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How important is a credit score for a rental application?

How important is a credit score for a rental application?

When you’re looking for a property to rent, there are several factors that you’re likely to consider, like location, access, convenience and facilities. However, landlords have their own conditions they look at.

For some people, it can be rather intimidating to go through all the paperwork needed to apply to rent a property. A rental application is seen as commonplace, whereas other procedures, such as a credit check, are likely to impact how you are perceived as a renter more.

Do you need a credit score to rent a property?

Your credit score is an important number that is used to indicate your financial wellbeing, stability and trustworthiness.  It is a way for people like lenders or landlords to understand whether or not it is risky to get into a financial relationship with you, based on your financial history.

When you’re looking to rent a property, your landlord checks your credit history to get a sense of your capability to pay rent. They will look at your history of repaying or not repaying debts or other financial obligations. A landlord uses this as a benchmark to understand the likelihood of you paying your rent on time, or not.

The higher your credit score, the better, if your score falls for some reason, the chances of the property manager accepting your rental application fails with it. Your credit score will make a difference in whether you get to live in your dream home or maybe have to settle for something else.

What is a good credit score for renting?

Just like other financial relationships, a lease application is more likely to be approved with a higher credit score. A high credit score indicates that you can be depended upon to pay your bills on time like the proposed rent you’ll need to pay.

On the other hand, a low score could raise some red flags about your financial capabilities and could cause your potential landlord to doubt your ability to pay rent on time or at all.

What is a good credit score to rent an apartment? What is a good credit score to rent a house? A credit score of 700 is seen as a good score to start with no matter if you’re looking to rent an apartment or house. Anything higher is even better as potential landlords feel assured that you’re a safe bet to lease the apartment or house.

If your credit score falls below 680, however, you could face some difficulty in getting a rental application approved. And if the score is below 600, it’s likely you have at least two pending collections on your credit report and are seen as a huge credit risk.

Does a bad credit score affect renting?

When looking at your credit score for rental applications, landlords may not always see a low score as a reason to instantly reject your application. Don’t lose hope in case you have a lower score than desired by potential landlords.

Some landlords are more generous and could be willing to consider a tenant with a low score, in the 600 to 680 range. You may just need to put up some other form of additional deposit as a security against possible future problems. An alternative is to get a guarantor to co-sign your lease which gives the landlord peace of mind as they have an alternate payment source if you can’t make payment.

Some other factors that will help you convince a landlord to approve your application include:

  • Having a good reference from a previous landlord.
  • Having a steady job where you can show pay stubs to prove your financial capacity to meet the landlord's rent requirements.
  • Personal references from employers or other people can be useful.

How can I help maintain my credit score?

Every financial decision and action that you take makes an impact on your credit score. This score is calculated by the three credit reporting agencies in Australia, and you may have a different but similar score with each. Here are the factors that are typically used by the reporting agencies to generate your credit score:

Age of credit report: The date your credit report was opened could impact your score, where a newer file may carry a different level of risk than an older report.

Pattern of credit enquiries: A somewhat newer credit file with several enquiries could indicate a different risk level compared to an older file with just a few enquiries.

Type of credit provider: The type of credit provider making an enquiry on your credit report could affect your score.

Credit products: Each credit product that you've held in the last two years generates information and each product has their own impact on your score. This includes the type of credit product (credit card, store card, mortgage, personal loan, etc.), credit provider, credit limit, duration of the account, and joint applicant's name, if any.

Repayment history: One of the more critical factors that impact your credit score is your repayment history. This takes into account the repayment amount, due dates, whether you paid on time and if there were any missed payments. Typically missed payments will be recorded if not made within 14 days from the due date.

Defaults on utility bills, credit cards and loans: Defaults on any payments could be reported by your service provider or lender to a credit reporting agency. The default stays on your credit report for five years (seven years, in the case your lender or provider can’t contact you).

Credit applications: Each time you apply for new credit the provider makes enquiries on your credit report, and those enquiries are then noted on your report. Making numerous applications to different credit providers in a short span of time could negatively impact your credit score.

Bankruptcy and debt agreements: Any bankruptcies, debt agreements, court judgments, or personal insolvency agreements in your name will impact your score negatively.

To ensure landlords consider you a good candidate for renting out a property, you should try to get a credit score that’s as high as possible. 

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This article was reviewed by Head of Content Leigh Stark before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.

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Learn more about credit score

Do landlords check credit scores?

For landlords, credit score checks can tell if a potential tenant has a history of delayed or missed rent payments. Usually, a poor record of repayments is likely to result in a low credit score. Also, your credit history may include information from tenancy databases such as the number of times landlords have inquired about your credit score. 

