 1 br in a moderate town – I have no idea the current rent. This was a smaller landlord who preferred to under price the rent in order to have their pick of tenants.

        Neither wanted a bank statement or credit score. They were happy with employment verification and a reference from my previous landlord.

        1. Again, the credit score and credit report are just a couple of other important variables to make an informed decision. I should just write another post about this. I cut out that portion in this post to focus on the credit score importance.

          I wonder if your previous landlords would ask for credit score and other details if you were renting in the $3,500 range? Higher the price, higher the potential loss.

        2. And yet, again, who cares about the credit score? You don’t even know how that number is calculated. And Suze Orman is PAID by FICO.

          All you need to know is income and what other financial responsibilities this person has. Who cares what their savings looks like? THAT is discriminatory.

  19. I definitely check credit score before I rent. In one condo, the tenant work at my company and he has limited credit, but I know he is paid well. I don’t mind renting to someone with a stable job in that position.

  20. I agree landlords need a credit score. Who provides it is a different case. Why should I believe a landlord will be on top of building maintenance if s/he won’t do their own due diligence on their own tenants? I, personally, have no problem paying the fee to show I’m serious. Perhaps I’m a bit jaded after having a few bad landlords in San Francisco.

    With respect to going alone… You’re going to a stranger’s apartment after responding to an ad anyone can post on craigslist. Normally, no qualms from me. But, as soon as something horrible happens, we’re going to see a flood of people blaming the victim claiming they shouldn’t have gone alone. That actually sounds like a great/believable premise for a horror/mystery novel :p

  21. The funny thing is, I know landlords who DO charge $50 per applicant. If you have 50 applicants, that’ $2,500 in revenue they make minus the $1,250 in cost for pulling credit. If applicants are willing to pay $50 for the CHANCE of getting the apartment, fine. But, I feel bad and don’t want to take anybody’s money if they aren’t going to be renting my apartment.

    You can just easily get your credit score for free and avoid the apartment rental charge.

    1. I do believe it’s illegal to make a profit from pulling people’s credit reports. It’s also a real jerk move. Just what everyone wants to do – pay a person $50 to check their credit report when they are considering 50 (!) other people for a single available apartment. Sounds like a nice profitable scam.

  22. Just wondering, what service do you recommend to pull your credit score and credit report. Is there like something online I can subscribe to for a small fee?

  23. If I had to guess why people brought you the report and not the score is that they just printed it out on sites like CreditKarma or something. I am not sure it is malicious as much as an honest mistake that is obviously a terrible one that puts them way behind other candidates.

    Do you ask for all that stuff in the ad? or is it known in the bay area that you should be bringing these items?

    1. Also, why not run their credit yourself and charge them for it? Will also weed out people that are worried or don’t want to be charged 40 bucks?

    2. I specify in the ad for the desired documents. They are not mandatory, just recommended. A lot of candidates were new law school grads who made $150,000-$175,000 to start and had no clue about living on their own. Incomes were good, assets were small, and they brought credit reports with no scores.

      I kept wondering why they wouldn’t want to know their own score? The report is thorough, but I don’t have the inclination to review the multi-page history during screening, only when the last 3 candidates are narrowed down.

      If they don’t have the wherewithal to check their free credit score themselves, then I’m hesitant they will be able to do other things themselves. I don’t want any contention risk of pulling someone’s credit, charging them, and then rejecting them.

  24. I’ll have to take a look at Ecredible as I haven’t heard of it. Cash reserves is HUGE if there is no credit score. It would personally take 36 months worth of savings in the bank for me to consider an applicant with zero credit score. However, I’d much rather have a credit score and 12 months worth of savings only.

    I’m well aware of the discrimination laws. This article discusses the importance of credit to determine the payment viability of the prospective tenant. How long have you been a landlord? Or, are you asking because you feel determining a tenant based on credit score is discriminatory?

  25. I never trusted anything a tenant brought me! I did a separate credit and unlawful detainer check. The more you do at the front end, the better the tenant/landlord experience.

  26. Not in NYC you don’t. Money talks. I do plenty of photography for these real estate agents and money talks. I talks volumes. I have seen people that don’t have a credit pot to piss in get apartments. I think for the most part you are right but in NYC we live by different codes.

    1. If a prospective tenant seems legit, nice, and wants to pay 3 years up front, then credit doesn’t matter as much.

      Good credit is necessary for a landlord to assess the likelihood of non-payment. If they have money (huge asset base) then credit is not as necessary. The issue is, not many have a huge asset base. One prospective was 50 years old, made $150,000, just sold her house but only had about $16,000 in the bank total.

      1. How do you know that’s what was in her bank, total? Don’t you think she had investment accounts that you might not have been privy to?

        God forbid someone wants to rent an apartment without disclosing all of their most private financial information to a perfect stranger.

    2. Who are these rental places cause I’m searching right now in nyc and I’m getting turned away because of my credit not only that I have a program thats pays $1,515, that is willing to pay the landlord $3,500 just for accepting the voucher, a full year of rent upfront, thier security deposit and 15% brokers fee if there is one. And they will give the landlord an additional month rent just to hold the apartment until all the paperwork is submitted and the checks are written out.

  27. Mr. Toughmoneylove

    We get it. You love credit scores. You’ve been well trained by the credit industry. But a “window to your soul”? Lame.

    1. Indeed. Thank you for getting it. When you have a portfolio of rental properties that bring you thousands of dollars in cash flow, you aren’t going to take the risk on somebody without a credit report or credit score. Do you not have rental properties at your age?

