Here are some suggestions to help you determine whether sealing the deal on your apartment choice will require some outside help.
What is a co-signer?
A co-signer is not required to be your roommate, but he or she will appear on the landlord-tenant agreement. Essentially, a co-signer acts as a guarantor, promising to pay your rent if you can’t do it. Your landlord may not ask for a co-signer unless you have no (or poor) credit history. So, you might need a co-signer if you’re renting your first apartment, or if you recently had to declare bankruptcy.
Who should you ask to co-sign
A parent or close friend may be willing to co-sign on your lease, but you must consider whether your co-signer could actually shoulder the potential financial risk. If you weren’t able to pay your rent and your co-signer couldn’t cough up the money on your behalf, your landlord would be entitled to name you both in a lawsuit. Second, how would your relationship with your co-signer change if you had to ask him or her to pay your rent? Before any signatures appear on your new lease, make sure you discuss with the person you’ve chosen what co-signing may entail.
If you can’t find a co-signer
What if you don’t have an obvious co-signer? You may be able to avoid getting a co-signer if you offer a larger upfront deposit, or you may have luck qualifying for the apartment on your own if you clean up your credit report. Talk to your potential landlord or the manager of the apartment community where you want to live. It may be that trading down for a slightly smaller apartment will free you from the need for a co-signer.
If you still need and find a co-signer, consider planning ahead for unexpected rent trouble by putting some money in a separate savings account for future rent payments. Spending a year paying your rent on time will improve your credit rating, while your co-signer never has to worry about paying rent for two.
Co-signing on any legal agreement like your apartment lease is not a casual favor, and should not be treated as one. As the primary person responsible for paying the rent, you want to ensure that the apartment you’ve selected is one you can afford, barring an unexpected change in your financial status. With that in mind, however, a willing and sympathetic co-signer may allow you to enter into a rental agreement for the apartment that is calling your name.