With the housing market as expensive as it is, many Americans are forced to rent apartments. But bad landlords can make life difficult, especially if they levy unfair or excessive charges against tenants. If you have one or more excessive or inaccurate charges on your credit report, you need to know how to dispute those charges and remove them so they don’t affect your credit score. Read on to learn more.
Apartment charges are any charges that appear on your credit report related to owning or renting an apartment. They can include cleaning fees, extra debts, unpaid rent, unpaid security deposit fees, and more.
Say that you leave an apartment squeaky clean and believe you’ve done a great job of ensuring that it’s in good condition for the next tenants. You fully expect your security deposit to be returned in full. However, when you move to your new apartment, your landlord writes a letter saying that they took the security deposit for unspecified damages or cleaning fees. Your security deposit wasn’t enough for all the costs, so the landlord also charges you $500 extra, which they hand off to a collection agency.
This terrible situation is far from uncommon. Predatory landlords can trap tenants, especially inexperienced tenants, in circumstances that force them to pay exorbitant fees or unfair penalties. Those fees or penalties can then show up on credit reports.
In these cases, apartment charges can weigh down your credit score and make it harder for you to secure new housing after moving out. Think of apartment charges as other debts or bills – in the eyes of the credit bureaus, they represent money you need to pay back, decreasing your creditworthiness.
Even though apartment charges can be devastating to your credit score and frustrating to deal with, you can dispute them in a variety of circumstances.
For starters, you can dispute apartment charges on your credit report if they are inaccurate.
For instance, imagine that you save and gather the first and last month's rent, plus a security deposit, for a massive payment to move into a new apartment. Everything apparently goes smoothly, and you are handed the keys to your new home without trouble.
However, a few weeks into your tenancy, the apartment manager gets back to you saying that you actually owe them another $200. They’ve miscalculated, but they’ve already handed that debt to a collection agency, so it shows up on your credit report.
You can and should dispute this charge since it’s not money you actually owe.
Similarly, you can dispute out-of-date apartment charges. Out-of-date apartment charges include old debts or payments that you previously made, but which were not updated on your credit report for one reason or another.
For instance, maybe you previously owed your apartment manager $200, but you paid it back on time and in full. However, the apartment manager failed to report this to the credit bureaus, so your record remains inaccurate.
You can also dispute any unfair charges, such as the above-mentioned scenario in which the apartment tenant is charged $500 extra for unspecified cleaning fees. In many cases, if you can prove to the credit bureaus that the charge was unfair or unsubstantiated, they’ll remove the charge line item and its effect on your credit score.
Not all apartment landlords are predatory or lazy with credit furnishing, but many are. Therefore, it’s important to scan your credit report regularly to make sure none of these potential apartment charges affect your credit score and, if they do, to begin disputing them immediately.
You can dispute unfair or inaccurate apartment charges on your credit reports by following a straightforward, step-by-step process.
First, be sure to contact the apartment landlord or owner if the apartment charge you want to dispute is (in your eyes) a result of their mistake. For instance, if there's an out-of-date apartment charge on your credit report, contacting the apartment landlord to ask them to inform the credit bureaus of the problem is a great initial step.
Be polite but firm in your request, and include supporting documentation, like a copy of your credit report, to show that there’s a problem. If the landlord is an honest individual, they should have no trouble contacting the credit bureaus to fix the issue.
If the apartment landlord or owner doesn’t take the right steps, or if the issue is due to illegal, unfair, or unsubstantiated charges, contact the credit bureaus instead. You can do this online or by writing a physical letter.
Write a dispute letter to the affected bureau(s). Your dispute letter should include a breakdown of the situation, an explanation of the error or inaccurate information, and any supporting documentation that may be necessary to prove your case, like a copy of your credit report, copies of previously paid bills, etc. The more information you can provide to the credit bureaus, the faster they will be able to solve the problem.
At this stage, all you have to do is wait for a response. Most credit bureaus should get back to you within 2 to 3 weeks, though the credit dispute process can take up to eight weeks at maximum. If the credit bureaus don’t correct the inaccurate credit information, you could have grounds for legal action according to the Fair Credit Reporting Act.
Whatever you need to dispute apartment charges on your credit report, contact both the apartment landlord or owner and the credit bureau(s) affected by the charges. Include as much information as you can in a dispute letter, then be prepared to contact legal representatives if your rights are violated or if the at-fault party doesn’t correct the record when shown the right information.