Renting an Apartment After Bankruptcy

Learn whether your bankruptcy will affect your ability to rent an apartment, and what you can do to lessen the impact.

By , Attorney

When you file for bankruptcy, there's no hiding it. Because bankruptcy stays on your credit report for seven to ten years, renting an apartment or house can be challenging for about two years after your bankruptcy case ends.

Still, a landlord might consider other factors when deciding whether to rent to you. Learn how to increase your chances of renting a house or apartment after filing bankruptcy by using the benefits of bankruptcy, including:

  • increased available income
  • steady employment
  • bankruptcy discharge status, and
  • overall improved credit history.

Some of our other post-bankruptcy credit strategies can help you get a car loan after bankruptcy and more. You'll find them in Improving Credit After Bankruptcy.

Finding Houses and Apartments That Accept Bankruptcies

Here's a quick list of the things you can do to improve your chances of finding a house or apartment after bankruptcy. You'll find detailed explanations later in the article.

  • Find a private owner. An individual is likelier to listen to your unique situation and give you a chance than a corporate employee with marching orders.
  • Present evidence of employment. The longer you've worked for your employer, the more stable you'll appear.
  • Provide proof of timely rent payments. For many landlords, this is the most important factor. Showing multiple years of timely payments is impressive, especially if it's to the same landlord.
  • Explain why filing for bankruptcy was responsible. If you were sick or experienced an unexpected event, let the landlord know.
  • Demonstrate you can afford the rent. Explaining that you have minimal debts and plenty of available income to pay rent can help.
  • Get references. Find people who will verify you're responsible.
  • Find a cosigner. Almost all landlords will rent to you if someone with good credit will sign the rental or lease contract. The landlord will have two people to collect from if you don't pay.
  • Pay a larger deposit. Or, offer to pay for several months if possible.

If you aren't successful immediately, don't give up. Many people have used these techniques to find a house or apartment after filing for bankruptcy.

Available Income to Rent an Apartment After Bankruptcy

Potential creditors don't always consider bankruptcy a bad thing. You'll find that many car loan lenders and credit card companies will eagerly extend credit to a borrower who "discharged" or wiped out debt in bankruptcy. Creditors realize that you're likely to have more disposable income now that you've shed hefty credit card payments and other debts discharged in your bankruptcy case.

Also, the timing rules regarding multiple bankruptcy filings will prevent you from discharging debt for quite some time. Creditors know that they'll have up to eight years to collect without concern that you'll wipe out the debt in another bankruptcy.

Rent an Apartment After Bankruptcy From an Individual Owner

Most people have more success speaking with an individual property owner than a rental agent. Unlike rental agents who must follow the company's rental guidelines, the property owner of the home you want to rent might listen to your personal story and consider your unique situation.

When talking to the landlord, consider using the reasoning discussed above in the "Available Income to Rent an Apartment After Bankruptcy" section. The right landlord will be more interested in how much money you have to pay the rent than your past bankruptcy status.

TIP: Landlords want tenants who pay consistently and use the property respectfully. Because of this, one way to get a landlord's attention is by providing multiple years of receipts showing timely payments at the same residence. This approach has proved successful, so it's worth giving it a try.

Solid Employment History Will Help You Rent an Apartment After Bankruptcy

Another factor the landlord will likely consider is job stability. Along with your employment history, the landlord will probably be interested in the following:

  • length of time at your current job (the longer you were employed, the better)
  • permanent employment (as opposed to a seasonal or temporary position)
  • previous employment history (including employment gaps)
  • rate of pay, and
  • wage history.

Explain how your finances have improved since bankruptcy. When possible, show the landlord how discharging debt has given you more discretionary income to pay toward rent.

How Bankruptcy Case Status Affects Renting an Apartment

If your bankruptcy case is still active and you haven't yet received a dismissal or discharge, a landlord will be naturally reluctant to rent to you, especially if you're in Chapter 13 bankruptcy. The landlord might not be willing to wait for you to get the new debt obligation approved by the court.

Most landlords won't be eager to rent to you if your Chapter 7 bankruptcy is still pending either. However, a savvy landlord will at least understand that any debt you incur after the date you filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy will remain your obligation to pay. If necessary, show the landlord the appropriate section in the article Which Debts Are Discharged in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy?

Learn more about the types of bankruptcy individuals file, the differences between Chapters 7 and 13 Bankruptcy, and who can't file bankruptcy chapter 7.

How the Bankruptcy Filing Date Affects Renting an Apartment

Many landlords will be hesitant to rent to you during the two years immediately following the bankruptcy case, so you can count on the landlord considering your bankruptcy filing date. Fortunately, as time passes, the bankruptcy will have less impact on your ability to rent if you've handled your finances responsibly and taken steps to clean up your credit report (more below).

Your Credit History When Renting an Apartment After Bankruptcy

Your landlord will check your credit report even if you haven't filed for bankruptcy. The landlord will look for issues such as:

  • evictions
  • lawsuits or judgments
  • repossessions, and
  • late payments or defaults on other debts, such as credit cards.

If it appears you're still having problems meeting your financial obligations, your application probably won't be approved.

Improving Your Chances of Renting After Bankruptcy

These tips might help persuade a landlord that you're a sound rental risk.

  • Present rent payment records. Show you didn't break previous leases or rental agreements with other landlords before bankruptcy and you consistently made rent payments on time using canceled checks and receipts or letters from previous landlords.
  • Explain your situation. Most people file for bankruptcy because of circumstances beyond their control, such as an illness, divorce, death, or job loss. A landlord might be sympathetic if you can show why those conditions aren't likely to happen again.

Learn more about what to expect during life after bankruptcy. You might be surprised to learn that you will be able to buy a house more quickly than you might think.

Need More Bankruptcy Help?

Did you know Nolo has been making the law easy for over fifty years? It's true—and we want to make sure you find what you need. Below you'll find more articles explaining how bankruptcy works. And don't forget that our bankruptcy homepage is the best place to start if you have other questions!

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We wholeheartedly encourage research and learning, but online articles can't address all bankruptcy issues or the facts of your case. The best way to protect your assets in bankruptcy is by hiring a local bankruptcy lawyer.

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