A lot of landlords conduct extensive research to ensure an applicant will make an excellent tenant: someone who will be clean, quiet, respectful, and pay their rent on time. They do this by going through a process that includes checking references, credit, and sometimes even asking for proof of employment.
If something comes up that makes them wary about renting the apartment to you, the landlord may ask you to get a co-signer.
What is a Co-Signer?
A co-signer is someone who is willing to promise to pay your rent if you (for whatever reason) can’t do it. By being a co-signer, they are co-assuming the financial responsibilities that come with the apartment. However, they do not have to live in the apartment with you.
Who Can Be a Co-Signer?
Anyone who is willing to be a co-signer can be one. Parents and close friends are usully the most willing to co-sign on your lease. Whoever you decide to ask to be the co-signer should have good credit and a stable income so that they’re more likely to be approved. Believe it or not, landlords often have stricter requirements for co-signers than they do for the initial applicant.
What to Consider Before Asking Someone to Co-Sign
Consider how having a person as your co-signer will affect your relationship with them. If you didn’t pay your rent and it ever fell on them, it could cause tension. You should also explain exactly what the landlord will need from them, which will likely include personal information, such as a credit report, bank statements, and employment details.
Always weigh the pros and cons with the person before having them co-sign. They should have a clear understanding that they will become responsible for paying the rent if you are unable to. This can affect their credit score, and the landlord can sue both them and you if things get messy.
Additional Co-Signer Requirements
As we mentioned earlier, the landlord may look into the co-signer even more than they look into the initial applicant. A co-signer will need to have a good credit score, be able to prove their income, and show that they have the capacity to pay for the unit if needed on top of their own debts and payments.
How to Tell If You’ll Need A Co-Signer
You’ll know you need a co-signer when your prospective landlord tells you that you do. There are a number of reasons a landlord might ask you to get a co-signer before they’ll approve your rental application. In many cases, it’s dependent on your credit score. If you have a low credit score, bad debt, or a bankruptcy in your past, they might simply reject your application. They may suggest a co-signer if you aren’t working full-time, don’t make a lot of money, or don’t have sufficient proof of income. They may also require a co-signer if you’re a young adult, such as a recent college graduate.
What If I Can’t Find a Co-Signer?
If a landlord has brought up needing a co-signer, there’s not much you can do to get around it. You could try to work something out with them, but you’ll likely have to find a different apartment that doesn’t require a co-signer. In some cases, you may be able to offer a larger deposit up front. If they require a co-signer, don’t be afraid to ask them why so you can see about fixing it. If it’s because of your poor credit, start working on cleaning it up. That way, when you continue your search for an apartment, you’ll have an easier time being approved.
How Long Will They Be a Co-Signer?
If you find someone who is willing to co-sign, they’ll be the co-signer for the length of your lease. In many cases, if you haven’t missed any rent payments in that time, they landlord may not require you to have a co-signer when it comes time to renew. If they do, you can only hope that your co-signer will be willing to sign again.
What If the Co-Signer Changes Their Mind?
Once the lease is signed, it’s pretty much a done deal until it expires. However, if the co-signer ever wants out, it might be possible to have the landlord remove them from the lease when you are able to prove that your financial situation has improved, whether your credit score has gone up or you’ve started making more money.
Alternatives to a Co-Signer
In some cases, it’s just not possible to get a co-signer. Maybe you don’t feel comfortable asking anyone. One alternative is to use a co-signer service. A co-signer service is a third party platform that guarantees to pay your rent if you can’t — for a fee, of course. Keep in mind that there’s still an approval process for this service and that the landlord gets to decide whether or not they’ll accept it.
If you are approved to use this service, you will be charged a fee based on the cost of your rent, even if you never fall behind on it. If they do end up having to pay your rent, you will eventually have to reimburse the co-signing company in full.