If there are too many inquiries within a short time, landlords may conclude that you have had issues renting in the past.  However, there is no rule as to when landlords check your credit score. Some might check every time they receive a tenant’s application. In some cases, landlords may even rent out their property to tenants with a poor credit history if they can submit additional documents or sufficiently explain their situation and how they are trying to address it.

 What credit score do landlords look for?

Landlords may look for issues relating to repayment rather than a specific credit score, although a low credit score probably suggests that you’ve had repayment issues. In general, if your credit score is categorised good, very good, or excellent - which corresponds to an Equifax credit score range of 622 - 1,200, landlords may not scrutinise your credit history too closely.

What are some advantages of a good credit score?

You should know about the advantages of credit score improvement as there are many occasions when having a good score is helpful. If your credit score is categorised as good, very good, or excellent, it can indicate you have strong borrowing power. This may encourage lenders to give you special discounts on interest rates and other loan terms. You may also find it easier to get approved for a credit card or a property rental. You can also try to negotiate terms using your superior credit score as leverage.

A high credit score indicates that you are financially responsible, but it requires you to be disciplined. If you currently have a good credit score, you still need to remember not to apply too often for credit cards or loans as these can quickly pull down your score. On the one hand, you may have better access to credit, but your good financial habits mean that you may not need to access this credit. Having some credit products can help build up your credit report, and therefore your credit score. You would just need to keep the debt and limits to a minimum and pay the bills on time. It’s never advisable to take out credit that you can’t afford to pay as it negatively impacts your credit history.  Even if you have a good credit score, you can always improve it further.

Does a credit score check impact your credit score?

You may have heard that when a bank or lender performs a credit check, that it can impact credit score. But checking your own credit score isn't the same, and won't affect your credit score in the same way.

There are two types of credit checks that can be recorded in your credit history: hard credit checks and soft credit checks.

Hard credit checks occur when you apply to borrow money from a bank or lender, such as when you apply for a credit card or loan. A soft credit checks occur when your credit file is accessed outside of applications to borrow money, such as when you check your own credit score or credit history.

Checking your credit score is a request for information and not an application to borrow money, so it should not affect a lender’s decision to accept or decline your credit applications. As such, it's a soft credit check, and is unlikely to affect your credit score, positively or negatively.

 

Does borrowing money affect credit score?

Whether it’s through a home loan, a personal loan, or a credit card, borrowing money will affect your credit score. Taking on a home loan or a credit card may have a positive impact on your score, but too many loan applications can bring your credit score down.  

Every time you apply for credit, an inquiry is performed against your name. Too many inquiries can reflect negatively on your credit report, and if your loan application is rejected it will negatively impact your credit score.

How you handle your debt can also make a big difference. As long as you make timely payments you may be able to improve your credit score and overall creditworthiness. However, any missed or delayed payments will likely result in a negative impact on your credit score.

Why should I check my credit score annually?

You may not need to get your free credit rating every year, but it can help you stay informed. A yearly free credit report can help Australians keep track of the impact of various financial transactions on their credit score.

Your credit score helps inform financial organisations, particularly lenders, about the sort of payer you are. Depending on how you've paid down debt in the past, it will have affected your credit score in various ways. In Australia, the inclusion of Comprehensive Credit Reporting (CCR) means that you can find out which transactions affect your credit score positively, as well those that have a negative impact.

Because of this, you may want to consider getting a free credit report once a year irrespective of whether you’re planning to apply for a loan or take on other debt. Checking your credit report can tell you if there are errors in your credit file, which affect your credit score and need to be corrected.

Can a bad credit score affect rental applications?

A landlord may check your credit score to work out how trustworthy you are, and whether you'll pay your rental obligations on time. So, can a bad credit score cause you to miss out on renting property?

When looking at your credit score for rental applications, landlords may not see a low score as a reason to instantly reject applications. Some may be more generous, and could be willing to consider a tenant with a lower credit score, or even request some form of additional deposit to act as security against possible future problems.

Alternatively, you may want to consider asking a guarantor to co-sign your lease, which gives the landlord peace of mind as they have an alternate payment source if you cannot make payment.

What is a good credit score?

Across Australia's major credit score providers, Experian and Equifax, there are five tiers, ranging from "below average" to "fair" to "good", "very good", and "excellent", with your score designating where you sit. As the tiers suggest, an Experian credit score between 625 and 699, and an Equifax credit score between 622 and 725, is technically considered to be in the range of "good". Anything above this is even better.

However, lenders will typically favour the borrowers with the highest credit scores which means that applicants with a "good" credit score may not be offered an interest rate as competitive as one offered to a borrower with a "very good" or “excellent” credit score.

What can impact my credit score?

Your credit score isn't set in stone and can change with every financial decision and action you take. While you checking your score is a soft check and won't impact the result, payments and other actions can affect the score. 

