Can You Get a Lease if You’ve Never Rented Before?

There’s a first for everything, including renting your first apartment. But given all of the information and history that landlords typically like to see from tenant applicants, is it possible to get a lease if you’ve got no references or credit to back you up?

While a lack of credit, references, and rental history can certainly be a hurdle when it comes to landing a rental unit, it’s certainly not impossible to get a lease if you’re a first-time tenant. To help landlords see you as a responsible tenant and encourage them to approve your lease application, consider the following tips.

Have a Guarantor Sign on Your Lease

You’ve probably heard of guarantors when it comes to loans and mortgages, but what about leases? Guarantors can absolutely be used in this type of scenario to help you increase the odds of landing a lease.

Guarantors are those who are financially established and have decent credit and can be included on a lease to help provide the landlord with some reassurance that the rent will be paid. Whether it’s by yourself or the guarantor, all the landlord really cares about is getting paid, regardless of who writes the check.

If at any point throughout the lease you are unable or unwilling to pay rent, the guarantor would be obligated to step in and make the payments on your behalf. Having this signature on the lease may be just enough to get the landlord to agree to take you on as a tenant.

Take Out a Secured Credit Card

If you lack any credit, that could pose a problem for you, not only with getting a lease but even getting any sort of loan. If you’ve got no credit, lenders and landlords have nothing to base your financial history on. There will be nothing to back up your claims that you’re a responsible consumer who always makes debt payments on time.

In order to establish credit, consider taking out a secured credit card. These are much easier to get approved for compared to traditional unsecured credit cards. To use these cards, you would put up a certain amount of money as a deposit, which would essentially become your credit limit that you would not be able to spend over.

If you use the card responsibility and make regular payments on time and in full every billing cycle, these habits will be reported to the credit bureaus and will help to build up credit. Good credit is what you want to have, and being financially responsible is key. Once you’ve established good credit, your chances of landing a lease are much higher.

Agree to Direct Debit For Rent Payments

Rather than your landlord depending on you to provide rent checks on time every month, they may feel more secure if they were able to access rent payments through direct debit. While not necessary, it can help support your case and will show the landlord that you’re committed and serious about paying your rent in a timely fashion without forcing the landlord to hound you month after month.

Prove You Make a Healthy Income

Landlords want to make sure their tenants are financially capable of making rent. If your current income isn’t enough to sustain your rent charges, your application won’t have any leg to stand on. Ideally, you’ll have a decent job that pays well enough to allow you to comfortably make rent payments with plenty of money left over for other expenses.

Supply paystubs, an employment letter, or anything else that proves that you’ve got the income to support the rent. 

Submit a List of Personal References

If you’ve got people in your network who can vouch for your level of responsibility – especially when it comes to money – provide these references to the landlord. While landlords typically like to have references from previous landlords, you don’t have this luxury. But having a list of references from others who would describe you as a responsible individual can help landlords sway in your direction.

Consider Putting Up Three Months’ Worth of Rent in Advance

Landlords want to make sure they get paid for every month that passes, and supplying three months’ worth of rent upfront can help landlords see that you’re serious and have the financial means to make rent every month.

Get Some Help From a Real Estate Professional

Real estate agents are well versed in the realm of buying and selling homes, but they’re also heavily involved in the lease market as well. In order to get increase your odds of finding a unit that you can afford and suits your lifestyle, having a real estate agent in your corner can really help. They’ll also be able to negotiate with the landlord and plead your case in order to get the landlord to sign you on as a tenant.

The Bottom Line

People with good credit, a history of renting, and a good track record of making rent on time are in a really good position to get approved for a lease. But what if you don’t have these assets? Luckily, there are some things you can do make up for what you may lack as a result of being a first-time renter. And to really improve your odds, be sure to work with a real estate professional.