Renters: Why Your Credit Score Matters

Whether applying for UF student apartments or family homes, you’ll quickly discover that landlords and property owners often run credit checks on prospective tenants. These checks are so universal, in fact, most renters never consider why they happen in the first place. But the reality is this: a credit score could make or break your chances to rent. So, what are credit scores, exactly, and why do they matter so much for renters? Contemporary Management Concepts, LLLP has the answers.

What’s In A Credit Score?

A credit score shows in numerical format how likely a person is to repay debts. Scores range from 300 (unlikely) to 850 (very likely). There are three main credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — that calculate credit scores using multiple factors, such as:

  • Types of credit used;
  • Lengths of credit;
  • Payment history;
  • Amount of debt;
  • Credit limits reached; and
  • Credit score inquiries.

Why Credit Scores Matter For Renters

When renting, the number we all tend to focus on is the amount of the monthly installment payments. But for renters, the most crucial numbers are often the three digits of their credit scores.

Credit scores demonstrate renters’ levels of financial trustworthiness, and landlords use this information to determine whether to approve a prospective tenant. High credit scores are associated with people who have records of repaying debts on-time and in full. Low scores, however, indicate that people haven’t always been forthcoming about paying back debts, or that they already have a high level of debt in repayment.

Of course, it’s possible a person might have bad credit after going through a hardship which is why credit scores aren’t the only criterion landlords use. But landlords — who depend on installment payments for the upkeep of their properties — may hesitate to approve applications from those with low credit scores.

Landlords do review people’s credit scores in context, though. Life experience is one factor considered. This type of distinction between applicants particularly matters in Gainesville, where renters vary from first-year college students to adults with families. So if you are young with no credit, you may not be discounted from renting student apartments near UF.

Student Renters

Credit scores have varying degrees of significance concerning student housing. By and large, landlords recognize that it takes time to build credit. For that reason, they often assess students based on other factors or request co-signers whose credit is established. Renting an apartment is also an effective way for a responsible student to start building a solid credit score.

Adults And Families

When the applicants for rental properties are either single adults or parents, landlords usually place more weight on credit scores. But decisions based on credit scores don’t occur in isolation: installment payment costs and renter demand are also factors. A renter who’s approved for an economical apartment that’s been vacant for months, for example, wouldn’t necessarily be approved for a luxury apartment for which there’s an interest list of multiple renters.

How To Improve Your Credit Score

A bad credit score isn’t a life sentence. Whether your score is bordering on 800 or hovering near 450, there are always ways to improve your credit.

  • Pay monthly installment payments, utilities, and other bills on-time; use autopay and payment reminders to avoid late fees;
  • If you get into credit trouble, don't ignore the situation; reach out to your creditors or seek advice from a credit counselor; 
  • To build credit more quickly, open a low-interest card and make small purchases you can pay back right away; and
  • Don’t overextend your credit line; keep all credit balances low, and don’t open cards you don’t need.