Guide to Credit Reports for NYC Renters

So you have decided to move to New York– you have created a plan for your move, picked out a few neighborhoods to scour for apartments, and familiarized yourself with NYC landlord rental requirements.   You feel like you have done your homework, and you are well prepared to make your move a successful one.

But how much do you know about your credit score?

Your credit score is one of the most important pieces of information on your rental application.  A Low score can mean that landlords will not consider you a qualified applicant—and that you will be left homeless, jobless, and will waste away in a ditch somewhere while passers by pelt you with trash and dirty looks.  Actually, none of that will happen.  Probably.

None the less, knowing your credit score well in advance of your apartment hunt can help you better prepare to snag the place of your dreams in NYC’s hyper competitive rental market.

Knowing, and understanding, your credit score will help you in all kinds of ways during your apartment hunt.    It will help you understand what apartments you might qualify for.  It will give you a chance to correct factual errors in your credit history; and it give you an opportunity to fix things that are bringing your credit score down or decide if you will need to work around a credit score that is too low for Manhattan’s rental market.

Follow these steps to check your credit, and familiarize yourself with what your credit score means.

Check your credit score at least a month in advance of your apartment hunt

How to check your credit score:  There are three companies that are required by law to provide you with a free copy of your credit report once a year.  They are: Experian, Equifax, and Transunion.  You should request a free report from one of these places (JUST ONE!).   You may need to request additional reports later, so hold off on getting reports from the other two so that you won’t have to pay for them if you need to check again before a year passes.

The first thing that you should do is check for factual errors, or accounts that are overdue which you were not aware of.    Often times these can be corrected with a simple phone call.  I once had a credit card account that I thought I had closed accumulating late fees and interest on a .36 cent balance—it was bringing down my credit score waaaaaay down.  Luckily I was able to correct the situation with a quick phone call to the credit card company.    Do a quick check and make sure there isn’t anything like this on your report.

Note:  When requesting your free credit report- you will need to be prepared to fend off the hard sell on all kinds of credit monitoring services (these are a huge waste of money and provide pretty much no value for most people- avoid them like a beggar on a subway car).  Be ready for every trick in the book, and if you give out your credit card number make sure you understand what will trigger a charge to your account.

Interpreting your credit score:

After you have reviewed your report and checked all the facts, you will need to understand the implications of your credit score for you as an NYC apartment hunter.  Credit scores range from 300 to 850- any score above 730 and you won’t have any problems renting in Manhattan.  730 to 700 is a bit of a grey area, and if your score is blow 700, you are likely to face scrutiny / rejection from potential landlords.  Be sure to ask if your credit score will be a problem, as getting clarification up front will save you from wasting your money on rental application fees for apartments that you will never qualify for.   If your credit score is below 700, you should consider some of the alternatives for NYC renters that cannot qualify for an apartment.

What Are Your Options if Your Credit Score is Not Great

Worried that your credit score will be an issue? You may want to consider some of these options: Finding a roommate, Getting a co-signor, or using an institutional guarantor.

Your credit score can have important implications for you as an apartment hunter- especially in NYC where renter requirements are so high.  Make sure that you check your credit score well before you actually start looking for an apartment so that you can avoid any last minute surprises.

 Recommended content: The ultimate guide to finding Apartments in NYC
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