Last Updated on January 4, 2022 by Kelvin Nielsen
Renting your first apartment can be an exciting experience. It’s not only the beginning of your freedom but also the opening of a whole new chapter in your life. Isn’t that awesome?
However, as many people are likely to tell you, renting an apartment as a first-timer isn’t the easiest thing. This owes to the fact that you may not have a renting history and probably even a credit record. These documents reveal details landlords consider crucial and without them, barely a few will rent to you their property.
That, nonetheless, doesn’t mean the end of the road for you. Even without the crucial paperwork, with a cosigner, you may still stand a chance of getting an apartment. So, who exactly is a cosigner? What responsibility do they take? What qualities should they possess? This article has all the answers. Let’s get down to it.
What is a cosigner?
A cosigner is a third party who signs the lease alongside you and is responsible as you are for paying rent. In other words, if rent is due monthly, it’s either you pay, your cosigner pays, or the both of you pay. If the rental payment isn’t made, both you and the cosigner will be on the hook.
Besides rent, the cosigner is also responsible for other charges you may incur such as late fees or repair costs. In addition, they may be liable for charges other tenants accrue. For instance, if you live with two roommates and they haven’t paid their rent, your cosigner could be liable, too. This will, however, depend on the state.
Now, a cosigner can either move in with you or offer their support from elsewhere. Whichever the case, since their name is on the lease, they have a legal right to your rented space. You should always stay on good terms with your cosigner since they can legally take over your lease altogether.
What’s the difference between a cosigner and a guarantor?
The terms cosigner and guarantor are oftentimes used interchangeably. However, there’s a subtle difference between the two. While a cosigner has the right to your space, a guarantor doesn’t. Put differently, they don’t have roommate privileges and can’t live with you.
Also, unlike a cosigner, who legally pays rent with you, a guarantor only chips in when you miss a payment. Simply put, a guarantor is only a backup plan while a cosigner is always liable to the terms of the lease agreement.
Who should be my cosigner?
Due to the risks involved, many people fear being cosigners. Therefore, you could only stand a better chance with any of your parents, a relative, close friend, or significant other. These are people who understand your character and reliability and are likely to take the risks for you. That said, a cosigner should possess, among many, the following qualities:
- Solid credit history and good financial record. They should also be financially responsible.
- A clean criminal record. Remember, they’ll also undergo a thorough background check.
- A clean eviction record.
- They should be willing.
- If they’ll be living with you, they should have the qualities of a good roommate. These screening questions should help you gauge their suitability as good roommates.
Benefits of having a cosigner
- You can get an apartment with poor or no credit.
Poor or no credit at all is a deal-breaker for most landlords. And understandably so, bad credit can mean financial instability while no credit can raise questions on reliability. Luckily, with a cosigner who has solid credit, you can get approved and start growing your credit score.
- You can get an apartment as a first-timer.
First-time renters mostly have a hard time getting an apartment. This is because they don’t have a renting history or references to list. Whether you’re fresh from college or simply want to start living solo, you can easily get approved if you have a cosigner. And the best part, you’ll never be a rental newbie again. From the next apartment going forward, you won’t have a hard time.
- You can be approved even with an eviction record.
Landlords also consider a past eviction a big red flag. This is so because no good tenant can be evicted. An eviction means that you were problematic to the previous landlord. And that’s enough to make the prospective one want to steer clear of you. But with a decent cosigner, your chances of getting the apartment will increase.
That said, you should let the cosigner know about the eviction you faced beforehand. This is a big risk they’re taking and they should make an informed decision before committing.
- You can win an apartment you would otherwise not qualify for.
Not meeting the income requirements of an apartment doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t afford it. Your income could not be triple the rent but you could be willing to sacrifice to live in the apartment. Since the landlord won’t take you at your word, get a cosigner to assuage their worries. That way, you’ll have hacked the system!
Risks of having a cosigner
- It can strain relationships.
Cosigners are mostly people who you hold dear. If you can’t pay rent or cover other charges, that will hurt their pockets. And if they can’t pay and the rent remains unsettled, their credit will be ruined. That can significantly strain your relationship.
Now, if you fear putting your relationship at stake or can’t find a cosigner, you can resort to cosign services. What they do, they pair you with a cosigner at an upfront price. If you’re approved and require the cosigner’s aid, you’ll pay back the company. Some cosigner services you can use include Insuret, Jetty, Leap, Liberty Rent, and more.
- It doesn’t guarantee housing.
While having a cosigner increases your chances of winning your dream apartment, it doesn’t make it a guarantee. Why? Though many landlords are okay with it, some would rather avoid the ‘tenant-cosigner thing’ altogether. Also, the law allows landlords to decline rental prospects who need cosigners.
A cosigner can help you secure an apartment when you have low or no credit. And even though you want them to be down for it, you should tell them why you need them to cosign. That way, they can make an educated decision. Broadly speaking, your parents, relatives, or close friends are your best candidates for cosigners.
Hi, I’m Kelvin Nielsen, an experienced landlord and accomplished real estate lawyer. My focus is on answering your questions about renting in the hopes of making your life as a renter or a landlord a bit easier.