courtesy of Tom Simplot, The Republic | September 15, 2014

Apartment hunters need to know their credit score in advance.

If we put the cute TV commercials with Vikings singing about free credit scores aside, the importance of knowing your credit score is right on target. Apartment hunters need to know their credit score in advance and be prepared if their score is less than excellent. Armed with this knowledge, you can address any issues head-on.

Here are six tips for those with low or no credit scores.

1. Get it out in the open. Before your new apartment company runs your credit report, you may want to advise your leasing agent of your credit issues. Or draft a letter explaining your situation and how you are managing your money now.

2. Prepare to pay a larger deposit. Some may charge applicants with lower credit scores a larger security deposit to cover their potential loss if the renter fails to pay.

3. Bring your pay stubs and income history. Managers want to know whether your rent-to-income ratio is appropriate, so be prepared to prove it.

4. Find strong references. Management companies like to see past and current employers as references. Be sure that you have several people in mind who will vouch for your credit-worthiness.

5. Do you need a co-signer? Sometimes you need a friend, a parent or other relative to verify your credit-worthiness. A co-signer essentially gives a guarantee that rent payments will be made — if not by you, by someone else. This can be risky for the co-signer because they are taking on legal responsibility.

6. Be ready to decide on the apartment. An open apartment isn’t earning any income, so the company may be motivated to move quickly to rent it to you. Do your research and be prepared to sign and move in, if this is the right place at the right price.

Renting an apartment can be a successful first step toward rebuilding your credit if you are prepared.

Tom Simplot is president and CEO of the Arizona Multihousing Association.