What Credit Score Do You Need to Rent an Apartment in New York?

Ruth Shin

CREDIT SCORE

Manhattan NY

Surely, you’ve encountered this question if you’ve ever gone apartment hunting in New York. However, plenty of people still get caught off-guard when applying for an apartment or speaking to a broker or management company. Understanding what the landlord requires in order for you to get approved for the unit you want is critical to success. 

Why Do They Want to Know My Credit Score?

It may not seem so obvious how credit cards and loans have anything to do with getting a home or an apartment, but they do.  Your credit rating will tell the landlord if you are a good payer--meaning someone who will not only pay the rent every month without fail but also pay on time for the full length of the lease. 

A broker, landlord, or management company will use a third party credit service to pull up not only your FICO score but also a detailed credit report. They will be able to see any open collections or payment delinquencies and then judge whether you are a good or risky candidate.

What’s a FICO Score?

This is a score first invented by the Fair Isaacs Corporation (FICO). Different weighted categories of credit history are gathered and pieced about each person. These categories include the percentage of balances across all accounts, payment history, length of credit history, number of lines of credit, and credit inquiries. The two categories that are going to have the most impact on your rating is the balance percentage and your history of payment. If you keep high balances on your credit cards (more than 30% total) and you have missed a payment or paid late, this will have a very negative effect on your scoring.

FICO Credit Score

The score is calculated on a scale from 300-850. The ranges are as follows:

FICO Credit Score Ranges

Credit Score RangesCredit Quality
300-559Very Bad (Severe Risk)
560-649Bad (High to Moderate Risk)
650-699Average/Fair (Moderate to Minor Risk)
700-749Good (Low Risk)
750-850Excellent (Negligible risk)


Any score from 300-649 is not going to portray the applicant in the best light. This shows the landlord that you have not been conscientious about staying on top of your bills and may not be a trustworthy renter.

Generally speaking, 650-699 and up is considered fair and many lenders and landlords may find this range acceptable. However, don’t be surprised if this is not high enough for some. Most landlords will consider above 700 a safe bet, although you might very occasionally run into some that want a 750 and higher.

FICO’s newest version, FICO Score 9, will also now count medical collections as a different type of debt and have less of an impact, paid off collections will no longer have a negative impact, and housing rental payment history will now be included, helping out those with a limited credit history, but are great renters.

Checking Your Credit Score

It’s important to check your credit score regularly and stay on top it. When you want to apply for an apartment is not the time to discover that you have an error or outstanding balance on your report. The landlord will not be waiting around for you to correct the error or pay off a collection that will negatively reflect on you. Remember that the more apartments you apply for, the more times your credit will be pulled and this will negatively affect your score.

You are allowed a full credit report free once a year, but nowadays, you can readily check your FICO score (or at least a “lite” version of it) on your credit card profile online. Another great way to monitor your credit is to sign up for third-party service like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame, which will show you individual scores from credit agencies like Equifax and Transunion. These scores are more approximate but should give you a ballpark figure of what your credit looks like

Can I Get Rejected Even with Great Credit?

Regardless of your credit score or income, approval is left completely at the discretion of the landlord. If there is anything about your complete profile that sheds doubt in his or her mind, it is their prerogative to say yes or no, even if it’s just an “uneasy feeling” or “hunch”. There are, however, some things on a credit report that might make a thorough landlord nervous even if your credit is great.

If you have an extremely high credit limit, that might make a landlord unsure regardless if your overall balance percentage is low. This is because it shows the full potential of how much debt you can go into. Just another reason why checking your credit report is important before applying for that apartment. Also, keep in mind that any loans you have co-signed for or acted as a guarantor for a family member or a friend (including any delinquencies) will appear on your report. Be wary of too many credit inquiries as well. It will affect your score negatively and make a landlord suspicious of all the credit inquiries.

What If I Don’t Have Credit?

If you’re a foreign national, or never had a credit card, or taken out a loan for school or a car, you probably aren’t even scored (having a regular checking or savings account doesn’t compute into credit). This can raise a red flag for a landlord as they have almost no information about how you manage your finances. On occasion, they might accept a letter or report on your rental payment history from any current or previous landlord(s).

However, in all likelihood, you might have to put down a hefty security deposit, or a few months of rent upfront, or be required to get a guarantor. In paying additional securities and rent upfront, you may be asked to pay anywhere from one additional month in security to an entire year of rent. This is left to the discretion of the landlord. 

If you’d like to use a guarantor, make sure that person earns at least 80 times your monthly rent and has great credit. If the rent is $1,000 a month, this translates to your guarantor making an annual income of at least $80,000 and having a credit score of about 750 and up. There is a little bit of wiggle room with these guidelines with some landlords, so be sure to ask what their requirements are.

Foreigners Have Options Too

International/foreign guarantors are not normally accepted, but many landlords will take out-of-state guarantors as long as they can submit all the requested documentation. You might also try a third party guarantee service such as Insurent or The Guarantors. They frequently work with foreigners who don't have a domestic guarantor and will guarantee your lease. Be aware though that not all landlords are willing to take this type of service, often because they don't want to waste time listening to the spiel or reading the fine print.


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