Skip to main content
Shelter Logo

How to rent with a poor credit history

Landlords and agents must ask your permission to carry out a credit check.

They can ask credit referencing agencies for information about your credit history, including unpaid debts, missed loan payments and money judgments against you.

Be honest if you're asked about your credit history. You could lose your holding deposit if you do not declare issues you know about.

Understand your credit score

Check your credit score for any problems. You can check it for free using the credit reference agency Experian.

Different creditors report to different agencies, so it's also a good idea to check with Equifax and TransUnion.

You can check for mistakes on your credit file and add a note to explain why a debt was defaulted on. 

If you're in dispute with a creditor about whether you owe a debt, you can add a note to explain this. 

Disputes about your credit file

If any information on your credit file is wrong, you can contact the credit reference agency or lender direct to ask them to correct it. You normally get a response within 1 month.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) can investigate complaints about credit file disputes.

You can read more about credit file disputes on the ICO website. Look for their 'Credit explained' leaflet.

How shared finances affect your credit record

If you have a joint bank account, loan, credit card or mortgage with someone, they are recorded as a 'financial associate' on your credit report. It can affect your score if they have a bad credit history. 

You can write to the credit reference agencies to ask for 'disassociation' from anyone you're no longer financially linked with. You need to close down any joint financial accounts first. 

Being married or in a civil partnership does not always mean you are affected by your partner's poor credit.

You are only financially connected to someone if you have a joint account, loan or credit card with them.

Extra rent in advance

Some landlords will accept rent upfront to reduce the risk of missed payments. If you cannot pass a credit check, you could consider paying more rent in advance.

There is no limit to how much rent you can pay upfront.

Check what your contract says about when rent should be paid. Each time you renew your tenancy, you can discuss with your landlord whether you will:

  • pay rent monthly or weekly after the fixed term ends

  • need to continue paying rent in advance every few months

  • have to get a guarantor if you can't continue paying rent in advance


If you cannot pay rent upfront, you could consider asking a friend or family member to act as your guarantor. This means they agree to pay your rent if you miss any payments.

Your guarantor may have to pass a credit check or provide information about their financial circumstances. 

Your council's housing department may have a scheme to help if you do not have anyone who can act as a guarantor for you.

There are commercial companies who charge you to provide a guarantor service. If you decide to use one, make sure you understand what happens if you or another joint tenant misses a payment.

Speak directly to landlords

You may find it easier to get accepted by landlords if you approach them directly. 

Landlords who do not use a letting agent are less likely to carry out credit checks, but they may need proof of your financial circumstances and renting history.

Social media groups and online forums in your area may have details of properties available to rent direct from landlords.

Check with friends, family and colleagues to see if they can recommend landlords in the area.

You may not get help to pay rent through benefits if you rent a home owned by a family member

Help with housing from your council

Your council may be able to help you find somewhere to live if you're at risk of homelessness.

Do not put off dealing with debts

You might find it difficult to get a private rented home if you have:

  • an individual voluntary arrangement (IVA)

  • a debt relief order (DRO)

  • missed payments for loans or credit cards

  • a county court judgment (CCJ)

  • been declared bankrupt

Deal with debts as soon as you can.

Speak to a debt adviser if you are struggling with debt or credit issues.

It could take time to improve your credit rating

Need more help?

Find out about:

Last updated: 22 July 2022

If you need to talk to someone, we'll do our best to help

Get help