credit cards

Does rental application hurt credit score?

Leslie McFaddenq_v2.gifDear Credit Card Adviser,
I went bankrupt in 2006. Since then, I have been trying to repair my credit. I want to move, and I am concerned that applying for different apartments can backfire instead of being a good thing. All the companies check the credit reports and the checks to the credit bureaus lower the scores. My score was (below average) at 630, the last time it was checked. The scores go down, lowering the chance to get an apartment, much less (getting) a mortgage loan.

How do I avoid hurting my credit and still get what I need?

Please advise. I know there might be a lot of people with similar problems.
-- Adonai

a_v2.gifDear Adonai,
Apartment hunting can impact your credit score. Rental-related credit checks usually generate "hard" inquiries on a person's credit report, according to spokespeople from the major credit reporting agencies. Hard inquiries are normally made when a business views your credit report in conjunction with a consumer application. But they also indicate that a person has sought new credit and can ding a score for one year and appear on the report for two years.

Some landlords will still rent to you despite the bankruptcy on your credit report. "Generally, smaller and independent landlords who are owning and operating their rentals are generally more flexible and more understanding of special situations," says Mark Kleszczewski, president and chief executive of New York-based GoBusiness Group LLC, which provides property management consulting. Apartment complexes run by professional managers tend to have strict screening criteria, he says.

Not every landlord requires a credit check. In that case, don't advertise your blemished record. If your report is going to get pulled, you'd do better to disclose the bankruptcy with the application.

"My suggestion would be to write down a one-page note that, 'this is what happened, these are the steps I've taken to resolve the issue and this is how I plan to continue,' " says Adil Shakur, general manager for Los Angeles-based real estate management company Enterprise Management. The explanation shouldn't amount to a sob story but rather demonstrate an effort to improve.

Letters of reference from employers or previous landlords can also help offset a harsh credit report.

Offer a concession to sweeten the deal, such as a larger deposit or even physical labor to improve the rental, says Kleszczewski.

Don't forget to check your own credit report and dispute any errors. Request a free copy at AnnualCreditReport.com. To boost your score, pay all bills on time and reduce credit card balances. And avoid opening or closing credit card accounts.

Read more columns by the Credit Card Adviser.

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