Are NYC Apartment Application Credit Checks Hard or Soft Inquiries?
When you apply to rent an apartment, it’s more likely than not that the landlord will run a credit check on you.
Your credit report will show things like how many outstanding loans you have, how many credit cards you possess, and any other debt or credit history—good or bad.
It will also include things like bankruptcies, liens, and evictions.
Cumulatively, this financial snapshot can help your landlord determine if you would be a desirable tenant (one who isn’t deeply in debt and pays rent on time) or one who is risky—and in some cases, extremely risky.
Are Apartment Credit Check Hard Inquiries?
Hard inquiries or "pulls" affect your credit score negatively, whereas soft pulls have no impact.
All credit checks for apartment applications are hard inquiries as with other serious inquiries for financing such as mortgages, car leases, and credit cards to name a few.
- A soft pull is, generally for when creditors want to make non-committal decisions about you, such as credit limit increases and mortgage pre-qualifications.
- Multiple hard inquiries in a short span of time can make a significant reduction of score and paint of negative portrayal of your financial habits.
- Ways you can reduce these negative effects are by reducing the amount of apartments you are applying for, rate-shopping with FICO and VantageScore, or asking the landlord to accept a free report you provide.
- Being proactive and building an excellent credit score will help compensate for any future hard pulls.
There are Two Types of Credit Checks
When someone does a credit check on you, it falls into two categories: a soft pull, and a hard one.
The former is usually for situations where payments are required, but you’ve been pre-qualified (such as a credit card or insurance offer).
It’s also done by prospective employers, as part of an overall background check.
A key difference with a hard check is that you must authorize it (soft pulls don’t require your permission).
What's the Difference Between Hard and Soft Pulls
Hard pulls are typically done when applying for credit cards, loans, and—what we’re most interested in here—renting an apartment.
Another key difference between the two types of credit inquiries is that soft pulls won’t affect your credit score, but hard pulls potentially can.
Worst-case scenario, each hard pull can dent your score by up to 10 points apiece.
So multiple pings can really add up and have a tangible impact on your overall credit score.
How Can I Reduce the Impact of Hard Pulls
You can limit the effects of hard pulls by limiting the number of rental applications you submit simultaneously.
Maybe start by focusing solely on one apartment—the one you want the most.
If you don’t get that one, move on to applying for the next one.
That advice errs on the side of caution.
In addition, to multiple credit inquiries being detrimental, the cost of application fees can make you rack up quite the bill, with each credit check being anywhere from $25-$200.
How Can FICO Help Me Keep the Hard Pulls to a Minimum?
However, the good news is that FICO’s scoring model provides room for “rate-shopping” in situations like loan or apartment applications.
What does that mean? FICO will ignore any queries spanning 30 days after your first apartment application.
This month-long grace period is specifically designed to keep your score from being hurt by several hard-pull credit inquiries within a short space of time.
All rental applications pulled during that period will count as one inquiry.
If your apartment search remains confined within those 30 days, your existing score should hold up.
If you go beyond that period, that’s when you may end up dinging your score—so consolidate your apartment-search span accordingly.
VantageScore also provides this option
In addition to FICO, there’s VantageScore, a credit-score model, launched in 2006, that’s a joint venture between the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
While 300 to 850 is the credit range for FICO, VantageScore ratings—differing slightly—range from 350 to 800.
VantageScore only gives you a 14-day grace period for rate shopping, before your credit score starts being affected again by hard pulls.
Note that hard credit inquiries count for 10 percent of your credit score and are categorized under the “new credit” portion of your score.
What Else Can I Do?
While it’s more than likely that your landlord will do a credit check, there are ways to do so as a soft pull.
If the 30-day grace period provided by FICO and the 14-day one for VantageScore doesn’t seem like enough, and still makes you antsy, ask your landlord directly if their inquiry approach will result in a hard or soft pull?
If it’s the former, see if your landlord will allow you to provide your own copy of your credit report—which you can download for free on www.annualcreditreport.com, which is a soft pull.
While some landlords might not be open to your providing your own report, it may be worth giving it a shot.
Note that hard credit inquiries remain on your credit report for about two years.
Good Credit Starts with You
Being proactive in making sure your credit report and score are in tip-top shape will keep you from breaking a sweat when you’re required to do a credit check.
Good credit is the gift that keeps on giving: It opens the doors to renting property; owning property; getting a job; getting a line of credit to open a business; and so much more.
If improving your credit is one of your goals, you may find an article we previously published helpful: “How to Improve Your Credit Score to Get Approved for an Apartment.”
It will help you to improve your credit, not just for getting an apartment—but period.