When you stop and think about how many aspects of life your credit score impacts, it can be very surprising. It can catch some people off guard when they fill out a rental application for a new apartment, and the landlord or property manager runs a credit check. So, if a property management company needs to check your credit report before leasing an apartment to you, does that mean rent payments affect your credit score?
Although rent payments are not typically included on a consumer’s credit report, there are instances in which rent will impact your credit score. We will break down how the credit reporting system works and in what circumstances rent could affect your credit, along with ways to use on-time rent payments to your advantage.
The Three Major Credit Bureaus
There are three major credit bureaus that are relied upon by lenders, landlords, and consumers alike for accurate credit reporting services. These three credit bureaus are Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. While there are other credit reporting bureaus, these three credit bureaus are the most consistently used across the country.
All the major credit bureaus will include rental payments on credit reports if they receive them. In the past, it has not been typical for the landlord to report rental payment information to each credit bureau.
However, more recently, credit bureaus have partnered with third-party companies that offer rent reporting services to include rental history on consumers’ credit reports. Though this is becoming far more common, rent reporting still only happens if the landlord or the consumer seeks it out.
What Information Is Included In a Credit Report?
Each credit bureau includes similar information on each of your credit reports. Your credit reports can vary slightly from credit bureau to credit bureau, depending on what is reported to them. Generally, your credit report will cover the following categories of information: personal details, credit accounts, credit inquiries, public records, and collection accounts.
Personal details won’t be used to calculate your score but rather to tie you to your report. Details like your full name, date of birth, Social Security number, address, and employment information.
The credit accounts information will state the type of account (i.e., mortgages, student loans, auto loans, credit cards, online fast cash loans, personal loans), the date the account was opened, credit limit or loan amount, the available credit, and payment history.
Every time a credit check is performed, the credit bureau marks it down as a credit inquiry and includes it on your report.
Public Records & Collections
Public records deemed relevant to your creditworthiness, like foreclosures, repossessions, and bankruptcies, will be pulled from state and county courts. Finally, accounts that have been passed off to collection agencies will appear as a derogatory mark on your credit report.
How Are Credit Scores Calculated?
There are a fair amount of credit scoring models available, but the FICO Score and VantageScore are, by far, the most popular. Credit scores are calculated using the information included in your credit report divided into five basic categories, each accounting for a different percentage.
The breakdown for your credit score looks like this:
- 35% – Payment History
- 30% – Amounts Owed
- 15% – Length of Credit History
- 10% – Credit Mix
- 10% – New Credit
A good credit score can open up so many financial opportunities that you might not have access to otherwise. It’s essential to understand what goes into your credit score calculation so you know how you can improve it.
Rental applications require a credit check on your FICO score, like a credit application or loan application, because landlords prefer tenants who have proven their ability to pay rent on time and are financially stable.
Are Rent Payments Included In Your Credit Report?
Technically, landlords and property management companies are not considered creditors, so a majority of them do not automatically report your rental information to the credit bureaus. Because of this, rent payments typically don’t affect your credit report. Your monthly rent payments will likely not show up in your payment history, which means that they won’t be factored into the calculation of your credit score.
On the plus side, even though you will not benefit from on-time rent payments, the landlord will not report late rent payments either and other negative rental that could hurt your credit like broken leases, bounced checks, property damage, or evictions. However, if your unpaid balance is passed to a collections agency, that is a different story.
What About Rent That Has Gone To Collections?
If your late rent payments have been turned over to a collection agency, then that agency will begin reporting the details of your collections account to the credit bureaus. This is how extremely late rental payments can show up on your credit report and severely harm your credit scores.
Paying rent before it gets to the point of a collections account is vital to protecting your credit score. Collections for previous rental properties could make it extremely difficult to be approved for an apartment, as a credit check is typical with every rental application.
It’s Now Possible To Get Rent Added to Your Report!
As mentioned above, it is possible to benefit from a positive rental payment history on your credit report. Though most of them don’t do rent reporting automatically, you can ask your landlord directly to report rent payments to the credit bureau to build your credit history.
Not all landlords will be willing to report rent payments, but if they agree, your lease will appear in the accounts portion of your credit report. Both Experian and TransUnion have services for landlords to report rent payments. If you are using Equifax, you may need to use a third-party rent reporting service.
By signing up for a rent reporting service like Rental Kharma, Rent Reporters, or LevelCredit, you will be able to build credit through timely rent payments.
How Does Paying Rent Build Credit?
When your rental history is reported to the credit bureaus along with your other credit accounts, your on-time rent payments improve your payment history. Your payment history accounts for the most significant portion of your credit score. Timely rent payments will build credit like monthly payments on a loan or credit card would.
Be Careful to Keep Up with Your On-Time Rental Payments
If you are using rental data to build credit, you must be very careful to keep your rental history impeccable to maintain a good credit score. Once you are using a rent reporting service, you can’t pick and choose what will get included. If they are reported to the credit bureaus, late rent payments affect your credit history negatively, bringing down your credit scores significantly.
Paying rent on time becomes just as imperative as your monthly payment for other credit products like a credit card or an installment loan. If you aren’t careful after using your rent payment to build credit and forget to pay your rent on time, your credit scores could suffer massively.
Properly Budgeting Your Rent Payments
If you are struggling to afford your rent payment at the end of each month, it might be time to reevaluate your monthly budget. Emptying out your checking account by the end of every month is not sustainable.
To get out of perpetually living paycheck to paycheck, try to minimize the amount of money you spend on unnecessary expenses. An excellent loose outline to follow is the 50/30/20 budget. Spend 50% of your budget on needs (like your rent payment), 30% on wants, and 20% on savings and debt repayment.
It’s vital that you have an emergency fund in your savings account so that when an unexpected expense hits you, that money won’t come out of the money you need to pay your rent.
Other Ways To Improve Your Credit Score
There a many other ways to improve your FICO score other than rent payments. You can obtain good credit through ongoing reporting of your utility payments with Experian Boost. Experian Boost can improve your credit score exponentially by getting payment information for utilities like electricity included in your credit report.
Another one of the best things you can do to improve your credit incredibly fast is to reduce your credit utilization ratio. Your credit utilization ratio is the total balance of what you owe compared with the total credit limit you have. Most financial experts suggest that you have a credit utilization ratio under 30% at all times.
Decreasing your credit utilization may require a fair amount of debt reduction. Doing this will also improve your payment history, which will make a great impact on your credit score. Once you’ve minimized your credit card debt, we recommend paying off the balance before each billing cycle, as this will keep you out of problem debt and save you money on interest.
While your credit score won’t transform overnight, with some consistency and patience, you are likely to see great improvements over time!