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I receive calls all the time from those looking for housing and stating – “I have bad credit, what can I do?” or, “Do you have any rentals that don’t require a screening?”

We’ve all been there and done that. Made mistakes that come back to haunt us. Even today, my own credit isn’t exemplary as I continue to resolve some bad decisions early on in my adult credit life. With every “fix” the credit report looks better and the rating goes up. This is a slow process and it won’t be better today. But, every little step sure helps out.

Believe it or not, you are not alone! Landlords realize that life throws everyone curves at some point. Your best bet, be up front and honest about any negatives you think may pop up in a background check or screening. This way, there are no surprises. In the state of WA, a landlord is now required to tell you if any of your negatives will keep you from renting their home – before you pay a screening fee. In June of 2012, the Fair Tenant Screening Act was placed into effect.

If bad credit is your only issue and you have stellar rental references with long-term employment history, the outlook may not be as bad as you think. Many landlords are willing to work with you still. In fact, your credit report may not be in as bad of shape as you think. Here are a few steps you can take to help credit be less of an issue as you search for your new rental home…

1. Obtain a free copy of your credit report. You are allowed one free copy a year. So if it has been less than a year since you last obtained one, you’ll have to pay to receive a copy. It is a good idea to take a look at what is on your report annually. This will also ensure that there are no errors showing up. AnnualCreditReport.com is the official site to help consumers to obtain their free credit report.

2. If there are errors showing on your credit report – use the information you received with the report to clean it up – today. It takes some time for all those errors to get resolved so the sooner the better. This will put those accounts into a “disputed” status to show that you’re working to resolve the issues.

3. You received your report and it is correct. There are items that don’t look that great. There are still a few things you can do to help out your situation –

a. Plan ahead and ask someone you can rely on to back you up as a co-signer. Most likely they too will have to present a “passing” screening report since they are putting their neck and income on the line if you fail to meet your rental obligations.

b. Be prepared to offer additional deposit up front, or pay last months or additional rent in advance if you can to show that you will take care of your rental obligations first.

c. If you don’t need to move “today” work hard to set up some reasonable payment plans and get some of that negative debt cleared off your report. Most times, payments today on old accounts will bring them back to an active status and show your are back to making good on the debt.

Knowing that each obligation that you take care of will show your financial responsibility “today” – to take care of yesterday’s mistakes. Whatever you do, don’t try to hide the negative information, or lie about it. Surprises on a screening report that are negative are a sure-fire way to “not” get into the home of your dreams.

Remember, this is a new business relationship with the landlord and you want to start it off on the right foot – with the truth.

Have you found any other creative ways to work out your credit woes?

Until next week, may your rentals be filled and your home be a happy place.

Lori Hartjoy is the owner of Blue Mountain Rentals, established in April of 2011. As well as being a devoted mother of 3 toddlers, she provides over 20 years of clerical experience to her clients. Her background includes processing employment, tenant screening, background checks and working as a property manager and payroll clerk for a major telecommunications corporation.

The information contained on this blog and from any communication related to the Blue Mountain Rentals website is provided for informational purposes only. All information you choose to use is at “your own risk”. Please visit www.bluemtnrentals.com for more information on how Blue Mountain Rentals can provide a win-win solution for your housing needs.

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