The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every facet of our lives, including our financial health. Many South Florida residents were forced to use credit cards to survive the pandemic, severely damaging their credit scores. Because many property managers and rental companies rely on credit scores to determine a candidate’s likely ability to pay rent, those whose credit scores dropped during the pandemic may have more difficulty renting an apartment.
South Florida has some of the highest rental rates in the country, with rental costs in Miami increasing by over 11% in the past year. The rising number of people moving to Florida from other states is further driving the housing market boost and shutting longtime Florida residents out of the market due to wage stagnation.
Rising rental rates, a strong housing market, and damaged credit scores can make it seem as though renting a decent apartment in South Florida is all but impossible. However, there are options for renting, even with bad credit. It may take a bit of searching, but there are ways to find a rental property despite your low (or non-existent) credit score. The following are some tips for finding rentals in South Florida when you have bad credit.
Not all Rental Properties Require Credit Checks
Most rental or property management companies will require a credit check before they consider renting to a prospective tenant, but private landlords may be more lenient. However, renting from a “no credit” landlord has its own risks, including the possibility of a scam. Usually, a landlord who offers “no credit check” rental properties is desperate to have renters and may utilize unscrupulous business practices such as taking a tenant regardless of their wages or credit score, then charging exorbitant fees for late payments, further damaging the tenant’s credit.
Such landlords may also neglect to properly maintain the property being rented. If a landlord offers a “no credit check” rental but does not ask for any other assurances that you can pay your rent on time, then be wary. Make sure to research the property and the landlord, look for reviews, talk to neighbors and other tenants (if possible) and get a tour of the property before signing anything. You can rent legitimate properties without a credit check, but the landlords will usually ask for some other assurances that you can pay your bills.
Be Flexible With Your Housing Options
Most landlords look for a score of 620 or higher, but if you have a score that dips into the mid to high 500s, you can still find a suitable rental. However, you may need to adjust your own requirements. For example, instead of living in the heart of downtown Miami, consider a rental in one of the surrounding communities. Maybe you will need to commute farther for work or to have an evening out, but you will have a better chance of finding a landlord who will accept a lower credit score. You can also look at slightly smaller apartments or forgo certain amenities, such as a pool, balcony, or private yard area. Being flexible can encourage the landlord or property manager to work with you. If you are having problems finding housing, seek online resources for finding affordable rentals in Florida.
Show That You Can Pay Rent on Time
If you can prove your ability to pay the rent in a timely manner, then landlords may be more inclined to overlook bad credit. Offer more money upfront (for example, paying three or four months’ rent instead of just first and last) to show the landlord that you are serious about the property and are resolved to pay every month. Prepare for your prospective landlord to take your salary into consideration – generally, your rent (not including utilities) should equal no more than 25-30% of your gross income. The property managers may ask for proof of a stable work history, verification of your salary, and references to assure themselves that you will be able to make your payments.
You can also ask if the landlord would be willing to offer a short-term lease as a way of allowing you to prove that you can pay the rent. A three or six-month lease may be more expensive than a year lease, but if you can make your payments on time, you can later negotiate for a longer, less expensive lease.
Get a Roommate or a Cosigner
Consider sharing a rental property with a friend or two. Having roommates split the cost of rent and utilities is a great way to find an affordable apartment while rebuilding your credit. If you consider getting a roommate, make sure that they will be reliable for their share of the bills, just as you are expected to be.
Consider asking a family member or friend with good credit to cosign your lease if you prefer more privacy. This provides the landlord with assurances that the rent will be paid. However, you must be vigilant about keeping up with your payments. If you fall behind on rent, your landlord can legally demand payment from your cosigner, damaging both your and their credit scores and (most likely) your relationship.
Finding a rental in South Florida when you have bad credit may seem difficult, but it is not impossible. Rental properties owned by companies may be more difficult to work with, as there are corporate standards that the property managers must apply when considering housing applications. Private landlords can sometimes be a little more flexible but will still need assurances that you can make regular payments despite your credit score.
Consider getting roommates to help reduce your financial burden, which may also make it easier to work on rebuilding your credit score. If you are flexible with your rental requirements and can provide your potential landlord with assurances of your ability to pay your rent, then you are more likely to find a landlord willing to accept your rental offer.