Stepping into Toronto’s rental market without a sufficient credit score, or even without one entirely, can feel like a losing battle. This information provides landlords with a well-known indicator of a prospective tenant’s reliability in making payments on time and in full, and without it, landlords may be less able to piece together a full picture of who you are as a tenant.
That’s not to say, however, that those without a credit score are out of options though.
As someone who has been renting for five years and only just got her first credit card, I am here to tell you that it is entirely possible to still find a place to live – even a great place – without it with the following five strategies.
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Seek out apartments being rented by owners
One of the lesser-known benefits of viewing homes posted by owners on Kijiji or Craigslist is that you will often see the unit with them present. In one of my first places, I was able to chat with the landlord for a good half hour and establish a connection with them. In this way, I was also able to control the narrative of my lack of credit score: I was a recent graduate who had no need for a credit card throughout university because of responsible money management and various scholarships. (My references could corroborate this story, of course.)
Related read: How to get ahead in the Toronto rental market
Showcase your responsible money management
Katherine Wolf, a Zoocasa sales agent, says that a great way to showcase your reliability is by offering proof that you have a decent amount of savings – enough to cover a few months of rent if you were to become unemployed. Ideally, your employment letter will demonstrate why being laid off in the near future is an unlikely possibility, but sharing your savings is a great, full-disclosure tactic in showing why you’re a safe bet as a tenant.
Coast on your roommate’s credit score
Does your roommate have a credit score, and a good one, too? If so, Katherine suggests using a roommate’s credit in the application, while you can sign the lease agreement as a co-signer instead. While a co-signer is still responsible should any payments be missed and is also responsible for the full obligations of the rental agreement, they are not required or expected to disclose their credit score at any point.
Have Incredible references/employment letter
Think of a credit score as a reference letter for your ability to be a responsible spender. While this is a relatively objective way to showcase your money management, you can also share personal references who can speak to your money management in other ways. A reference could speak to your ability to pay back money owed on time, or to your work ethic, or even to your lifestyle (i.e. not a lavish one that is beyond your means). If you’re candid with your references about this, they can be ready to speak high praise when the landlord calls.
If you can… offer a higher deposit amount
This may not be in the realm of possibility for many of us who don’t have credit scores, but if you are able to secure more than first and last month’s deposits, Katherine says that this is one of the best ways to level the playing field between you and other applicants. Not only can this move clearly demonstrate that you have been able to manage your money responsibly enough that you have a few thousand dollars in savings, but it can also be a big incentive for some landlords to accept your application over another.