How I was approved for an apartment with bad credit



  • When I was looking for an apartment, my credit score was 675 and I had 29 overdue payments on my credit report.
  • I almost gave up on trying to find my own apartment, but used these five strategies to get approval.
  • I started to organize all of my documents in daily 10 minute increments so I wouldn’t get overwhelmed.
  • Read more stories from Personal Finance Insider.

Ever since I left my parents’ house, I have been living with roommates, had my parents co-signed my lease, or I relied on sublet agreements to find affordable housing in big cities like Chicago, New York and Los Angeles.

With my 30th birthday and major surgery on the way, I decided it was time for me to have my own one bedroom apartment.

Even though my credit score of 675 was fair, I had 29 overdue payments on my credit report. On top of that, I had a mixed full time and side income that confused most homeowners.

At first I thought there were too many obstacles in my way, but I moved forward with these four strategies that helped me get my own one bedroom apartment.

1. I started to organize my financial documents a month in advance

I knew landlords would find it hard to see me as a reliable tenant, so I did all I could to organize myself.

I spent 10 minutes a day scanning documents and putting them in a Google folder to make it easier for owners to deliver the documents they wanted to see.

Here is a list of documents that I have compiled and scanned:

  • My legal name change and gender marker change documents
  • My naturalization certificate and other immigration documents
  • Rent payment history and utilities
  • Tax documents, like W-2 and 1099
  • Pay slips from my full-time job
  • Invoices and payment verifications on my side

As a non-binary / trans and immigrant person, I have experienced discrimination from landlords who have accused me of identity theft. Aside from my payment history, I planned ahead and compiled legal name change and immigration documents to make the process as smooth as possible.

Giving myself 10 minutes a day to organize these documents neutralized my emotions and helped me through an invasive and overwhelming rental application process.

2. I have shown my rental payment history including Venmo transactions

In New York City, I paid the rent digitally, which made it easy for me to compile a PDF of receipts to show my future landlord my rental payment history.

When I moved to Los Angeles, things were a bit more complicated. I sublet a room for a year, paying my roommate’s rent through Venmo. To keep things organized, I used to take screenshots of every payment and drop them into a Google doc.

Viewing my rent payment history allowed me to boost my rental request.

3. I found move-in offers and paid a larger security deposit

In Los Angeles, it’s an unspoken rule that people with bad credit can get approved for apartments by paying a two or three month security deposit. Because of this, I aggressively saved $ 3,100 on side activities to prepare for a bloated security deposit.

I happened to be looking for an apartment in August and noticed that apartment buildings in the Valley – which experience even hotter temperatures than the rest of Los Angeles in the summer – offered low security deposits and discounts. on the first month’s rent to encourage tenants to move in.

For this reason, I decided to narrow my search to North Hollywood and chose an apartment that only required a $ 500 security deposit. I offered to pay the usual one-month security deposit of $ 1,595 to allay my landlord’s concerns, which is $ 1,095 more than the asking price.

They accepted my offer and I was able to use the rest of my savings for moving costs.

4. I made sure my freelance income was easy to understand

Just like I did with my rent payment history, I made sure to compile my ancillary income to make myself a more desirable tenant.

I also included a cover page for each set of documents to show what was included. Here is a model that allowed my landlord to better understand my income:

Independent income November 2020-August 2021

  • Total income: (insert total income here)
  • Average monthly income: (total income divided by 10 months)
  • Documents included: invoices, payment verifications from Melio, Gusto and Bill.com.

My organizational skills have shown my landlord that I am serious about my finances even though I have made mistakes in the past.

Organizing myself also helped me develop my self-esteem and believe that I was worthy of my dream apartment, even after experiencing housing discrimination and financial hardship.


Previous Liz Weston: Is it possible to increase my credit score by 100 points in a year?
Next Bad credit score? How a "Credit Builder Loan" or "Secured Credit Card" Can Help You