Do I need a cosigner to rent?
A cosigner is a person that guarantees that they will be legally responsible for paying a debt if the person signing for it doesn't pay. You usually think of cosigners for loans, but they can also be used when you rent. Let's think about situations where a cosigner might be necessary when you are renting.
A cosigner might be needed if you have less than perfect credit or no credit history at all. A landlord or property owner might be hesitant of taking you on as a risk if your credit isn't very good. When you try for an apartment, you may be told that you are rejected for your low credit score. But is that always the final answer? What if you offered to have a person cosign your lease with you? That person would be signing and stating that they understand that they will be legally responsible for paying your rent if you don't. It's a big risk for a person to take, but you may have someone with good credit that might be willing to do it. Maybe you've just gone through a rough divorce and your credit was hurt during the process - do you have a parent that might be willing to step up on your behalf? Propose the idea to the property manager - they might be willing to work with you if they had a guarantee that they'd receive what you are promising to pay each month.
Maybe you're just starting out and have low income - that can make it tough to find a place where you'd be willing to live. The places you can afford might not be in the best neighborhoods or they might be in poor shape. In this situation, maybe the cosigner (especially a parent) might be willing to pay part of the rent for you. By having a cosigner, you may be able to get a place that you couldn't afford on your own.
What other rental situation might warrant a cosigner? Oftentimes landlords want to see you have a rental history. They like to go back and check with your previous landlords to see if you paid your rent on time and if you were a good tenant. But what if you've never rented and are just getting out on your own? Maybe you've lived with your parents up until this point, or maybe you are just getting out of college and have found your first job. Offering to have a cosigner sign the lease with you might give a property manager a better feeling of taking on the risk of renting to you since you have no rental history.
Probably the most difficult situation for a person to find a rental is following an eviction. An eviction is the legal process that removes a tenant from a rental property. It might be for not paying rent, causing damage to the property, causing problems for your neighbors, or being involved in an illegal act at the property you are renting. By reading your lease carefully, you should be able to figure out the reasons which might cause you to be evicted. If you have been evicted, a cosigner may be the way to go. The property owner could feel better about renting to you if they know that there will be someone else backing you up.
When you ask someone to cosign for you, whether it's on a loan or for an apartment, you really are asking a lot. Not only will that person be responsible for paying your rent if you don't, but they'll also be responsible for paying for any damage you cause to the apartment. You'll probably have the best shot of finding someone to cosign for you if you have a close personal relationship with the person, like a parent, grandparent, sibling, cousin, or a good friend. To make that person feel more comfortable with the idea of cosigning a lease for you, offer to draw up a document stating that you will be legally responsible for paying them back in the event that you cause them to expend money on your behalf.