What is a landlord looking for when they run a credit check?

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This question was recently posed on reddit.com, in the Personal Finance section. The questioner asked what credit score landlords are looking for and how he might improve that score.

Unfortunately, he or she completely missed the point of the credit report that a landlord would pull for a potential tenant. Landlords are not primarily interested in your credit score. They are more interested in your credit report.

The Difference Between a Credit Score and a Credit Report

A credit score is simply a number, usually from 300-850, that rapidly communicates your credit worthiness to a potential lender. Credit card companies, auto dealerships, and cell phone service providers are interested in credit scores because it gives them a rapid snapshot of your credit worthiness. This allows them to make quick decisions when giving you a line of credit, a new car, or a new iPhone.

On the other hand, mortgage companies and landlords (people who own rental properties) are interested in your credit report. This is a much more in depth document, covering many years of your personal and financial history. Since mortgage companies are lending you large sums of money, they take the time to look at your credit report and analyze whether they believe you will be a worthwhile investment of their resources.

What Landlords Look for in Your Credit Report

The same is true of a landlord. They are looking for tenants that will not damage their property or fail to pay their rent on time. Landlords will look at your credit report to see:

  • if you pay your bills on time
  • if you have any public records relating to delinquencies, child support, or bankruptcies
  • past and current residences
  • past and current employment

Therefore, checking your free annual credit report from www.annualcreditreport.com (the only officially authorized source) is more important than obsessing over your credit score. You can get one free report a year from each of the three major bureaus. If you do it right, you can get 3 free credit reports a year (just wait 4 months between pulling a report from each bureau.

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