Are NYC Apartment Application Credit Checks Hard or Soft Inquiries?

Learn how NY rental credit checks impact your credit. Understand hard vs. soft pulls, and how to prevent negative effects.

Applying to rent an apartment usually involves a credit check, essentially a financial snapshot of your outstanding loans, credit cards, and payment history - both positive and negative. The report also includes any bankruptcies, liens, or evictions.

In short, landlords use this information to evaluate prospective tenants' financial capability and minimize risk. Meeting payments on time and keeping debt manageable can flag you as a desirable tenant. Conversely, a poor credit rating may discourage future landlords from renting to you.

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-qualification.
  • Multiple hard inquiries in a short period can make a significant reduction of credit score and paint of negative portrayal of your financial habits.
  • Ways you can reduce these adverse effects are by reducing the number 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.

Read more: How Much Does a NYC Credit Check Cost for an Apartment Application?

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, 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.

Read on: What Do Landlords Look for in a Credit Check?

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.

Search for Home Rentals in NYC

Search for your next home based on a credit
score, price, neighborhood & more.

Find Your New Home
Petra E. Lewis
About the author

Petra E. Lewis is a published author and seasoned corporate communications professional—primarily in financial services. She writes on real estate basics and sales for PropertyNest. Petra E. Lewis graduated from Columbia College, Columbia University, with a bachelor's degree in English and history. She lives in Brooklyn.