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

Learn why credit is important & how it can help you get approved for your home. Discover what a good and bad credit score is and what landlords are looking for.
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.

On average, NYC landlords look for a credit score in the range of 650-700 as a minimum. 680 seems to be the sweet spot for most.

However, it can be anything the landlord or management company deems creditworthy.

Credit Score Needed to Rent an Apartment

  • Having a good credit score is paramount to landing the apartment you want in New York City, but remember that you will also need to meet an income requirement as well.
  • Most landlords will want to see "Fair" or "Good" credit in order to approve you for an apartment, but every landlord will have their own gold standard.
  • Prepare your income documentation ahead of time, so you can beat out the competition.
  • If you have no credit or poor credit, you can get a guarantor on your application.
  • Check your score periodically and monitor your report throughout the year. You'll be able to catch any errors and take quick action if something is amiss.

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).

Differently 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, as mentioned, many lenders and landlords may find this range acceptable. Some lenders might even loan you a mortgage at below a 600, but with very high-interest rates. 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 also 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.

How Do I Make Sure I'm Prepared?

Don't get caught off guard when you've found the perfect apartment.

Being prepared is the first step in landing a new lease.

Not only is it essential to check your credit history, but also to know what income requirements the landlord will be using.

Again, any landlord or management company will have their own standards and metrics, but generally speaking, you'll need to make an annual income of 40 times the monthly rent.

Having your security deposit and all of your paperwork ready is essential in securing your desired apartment quickly (given that you meet all the requirements).

To learn more about the security deposit, you can read up on our article that covers everything you need to know about it.

You'll usually be asked for your most recent tax returns, bank statements, pay stubs or payroll statements, a letter of employment, and photo ID.

Having either digital copies or photocopies of this documentation before you see an apartment will make the whole process smoother and faster. Sometimes, you may be asked for personal references or a landlord reference.

You'll also need to fill out an application and pay a fee, which usually covers the credit check and/or background check.

How Can I Check My Credit Score?

It’s essential to check your credit score regularly and stay on top of it. See a list of free and paid credit score providers.

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, adversely affecting 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 services 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. If you find your credit score to be poor, read this guide on how to improve it.

Can I Get Rejected Even with Great Credit?

Regardless of your credit score or income, approval is entirely left 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 excellent.

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 essential 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).

If your credit score is poor, read this guide on how to improve it.

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 extra 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 generally not 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.

Foreigners should also work on building their credit in the United States. The simplest way is by applying for a credit card.

Ruth Shin
About the author

Ruth Shin is the Founder and CEO of PropertyNest. She shares in-depth insights on real estate, personal finance, and home improvement drawing from her experience as a licensed real estate agent, editing personal finance publications, and managing many home renovation projects. Ruth graduated with a BA from Hunter College in Writing, History, and Special Honors.