Finding somewhere to live can be a stressful experience, especially if you're worrying about passing a letting agent’s financial checks.
Not all landlords will check your credit history before accepting you for a tenancy, but some will.
In this Guide, you'll find information about renting with bad credit, along with practical steps to help you get the keys to your new home.
Yes, it's possible to rent a property with bad credit. Most landlords and letting agents in the UK will need a reference - which will include assessing your credit rating - before approving your tenancy. They’ll want to know how reliable you are and to see if you've had any problems paying your bills in the past. They'll need to get your permission first before carrying out any checks.
If you’re not going through an agency and using a private landlord instead, you may not need a credit check to rent a house or flat. It’s still a good idea to find out your credit score and see where you stand before taking out a tenancy. You can do this using checkmyfile - it’s the UK's most detailed and trusted credit report. They’re the UK’s top ranked credit report service on Trustpilot for outstanding service, and have been around for over 20 years helping people understand the credit history system. You can read more in our Guide: Checkmyfile Explained.
There is no minimum credit rating needed to rent property in the UK. The decision to offer you a tenancy is up to the individual landlord or letting agent.
The lower your score, the worse your credit rating. Having a low or no score or a history of defaults can make things more difficult when it comes to finding a rental property. Landlords and agents will carry out a credit check as part of a wider reference process to check if you've had any problems paying bills in the past. Remember, a landlord just wants to know if you're able to pay the rent - they won't want to risk chasing for rent or having to evict you.
The better your credit, the better your application will look. you can read some tips on how to improve your score in our mini Guide: 10 Tips to Improve Your Credit Score.
Nearly all letting agents will carry out a credit check as part of their referencing. Some private landlords may not require a credit check as it costs them money, instead looking at your income to see if you can afford the rental payments.
Referencing and screening can feel like a daunting process, like you're under a microscope. It's important to remember that they're not looking for every detail on your credit history, they just want to check you'll be able to afford the rent.
When carrying out a credit check, letting agents will only be able to see your publicly available records. This is things like CCJs or bankruptcies. Most of the time they won’t be able to see any late or missed payments. They'll also check if you're on the electoral roll. If you haven't done this already it's a good idea to register to vote at your current address.
Alongside the credit check, agents usually look at:
Your employment status, income and job stability
Proof of your identity
References from a previous landlord
Any other addresses where you might have a CCJ or rent arrears
It’s important to remember that if you’re applying for a joint tenancy with your partner or another person, their credit rating will be checked too.
If you have bad credit or little to no credit history, you may be worried about a tenancy credit check. If you're an international student or foreign professional then you're also unlikely to have any UK credit history, making you less appealing to landlords.
Here are some options if you're struggling to get accepted for a rental property because of your credit file:
Get a guarantor
By asking a friend or family member with good credit history to act as a guarantor, letting agents and landlords might be more willing to approve your application.
You'll need a good relationship with whoever you ask, as they'll need to sign a document which commits them to paying your rent if you can't (including any arrears or damage to the property). It's a serious commitment.
What if I can’t get a guarantor?
If you don't have a friend or relative you can ask, there are some companies which offer a guarantor service - you pay a fee and they will act as your guarantor. It’s a fairly pricey option - fees vary between companies and are adjusted for your circumstances, but you should expect to pay around £300. You’ll still have to provide identification and proof of your income, and you'll need to be earning above a certain amount to qualify.
Pay some rent up front
This may not be an option for everyone, but if you're able you can offer to pay a few months' rent upfront. Some landlords will accept extra rent in advance to negate the risk of missed payments. There's also no limit to how much you can pay.
Alternatively, you could offer to pay a slightly larger security deposit to give the landlord peace of mind.
Consider a shared house
While not an option for everyone, a way to get into a rental property without credit checking is to opt for a shared house. Instead of taking out a new contract, these rentals already have tenancies running, with occupants looking to fill a room when someone moves out.
All housemates are jointly responsible for the rent, so it's likely to be less of an issue if you have bad credit, as long as you can afford the monthly payments.
Find a private landlord
If you're worried about passing letting agents' credit checks, you can approach private landlords directly. Independent landlords don't usually carry out credit checks as it can be costly, but they will still need proof of your income and any rental history.
Online communities such as Facebook groups or Gumtree are good places to find private listings. It's also worth asking friends or family for any recommendations.
Be upfront about what a landlord or letting agent is likely to find, before they carry out a credit search. Explain the reason your score is low, and what steps you've been taking to improve. Being clear from the start will make you seem like a more trustworthy and responsible tenant.
It's possible to secure a rental property with no deposit, even if you have bad credit. There are a few different 'zero deposit schemes' operating in the UK, which allow prospective tenants to purchase a week's rent or insurance policy, providing the landlord with similar cover to a traditional security deposit. Read more about zero deposit schemes
‘Bad credit’ is when you have had credit issues in the past, resulting in a low credit score.
Your credit score is a number that tells lenders how reliable you are when it comes to borrowing money. A good credit rating can unlock better deals and interest rates for you, while a bad credit rating can make things more difficult when it comes to borrowing money or renting a property.
Bad credit can happen for a number of different reasons. It could be a missed or late credit card or loan repayment, a payday loan or applying for multiple credit cards. When you have bad credit, you're considered riskier than other borrowers.
Read more about what makes a bad credit score in our Guide: What is a Bad Credit Score?
Building good credit takes time and dedication, but there are some simple ways you can improve your credit score straight away:
Register to vote at your current address
Space out your credit applications
Put your name on some household bills – and pay them on time!
Pay at least the minimum balance on your credit cards each month
Don’t withdraw cash from your credit card too often
Don’t use too much of your credit limit – 30% is usually a good rule
If you’re worried about your credit score but aren’t sure what to do about it, finding out where you stand is a good place to start. You can read more in our Guide: ‘How To Find Out Your Credit Score’
Over 50% of mortgages for people who are self-employed or have bad credit aren’t available directly to you. They’re only available through specialist brokers. Using our platform guarantees you’ll be matched with a broker who has a proven track record of making mortgages possible for people like you. Less processing, more understanding.
Applying for a mortgage or understanding your options shouldn't be confusing, yet there are just so many myths doing the rounds and it's not easy to know where to turn to get the right advice.
Our calculators give you an idea of what you might be able to borrow, what's affordable and a rough estimate of the kind of property prices you can start to look at.