Score the Apartment of Your Dreams: Everything You Need to Know About Getting a Guarantor

published Oct 30, 2017
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(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

You may have heard about guarantors during your apartment hunt, but if you’re not familiar with what they actually do—or how you can still find one if you don’t know anyone personally who can be a guarantor (or even land an apartment you love without one!)—we’ve got you covered. Here’s everything you need to know about getting a guarantor.

What is a guarantor, and when might you need one?

A guarantor is someone who signs your lease with you to guarantee payment in case you can’t pay for some reason. Guarantors are usually requested by landlords when a prospective tenant doesn’t have the financials to prove they can pay for the apartment on their own—like if they have a low credit score, or are missing evidence of employment or pay stubs to prove they make enough to afford the rent.

“A good real world example would be a college student or recent graduate, who doesn’t have an employment history or much savings, will have a parent—who does have strong credit and financials—sign as a guarantor,” explained Carrie Weiner, Realtor and Compliance Director at Keller Williams Hollywood Hills. “The more classic example is a prospective tenant with bad credit,” Weiner added, noting that there is no set credit score that constitutes “bad credit” because every landlord can have a different standard.

Is there any risk involved in having a guarantor on your apartment lease?

As the tenant? Not really. According to Weiner, the only con for using a guarantor is that the prospective landlord might have restrictions on who they’ll accept (for example, she explained, some landlords require guarantors to live in the same state). But otherwise, not so much. “The risk is all on the guarantor’s side,” Weiner said. “If the tenant defaults on the lease and stops paying the rent, the guarantor is obligated to pay it.”

Of course, if you use a family member or a friend as a guarantor and default on your lease, it could affect your relationship with them, so that is an additional risk if you’re concerned about being able to pay your rent.

What’s the deal with guarantor services?

If you don’t know someone who can be a guarantor for you when you’re applying for an apartment, you can actually pay a guarantor service to do it for you instead. This has some downsides, of course, because it means you’re paying additional money on top of your apartment deposit and rent, and you’ll have to do even more paperwork, Weiner noted. And every service is different, so you should check out several options and see which feels right to you, so you can find the best fit. Some services you can consider include Insurent, The Guarantors, LeaseLock, and American Cosigners.

Are there any alternatives to getting a guarantor?

If you don’t have anyone who can be a guarantor for you, and you’d prefer not to use a guarantor service, there is another option that landlords will often accept: offering to pay an additional security deposit, or to pay a few months rent in advance. This will alleviate a landlord’s concerns about a low or non-existent (if you’re from outside the US, for example) credit score, Weiner said.

“If you have the funds available, this is a more economical option than using a guarantor service because all the money goes to paying the rent; it’s just being paid earlier,” Weiner explained. “With a service, their fees would be on top of the rent due to the landlord.”

If paying that much up-front isn’t an option, Brick Underground also suggests subletting—that way, your name isn’t on the lease, so you don’t have to go through the same qualification process that you would if you were leasing a place yourself. And in general, sometimes it just depends on the landlord—some might be more willing to work with you than others, even if your financials aren’t ideal.