Will Bankruptcy Affect Renting an Apartment?

Things to consider if you plan to rent after bankruptcy.

Filing for bankruptcy doesn’t mean that you can’t rent an apartment. But, it might be harder to get favorable lease terms in the area you want without a cosigner. Landlords look at several factors when deciding whether to rent a unit, and a bankruptcy on your credit report will be one of them. Even so, you can take steps to increase the chances that your rental application will be accepted after a bankruptcy case.

Your Current Living Situation

If your landlord has an eviction order before you file for bankruptcy, you’ll have to disclose that information to the court. In most states, the landlord will be able to take steps to move forward with the eviction.

If you’re current on your rent, the automatic stay order will prevent the landlord from evicting you. However, you should be aware that you must still pay your rent, and that when your lease comes due again, your landlord might not agree to extend it another term. For more specific guidance, consider consulting with a local bankruptcy attorney.

Renting After Bankruptcy

Most apartments require both rental history and credit checks before agreeing to rent an apartment. Many apartment complexes won’t be willing to rent to you if you’ve filed for bankruptcy up to two years beforehand, so you can expect it to be somewhat difficult to obtain housing during this period. That doesn’t mean renting will be impossible. Keep reading for tips to help you in your search.

Ability to Pay Rent

A landlord is going to want to see is that you have enough income to make your monthly rent or lease payment. If you’ve recently filed for bankruptcy, when you fill out rental applications, it might be a good idea to bring along proof of your income—such as pay stubs or bank statements—to show a potential landlord. A steady employment history will also help. A landlord will want to see that you aren’t regularly changing jobs and that your work isn’t seasonal or temporary.

Past Rental History

It can help to show a potential landlord that you paid your rent in full and on time before your bankruptcy. Doing so will go far to demonstrate that paying your rent is a top priority. Getting a statement from your current landlord or copies of canceled checks from the bank should work to show a potential landlord your rental history.

Current Credit Status

Understand that the longer it has been since your bankruptcy, the less impact the bankruptcy will have when a potential landlord evaluates your rental fitness—as long as your credit has been good since you filed, of course. In fact, if everything else looks good, most landlords won’t be concerned once the bankruptcy is over two years old.

Before then, it will be important to make sure that you’ve been making timely payments so that you can show a potential landlord that your credit is improving. You’ll also want to ensure that your credit report is accurate. The sooner your score improves, the easier it will be to rent (although keep in mind that a landlord will view your rental history and credit score separately).

(See Going Bankrupt and Starting Again for tips on how to review and correct your credit score.)

Other Options

You can do other things to improve your chances of getting a new lease after a bankruptcy filing, such as:

  • Renting from a private property owner because they might have more lenient rules on credit and income.
  • Offer a larger security deposit up front or multiple months of rent.
  • Provide a list of references.
  • Apply to apartments that don’t do credit checks.
  • Look for apartments near colleges and universities (they’re used to renting to people with little credit history).
  • Find a cosigner with good credit who is willing to be obligated on the rental agreement.

Most importantly, be honest with a potential landlord about your bankruptcy filing. You can explain any extenuating circumstances that aren’t likely to occur again, such as job loss, death, divorce or high medical bills, and be prepared to provide documentation.

(For more information, read Landlords and Tenants in Bankruptcy.)

Questions for Your Attorney

  • Will bankruptcy stop my eviction under my state laws?
  • What is the likelihood that I’ll lose my apartment if I file for bankruptcy?
  • How long after my bankruptcy case will I have to wait to rent an apartment?
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