The very things that can impact your credit score include your payment history (late or on time), the age and type of credit you have and owe, your debt balance (both current and delinquent, if any), recent payment behaviour, the credit available to you presently, and if you have any court judgements or actions resulting form bankruptcy.

Australia's Comprehensive Credit Reporting (CCR) also tracks your positive payments, and allows your credit score to be impacted positively, as well. 

How regularly does your credit score change?

There are plenty of things that can affect your credit score, but when they'll impact it can vary wildly, and often depend on when the information has been passed on.

Every credit enquiry is noted on your credit file, and this impacts your credit score. Thanks to Comprehensive Credit Reporting (CCR), it means you both positive and negative transactions can impact your score, but so, too, can the frequency. For instance, if you apply too often for credit cards or apply with multiple lenders for a home loan and aren't successful, you may see a decline. 

How long this information take to pass on is an important question, but the length of time often depends on the credit reporting agency. Some transactions can take a small amount of time, while others take much longer. For that reason, it's important to check your credit history regularly so you can be more aware of what your credit score looks like, and if you need to correct any of the statements made on it. 

What if your credit score has dropped for no reason

The importance of checking your credit score regularly is hard to overstate as the changes may not be as relevant to your life, and there may be the occasional error, but what should you do if it drops for no reason?

Credit reporting agencies calculate your credit score based on the information they receive from lenders, banks, credit card providers and utility companies, among others. This report takes into account both the credit enquiries these companies make, as well as your payment history with them, and may include other factors. But because some reports may come in at different times, delays can appear like drops. 

Suppose you missed paying a bill while on holidays and the supplier couldn’t reach you, or something like it -- in this instance, the provider may report the default to the credit reporting agency, which can cause your credit score to fall when the credit reporting agency eventually sees the information. Because of an obvious delay, the drop can seem random.

Regularly checking your credit score and the transactions that have appeared can provide some understanding as to why a credit score drop might have occurred, and even provide some understanding as to how you can fix the drop, improving your credit score in the process. 

Where can I check my credit report for free?

While you can get a free credit report in multiple ways, RateCity's own credit checking system allows you to find your score from two credit history systems, Experian and Equifax. 

When you request your free credit report, you'll likely need to supply some personal information, such as your name, contact details, and a personal identification, such as a drivers license number or another form of identification. 

Not only does a credit report show credit score, but it usually often contains positive and negative credit transactions covering the past five years of payments. 

How does my credit score affect the interest rate offered by lenders?

When you apply for a loan, lenders will typically access your credit history. By studying your credit report, they can not only estimate whether you are a reliable borrower, but also calculate the maximum amount you can borrow and repay completely before the loan term expires. Your credit report can also tell lenders about the other kinds of debt you’ve taken and whether you earn enough to make additional repayments. 

If you don’t have too much outstanding debt, or if you’re managing your current level of debt well, you’re more likely to have a higher credit score. For some credit products, lenders usually offer a lower interest rate for applicants with a fair credit score. If they don’t, you can always try to negotiate it, given your higher creditworthiness. You should remember that asking for a lower interest rate may not affect your credit score, but applying for the loan certainly has an impact.  

Does breaking a lease affect your credit score?

When you sign a lease, you’re agreeing to pay rent for a certain period. But what happens in case you need to break the lease midway? Does breaking a lease affect your credit score? 

If you’re planning to break a lease early, you might be required to give a certain amount of notice, pay two months' rent and an early termination fee, or you should be willing to forfeit your security deposit.

If you’re able to pay all dues before moving out, breaking the lease is unlikely to affect your credit score. However, if you leave without paying, your landlord could use a collection agency to collect any unpaid rent. Your landlord could even sue you, and if you lose, you may have to pay the dues and court costs. While landlords typically don’t report unpaid rent to credit bureaus, there’s a possibility that a collection agency will report it. Collection mentions can stay on your report for several years and may affect your credit score.

Furthermore, breaking a lease could create issues when you're looking to rent in the future. A future landlord could contact previous landlords or check your rental history, and any mention of a broken lease could make you appear as a high-risk tenant, putting the rental application at risk.

Can I check my credit score without a driver's license?

In Australia, your driver’s license is the preferred identification document for credit reporting agencies. This means you may not be able to confirm your identity using another document, such as a proof-of-age card. You may have genuine reasons like concerns over identity theft for not wanting to provide your driver’s license number. Unfortunately, most credit bureaus won’t allow people to check their credit score without a driver’s license. 

If you don’t have a driver’s license, there’s a good chance you haven’t applied for credit in the past and don’t have a credit score at all. In case you are concerned about identity theft, credit reporting agencies can offer you paid packages that include insurance against identity theft. Such packages may also include monthly credit score checks or alerts whenever your score is updated.