Tenant Credit Reporting: Does Reporting Your Rental Payments Improve Your Credit Score?
March 24, 2023
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As a tenant, one of your main responsibilities is to pay rent on time and in full by the agreed upon due date.
But, paying rent on time and in full isn’t just important because it’s a part of your lease.
It’s also important because it can help improve your credit score.
Tenant credit reporting is a great way to make the most of paying rent and being a reliable tenant.
In this article, we’ll look at what tenant credit reporting is, why it’s important, and how you go about doing it.
Tenant Credit Reporting
Tenant credit reporting occasionally gets a bad reputation because landlords sometimes utilize it to report tenants who aren’t paying rent on time. However, it’s not always a bad thing. Tenant credit reporting refers to tenant actions that can impact their credit score. This can be positive. For instance, if you pay rent on time and in full, this can affect your credit score positively.
That said, rent payments don’t automatically impact your credit score. In other words, just because you pay your rent, it doesn’t mean your score will increase.
So, how do you report rent payments to credit bureaus?
Well, for starters, you cannot directly report rent payments yourself. That said, rent-reporting services can get your credit reports to include your rental payments, though the cost depends on the service.
To use a rent-reporting service well, you’ll need to know which credit bureaus it reports your payments to — and which credit scores take those payments into consideration.
Rental Payments and the Big 3
Equifax, Experian and TransUnion will include rent payment history in credit reports if it is sent to them.
Credit reports then provide the data that feeds into your credit scores. The two major credit scoring companies, FICO and VantageScore, differ in how they handle rent payment information.
- There are commonly used versions of the FICO score that don’t use rental payment information in calculating scores.
- Newer versions of FICO (I.e., FICO 9 and FICO 10) consider rental information as long as it’s in your report.
- VantageScore takes rent payment information into account.
Rental Payment Reporting Services
So, how can you get your rental payment history in the eyeline of lenders?
Positive Rent Payment pilot program
Fannie Mae launched a pilot program in September 2022 to help renters build their credit history and enhance their credit scores. The Positive Rent Payment program links Fannie Mae-financed owners of multifamily properties with three different vendors — Esusu, Jetty and Rent Dynamics — to help landlords report tenants’ on-time rent payments to credit bureaus for one year. Fannie Mae will reimburse the vendors, and this is all free of charge to tenants.
Black and Latino communities are the program’s focus because they’re disproportionately represented among those with little to no credit profile.
Experian Boost: This service is free to tenants. It helps consumers enhance FICO scores by including positive payment records for rent, specific utilities and subscription services on Experian credit reports. It’s important to mention that not all rent payments qualify for the service. Payments must be paid online through certain management companies or platforms, and not through a third-party money-transfer app like PayPal, Venmo or Zelle. Rent payments made with cash, money order or personal checks also aren’t eligible.
Piñata: This service is free to renters. It reports directly to TransUnion. That said, if your landlord signs up for a partnership with Piñata, your rent payments can be reported to all three bureaus.
Services that cost tenants
The services listed below can be initiated by renters no matter where they live. However, some of these services may not report your payments if your landlord won’t verify them, so be sure to do your research.
- Rent Reporters: There is a one-time enrollment fee of $94.95, which includes up to two years of reported rental payments. Beyond that, you can enroll in a monthly plan ($9.95 per month) or an annual plan ($7.95 per month). This service reports to TransUnion and Equifax.
- Rental Kharma: Setup is $50, and the service is $8.95 each month. Reports include all payment history at your current address. You can include your roommate or spouse for a $25 one-time fee and an additional $5 per month. Rental Kharma reports to TransUnion and Equifax.
- Rock the Score: There is an enrollment fee of $48, and continued service costs $6.95 per month. There is a $65 fee for reporting up to two years of rental history. This service reports to TransUnion and Equifax.
- LevelCredit: Formerly known as RentTrack, LevelCredit charges $6.95 each month to have your rent, cell phone and utility payments reported to the credit bureaus. Rent is reported to all three bureaus, and utility payments are only reported to TransUnion.
- CreditMyRent: CreditMyRent doesn’t have a setup fee and is $14.95 per month. There are extra charges if you want past rent reported. This service reports to TransUnion and Equifax.
- PaymentReport: A $49 setup fee assures you two years of rental history reported to Equifax and TransUnion. Ongoing reporting is free for the flat-rate plan, and you can tack on a roommate or spouse for free. Ongoing reporting cost $2.95 per month, but there isn’t a setup fee.
Services covered by landlords
The following rent payment reporting services are available only if landlords or property managers opt into the services. Oftentimes, renters are automatically enrolled when they sign their lease, and these services are usually free to tenants.
- ClearNow: This service debits your rent from your checking or savings account. It’s free for tenants, but your landlord must be signed up. If you opt in, payments are reported to Experian.
- PayYourRent: PayYourRent reports rental payments to all three credit bureaus. Residents can opt in or out whenever they want.
- Esusu: This service reports rental payments to all three major credit bureaus. It’s free for tenants if your landlord has a service agreement and if you’re not part of the Positive Rent Payment program. Esusu proliferates an enrollment email to tenants to start the process.
- Bilt Rewards: This program lets renters at participating Bilt Alliance properties earn rewards by reporting their rent through the app for free. This service is optional, and renters usually receive an invitation when they move in.
- Jetty Credit: Another part of Fannie Mae’s pilot program, Jetty is free to tenants who live at involved properties. Jetty reports rental payments to all three credit bureaus, and tenants are automatically enrolled.
Choosing a Rent-Reporting Service
If your landlord doesn’t work with a rent-reporting service already, you may need to figure things out on your own. Here are some questions that should help you decide which service to choose:
- Total cost for a year of service, including setup fees or fees for reporting rental history? Some services can go back as far as two years.
- How do you protect my personal information?
- Which of the major credit bureaus do you report to? You want all three, if possible.
- Do you provide free access to credit scores, and if so, which score(s)?
- How can I cancel this service?
- How quickly can I expect the information to show up on my credit report?
- What happens if I have an issue with my landlord or break my lease? In some states, tenants have a right to withhold payment if the landlord fails to keep the unit repaired and livable. But you should know beforehand whether rent withheld during a dispute is reported as nonpayment or counts against your score.
Paying Rent and Your Credit Score
Obviously, getting your rental payment history to the bureaus will only improve your credit score if you’re paying on time. This is just another reason it’s critical to keep up with rent payments.
Reporting rental payments can help your credit score, but don’t forget other things can boost your score as well (I.e., credit cards, car loan payments, etc.). Reporting rental payments isn’t magically going to change a bad score or make you substantially more appealing to lenders. It can certainly help your situation but be sure to place the proper value on it.
Reporting your rental payments can help improve your credit score. It isn’t going to fix a bad credit score overnight or help you build the best credit score possible, but it can serve as one element to help build a good credit score.
The information in this article provides a solid foundation on how to get started with reporting rental payments and what to consider as you move forward. Check out our tenant guide for other helpful renting tips!