In the United States, a credit history plays a significant role in various aspects of everyday life, including renting an apartment.
Landlords commonly rely on credit scores to assess the financial reliability of potential tenants. Therefore, many recent immigrants run into challenges because they do not have a U.S. credit history when applying for apartments.
With this in mind, we'll explore five practical tips that can help recent immigrants navigate the U.S. rental landscape and find a suitable apartment without a U.S. credit history.
Tip 1: Offer a Larger Security Deposit
One effective strategy for compensating for the lack of a credit history is to offer a larger security deposit.
It is standard practice for landlords to ask new tenants for a sum of money as a deposit, in case they break their lease prematurely or damage the property. The standard amount nationwide for a security deposit is one month’s rent, but landlords in some cities such as New York City require more.
Ultimately it is the landlord’s decision on what amount to charge, so ask your property during negotiations on whether they’d be open to renting with a larger deposit in place of a credit history. This signals your commitment and financial responsibility, mitigating some of the concerns landlords might have.
Tip 2: Provide Proof of Income
Demonstrating a stable and sufficient income can also bolster your application.
Compile recent pay stubs, employment verification letters, or other official documents that reflect your income. If you're self-employed or have irregular income, you can provide tax returns or bank statements to substantiate your financial stability.
Some platforms, such as RentCafe, may even ask to verify your income automatically by linking your bank account as part of the digital application process of apartments on their platform. Otherwise, you can discuss with your landlord or real estate broker offline about sharing other proof of income (or employment, particularly from corporate companies).
Tip 3: Get a Co-Signer or Guarantor
Enlisting the help of a co-signer or guarantor with an established U.S. credit history can also significantly enhance your rental prospects.
A co-signer or guarantor is someone who agrees to take responsibility for the rent if you are unable to pay. This can be a parent, relative, employer, or anyone else who has an established credit history in the U.S.
Providing references from previous landlords may also give prospective landlords insights into your rental behavior, reliability, and responsibility. Even if the rental practices differ in your home country, positive references can still vouch for your credibility as a tenant.
Also read: What is a guarantor and why do I need one?
Tip 4: Find short-term housing
As you first get settled in the U.S., it may make sense to get short-term housing that does not require a lease and thus will likely not require a credit check. This could be anything from an informal sublease (i.e. taking over someone’s lease while they are away) to an AirBnB, Sonder, or other type of on-demand housing option for your first few weeks or months.
As a working professional, you may have options to find, book, or reimburse short-term lodging as part of your relocation package. Ask your employer for guidance here and see if they have corporate housing options to ease your transition.
You can also check out the “Relocation” tab of our U.S. Arrival Map to browse popular sites for short-term housing such as Craigslist, LeaseBreak, and others. Several major U.S. cities also have city-specific Facebook Groups for people listing subleases and short-term housing opportunities.
Tip 5: Use your international credit history
Finally, some landlords may accept your foreign credit history as part of your rental application. If they attempt to check your U.S. credit history and nothing is found, there may be an option to find and share your international credit report.
Even if that’s not the case and you need to secure informal short-term housing to start, you may want to apply for your first credit card to begin building a U.S. credit history. Over time, this credit history will unlock options for longer-term apartments and eventually even mortgages.
Currently, Nova Credit serves individuals coming from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Dominican Republic, India, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, the Philippines, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, and the U.K.
You can use your foreign credit history to apply for a U.S. credit card
Credit history used to stop at the border—until now. Your existing foreign credit history could help you get credit in the United States.
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