Frustration of Gen Z in DC: How to get that apartment even with bad credit

It’s not breaking news to tell you about how hard it is to find a good, affordable apartment in the District. It often feels like you’re picking between one or the other, but that having both isn’t possible.

The D.C. area got a reminder of that this week, when incoming Rep.-elect Maxwell Frost, of Florida, went online to express his frustration over being turned down for an apartment in D.C.’s Navy Yard. Frost admitted he had bad credit. After all, he’s just 25, and many people that age are still building up their credit scores.

But if an incoming member of Congress still struck out, does anyone else stand a chance?

Well, yes, depending on the apartment you’re looking at.

“Every company has its own … criteria based upon how much risk they’re willing to take,” said Bob Pinnegar, the president of the National Apartment Association. “Criteria do vary. They’re not uniform across the board.”

Some places might not be willing to work with you at all, but others may hear you out.

“Just like you would for a job, be up front with them and explain what’s going on and they may be able to work with you,” said Pinnegar. “Be up front and explain to them what they’re going to find when they run the credit report and background check and you’ll be able to find somebody who is going to work with you.”

There are other workarounds after that, too.

For instance, while it may not be the most ideal situation, you can find a place with a roommate.

“If you have other people that are looking as well, that you’re connected with — you know them through work or school or whatever — having a roommate is a great way to be able to have an apartment to be able to have more space,” he added.

If that’s not appealing, then you may ask a parent or another loved one, or a trusted friend, if they’ll co-sign the lease for you.

“That’s just going to make you that much stronger as an applicant,” said Pinnegar, since that means they’ll assume some risk if something does go wrong on your end.

“It’s a great way to build your rental and your credit history,” added Pinnegar. “Especially when they’re just starting out and they don’t have a lot of credit history, don’t have a lot of rental history, they may not have a lot of work history and so that’s really that way just to get them moving forward and get them to where they can establish criteria that will help them in the future.”

Ultimately the situation will depend on where you look and what your circumstances are. And even for members of Congress pulling in six-figure salaries, satisfaction can’t always be guaranteed.

John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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