Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published Saturday, June 28, 2014 at 8:00 PM

  • Share:
           
  • Comments (0)
  • Print

Much-needed scoring boost coming for renters’ credit

You may have perfect payment histories for renting and making routine payments on time for such things as your cellphone, TV and utility bills, but nobody knows about them. That is changing, though.


Syndicated columnist

Reader Comments
Hide / Show comments
This is excellent news. MORE

advertising

Nation’s Housing

WASHINGTON — Anybody buying a first home quickly learns how important credit scores are to mortgage lenders. They like them high.

But if you’ve been renting for years and have a stellar record of monthly payments to your landlord, you typically run into a sobering reality when you shop for a mortgage: All your on-time payments show up nowhere in your credit-bureau files and do not contribute to your scores.

Ditto for other routine credit payments — your cellphone bills, cable and satellite TV, utilities.

You may have perfect payment histories for all these, but nobody knows about them.

Why? Because the landlord, phone and cable companies, and many other creditors don’t report your payments to Equifax, Experian or TransUnion, the big three credit bureaus.

In the all-voluntary American credit system, they are not required to report anything to anyone.

This is a big deal.

At a time when record numbers of first-time buyers are missing in action in the home-purchase market — many of them in part because their credit scores don’t make the grade — the nonreporting of key credit records is costly to them and the economy as a whole.

But here’s some good news.

Two of the national bureaus — Experian and TransUnion — have begun incorporating verified rental-payment data into credit files where it can be included in the computation of consumers’ scores when they apply for a mortgage.

Experian announced recently that it is teaming up with RentTrack, a service that allows tenants nationwide to pay their rents online and have their monthly payments included in Experian credit reports.

TransUnion confirmed that it, too, is working with RentTrack and is introducing a “ResidentCredit” service that encourages rental-property managers to report monthly payment information for their tenants.

TransUnion also released a new research study that showed how the inclusion of rental data can raise consumers’ scores.

When their monthly payments were reported to the bureau by landlords, nearly 20 percent of renters saw a 10-point increase or more in their score after just one month.

Nearly two-thirds of renters saw at least some increase in their scores within a month or remained neutral.

The same study documented that simply transitioning from renter status, where monthly payments are not reported, to homeowner, where mortgage payments show up in credit reports, boosts most consumers’ scores.

On average, said TransUnion, people who bought a first home in 2012 saw a 5.2 percent increase in their credit scores during the year.

With the advent of Resident Credit, the company said rental managers and landlords will be able to report payment information at no charge, and that TransUnion will, if requested, share the data with other national credit bureaus for inclusion in their records and scores.

RentTrack (RentTrack.com) could be especially helpful to tenants, whether they’re in large apartment complexes or off-campus student housing or are renting from Mom-and-Pop landlords.

Not only are payments reported directly to two of the three major credit bureaus, but tenants can pay rents using electronic checks rather than paper and can track their credit-score progress.

The service costs $1.95 a month, but Matt Briggs, RentTrack CEO and founder, told me that “most (tenants) don’t pay anything because the property manager” or landlord picks up the charge.

Renters who are interested simply have to ask their landlord or manager to visit the RentTrack site and sign up.

Other efforts are under way to help first-time buyers and others get monthly payments into their credit profiles.

Brannan Johnston, Experian RentBureau managing director, said his company is exploring ways to incorporate utilities and cable payments into standard credit reports.

Equifax has created a consumer-services database on individuals’ telecommunications, utilities, cable and satellite TV payments that mortgage lenders can access if borrowers believe these records will improve their chance to qualify.

ECredable.com, an alternative credit-data company, will verify a long list of your payments that aren’t reported to the major bureaus, then create a credit report and score based on these records.

You can then present them to a mortgage-loan officer and request that the information be considered as part of your application. Under federal credit regulations, the mortgage company is required to do so.

Bottom line: Just because you don’t have lots of traditional credit data on file doesn’t mean you can’t buy your first house. Things are looking up.

Ken Harney’s email address is kenharney@earthlink.net



Want unlimited access to seattletimes.com? Subscribe now!

Also in Business & Technology

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon

Universal preschool for all?

Universal preschool for all?

Get schooled on universal preschool before you vote on it in November. Read our 3-part Education Lab series, starting Sept. 21 in the Seattle Times.

Advertising

Advertising

The Seattle Times photographs

Seattle space needle and mountains

Purchase The Seattle Times images


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►