Having a low credit score doesn’t mean you’re doomed for life, but it can make some aspects of your life more trying and certainly more expensive.

Rates for car loans and insurance, bank loans, and home rental can be challenging at best. You’re going to have to convince your potential landlord of why they should trust you. Take charge of the situation by getting out in front of it, be honest, and be ready to plead your case.

Know Your Credit Score

First of all, get a copy of your credit report and verify that all the information on it is accurate. Don’t use one of the suspect sites to pull your credit, instead use the government-mandated free site If you find errors, dispute them. If your low credit rating was due to a temporary issue like job loss or medical emergency, provide paperwork to substantiate it. Write a thoughtful letter of explanation for your credit issues to give the landlord when you apply for a rental. Just be sure not to give vague answers like, “I’m disputing that” or “that’s not mine” or “I cosigned for someone who didn’t pay.” Good landlords won’t accept these excuses! If those excuses are indeed the truth, get documentation to prove it, so your reason will be accepted.

Go Small

There’s a better chance that a “Do-It-Yourself Landlord” may not do a full credit check, if at all. If that’s the case, you may be home free! Even if they pull your credit report, you’ll usually have a better chance of pleading your case directly to the property owner. On the other hand, you may also be taken advantage of by a slumlord promising repairs that never get done or worse.

List of References

If your low credit rating was due to a temporary situation, provide references from previous landlords to prove that you are a responsible renter. If you’ve held a long-term position at work, have your current or former employer draft a letter showing your loyalty. By proving you’ve paid your rent on-time in the past and you have a steady income, your potential landlord may put less weight into your credit score. Just be sure all the information can be validated because due to so much application fraud, many landlords are compelled to verify any information applicants provide them. 

More Cash Paid Upfront

To set a landlord at ease, offer to pay a couple of months of rent in advance and/or provide them with a larger security deposit. If you’re sure that you can maintain a steady balance in your bank account, you can agree to set up auto payments to be withdrawn when rent is due. If you’re still having trouble convincing them and all other requirements have been met, your landlord may agree to a short-term lease or even month-to-month, especially if it will prevent a vacancy. This “trial period” would be your opportunity to gain their trust by making your monthly payments on time. If things go well, your landlord may be willing to agree to a standard lease term.

Find Someone to Cosign For You

It may be hard to come to terms with this one, but if you’re truly in a jam, it may be your best bet. Asking for help can be hard, but a parent, family member, or a good friend who understands your current situation may be willing to step up. Just make sure their credit is in better shape than yours, and they have a stable income. Otherwise, they really won’t strengthen your rental application.

Having low credit score won’t necessarily kill any chance of you finding a home, but it will make your search more challenging. Plan on spending more time finding a landlord that will accommodate you, so start your search early. If you commit to paying your bills on time, rent included, your credit will improve, and you’ll have an easier time finding a home to rent next time.