      1. Mr. Toughmoneylove

        I own several nice residential properties but I live in them, don’t rent them. I have several friends and relatives who are landlords. It’s a job. I already have one of those. I don’t criticize your use of credit metrics to evaluate your tenants but your rhetoric in favor of the credit score seems extreme.

        1. A credit score is one of several metrics I use, with the others being income, assets, employment history, and general vibe. A credit score is super important to me and to many landlords. If you were an actual landlord, you’d appreciate more the importance of the credit score.

          Please spend some years being a landlord or a direct creditor and you will understand more where I am coming from.

    2. What’s lame is that you lurk here and the first comment you make is bitter, just like your writing on your site and elsewhere. What’s wrong with you?

      1. Mr. Toughmoneylove

        Gee Jerry. I’m sure there are lots of things wrong with me but being a lurker or a bitter person is not among them. I’ve been blogging since 2008 and a vocal critic of FICO and its worshippers for at least that long. I have also been a reader of this fine blog since it launched but I don’t leave comments just to see my handle in print. I do tend to get a little feisty inn the credit score domain. And yes, stating that the credit score is a “window to your soul” is still lame. I’m sure Bernie and our recently convicted insider trader friends had awesome credit scores, don’t you think?

        1. Clearly you are not a landlord and have no experience. Stop being so bitter. Is that what happens when people get into their late 50’s? Things start going limp or something? Gee.

    3. Bad things happen to people that are totally out of their control. You cant judge a person’s character solely on their credit score. We don’t make the resessions that lead to layoffs and unemployment.

  28. In San Francisco, crap like this is not tolerated. First come, first served. You must rent to the first eligible renter. None of this get a credit report from every single applicant and cherry pick the best one. If you think an applicant has to apply to multiple rentals, they are having to shell out $25 every time they submit an application. This is Bullshit.

    1. Sorry, what are you talking about? I don’t have to rent my place out to anybody if they don’t meet my qualifications. I don’t chart a $25 application fee. What are you smoking?

    2. You’re probably every landlord’s nightmare if you really think this way. Or, you are saying the process in SF is bullshit. It’s not clear.

  29. Wow, potential tenants are expected to show banking statements to get a rental?! I’ve only ever been asked for income verification, last two pay stubs, and housing references from the last two years. I didn’t even need to provide banking statements when I had an empty credit report back right after college. I think my previous landlords have pulled my credit score themselves? I’m not sure. I’ve provided my social, but they’ve never never asked for a report or a score from me.

    1. My tenants are. It’s VERY common in San Francisco. If you were a landlord, wouldn’t you want to know your perspective tenant has assets to cover the rent in case they lost their job? A tenant doesn’t have to give their bank statement as nothing is a requirement. However, if 19 other candidates are, then chances are probably 99.9% you won’t get picked if you can’t show. This is SERIOUS business. Having bad tenants is a nightmare.

  30. Wow, that’s a lot of demand. Down here, landlords are offering to pay people to move in, quite literally.

    1. Really? Is this Florida you’re talking about?

      When 22 year olds are making $85,000 right out of school and you’ve got huge IPOs all around, the demand for rent goes WAY up. It’s unbelievable here.

      I encourage everybody who is mobile to move out here if they want to increase their chances of hitting it big.

      1. Yup, FL. Rate of ownership and second homes is high here, so most renters, especially in my area, are lower and middle-income folks.

  31. You need to make sure to specify you want a score in your ad. A credit report is advertised as the one without a score by people like Suze Orman. I definitely thinks it helps to have the score you just need to make sure to ask for it.

  32. I can’t answer your questions, but I’m curious to have a landlord’s opinion about those of us who do NOT have a credit score (or credit history, for that matter). Or have a very low one due to very short history. I’m thinking of people in my situation, namely recent immigrants.

    If the applicant comes with a good salary, including letter from the employer, proof of foreign work history and income, but no credit score/credit history… and no previous landlord reference, obviously, what would you think ?

    Another more general question : do you also take into account what you thought of the applicant when you met them, or just the numbers ?

    1. Definitely taken into account how the encounter feels.

      Unfortunately, I would not rent to someone with poor credit or no credit because there are plenty of people with high credit scores who are interested in this particular apartment.

      $3,300 is mid-range in SF for a 2/2, but still $39,800 after-tax, $51,000 in gross income one has to pay in rent. As such, I am wary of someone w/ bad credit looking to rent such a place.

      No previous landlord reference means….. the landlord doesn’t want to give a reference. Unless they were living with their parents, something is up.

      1. Hi, thanks for the reply. I was speaking of someone who just arrived in the US, hence the absence of credit score/history. And of reference. For example, I’m here in the US since ealry this year. I won’t have a credit score until next month, because the credit agenciesneed 6 months of history before computing the number. And it’s not going to be very high at that time ! And I don’t have a previous landlords reference, because… he didn’t speak english lol.

        I totally understand your position, though. I would also go with the “safer” choice, if I had a lot of applicants !

        1. Gotcha. If you can show a good asset figure (12 months+ of rent in the bank), long job history, and be a nice person, should be fine. The landlord’s main worry is that you don’t ruin the place and don’t pay on time. Being nice goes a long way!

      2. I wish most apartments were this way but sadly ive learned most wont touch you with an eviction on your record or low numbers. We’re all just numbers. And the sad thing is these apartment managers do nothing but exacerbate the problem funneling all the so called “high risk” people that just had some bad luck and lost there job and really had no where to go like me all to the slums with criminals and rapists and child molesters all who had to go to second chance renters. when most people learn there lesson and really try but get wrote off anyways

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