For renters, a credit score is more than just a number that determines whether they'll qualify for the limit they would like on a new credit card. It's a three-digit number that may determine whether landlords will rent them apartments -- a proposition that's especially frightening for those with errors on their credit reports. If your current lease is about to run out, and you're disputing an error that's bringing your credit score down, here's how you can explain your situation to landlords with apartments for rent in your area.
Landlords Like 670 and Above
Many landlords use applicants' credit scores as at least one of the criteria they consider. According to Rent.com, most property owners look for tenants with at least an average credit score: 670 or higher. Some property management companies are strict, not renting to anyone with a score below this number. Others are more lenient, looking at the payment history, references and current employment of prospective tenants who fall short of this target. Even sympathetic landlords, though, prefer applicants with good credit scores.
Errors Can Bring Your Score Below 670
Incorrect information on your credit report can quickly lower your score below 670. Credit.com places 670 in the range of "good" credit scores, which range from 661 to 780. Even a small mistake about one missed payment could temporarily lower your score into the "fair" range of 601 to 660, depending on your real score. A larger error that lists a debt you never had could ruin your score even more.
You Can Include an Explanation
While credit-reporting errors can be disputed, it takes time to correct mistakes. StreetDirectory.com says it can take up to 60 days to remove an incorrect item that's on your report. If your lease ends during this time period, you can't afford to delay apartment hunting until your credit report is accurate.
Thankfully, all major credit-reporting agencies let people include short statements about items on their reports. These statements, CreditCards.com explains, are limited to 100 words, but you can use them to explain anything from a missed payment to a medical or unemployment situation that caused temporary hardship. In this situation, the statement provides a way for you to let prospective landlords know that an error is currently being disputed.
The statement isn't a place to fully detail your disagreement with the company reporting the error, because you're limited to 100 words. This is enough space, however, to
- mention that you're disputing the error
- note the date you first started the dispute
- offer to provide further documentation upon request
Landlords Don't Like Surprises
When including a note about a dispute, you should still let prospective landlords know about the dispute before they pull your credit report. While you might not want to scare off property managers and owners by immediately mentioning you have a disputed item on your credit history, it's appropriate to mention this when they ask for permission to pull up your report. They'd rather first learn of this from you than from an agency's paperwork on you.
You might even want to provide documentation that supports your case before they request it. Depending on the specific error, you may include copies of
- deposited checks
- loan agreements
By writing a note about a disputed item on your credit report and being upfront with prospective landlords, you'll show both reliability and honesty. Many landlords with apartments for rent in your area may be willing to overlook an error on your credit report, because you've shown that you're responsible. From their point of view, that's the most important attribute in a prospective tenant.