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Having A Good Rental History When Applying For A Mortgage

If you’re planning to buy a home for the first time later this year, your chances of qualifying for a mortgage might be better if you’ve had a history of paying the rent on time. Read more on The New York Times.

Last year Experian, one of the three leading credit-reporting companies, added a section to millions of credit reports showing on-time rent payments, and raised the credit scores of many people. The company said that this year it would add in negative marks, including mentions of bounced checks or of tenants’ leaving before a lease was up.

Now two other companies, CoreLogic and FICO, are planning a new credit report and score that incorporates payment histories from landlords, as well as payday and other nontraditional loans, child support and, later on perhaps, utility and mobile phone bills.

“Evidence of positive rental payments could be a plus for consumers,” said Joanne Gaskin, FICO’s director of product management global scoring. Rental history data could show up on one in five of the new CoreScore credit reports, she estimated.

Around 35 percent of households nationwide were renters in 2010, according to the most recent census data, while in parts of New York City, three-quarters or more rent.

Incorporating rental payments into credit scores could affect millions of people who have not established credit histories through credit cards, student loan repayments and other credit sources. That includes recent college graduates, students and some divorced people. “The biggest impact is on individuals who were not previously scoreable,” said Brannan Johnston, the managing director of Experian’s rent bureau.

Almost half of those higher-risk consumers experienced an increase of 100 points or more after their positive rental history was added, Mr. Johnston said. (Those with average or higher scores did not experience major movement.)

CoreLogic said it was too early to show the effects of its new credit report, which began in December. The changes are “intended to allow lenders and consumers to have greater transparency,” said Tim Grace, a senior vice president of CoreLogic, and that could lead to increased lending.

People who have lost their homes to foreclosure and are now leasing may be able to rebuild their credit histories by being “very responsible renters,” Mr. Grace added.

But consumer groups and advocates are skeptical, noting that reports are sometimes riddled with mistakes and some landlord-tenant disputes may be difficult to capture in a credit report. Rent may not have been paid, for example, because the furnace was left unrepaired for months.

Consumers can dispute any information they believe is inaccurate. “We check and recheck all the information,” Mr. Grace said, adding that consumers could order a copy of their new CoreLogic credit reports online.

CoreLogic’s Core Score will cover about 100 million people. The three other major credit reporting companies, which also include Equifax and TransUnion, have reports on 200 million; their reports are available free once every 12 months at annualcreditreport.com. TransUnion collects rental payment information and shares it with landlords, but Experian is the only one of the three so far to add rental history to credit reports.

Experian has mostly major property managers and apartment companies reporting rent histories, via their accounting software. Most small landlords are not, though Experian is considering a system that could allow more independents to report on-time and problem renters.

If your landlord is participating, your rental contract may show up as debts owed on your credit report for up to 12 months, said Maxine Sweet, Experian’s vice president for public education. If your landlord is not yet reporting to Experian or CoreLogic, she added, you can build your own rental history by documenting on-time payments.