What Is a Co-Signer for an Apartment [2024]

Written by Sunny | Edited by Dr Katherine Blake
10 minute read
Sunny’s AI summary
Embark on a journey through the responsibilities and benefits of having a cosigner for your apartment lease, and explore the alternatives for those sailing the rental seas solo. From understanding the role of a cosigner and how they can change your renting game, to navigating the legal and financial considerations, this guide covers everything you need to ensure smooth sailing toward securing your dream apartment. Plus, discover how to chart your course without a cosigner, including tips on increased upfront costs, subletting, and using rent guarantor services. 🏠💼


With recent rent increases, trying to rent an apartment can feel daunting, especially with limited or poor credit history. Surprisingly, up to 21% of renters, particularly young adults and newcomers, rely on the lifeline of a cosigner to secure their dream dwelling.

In this guide, we want to explore the ins and outs of the role of a cosigner and why having a trusted ally who can help navigate through financial scrutiny and provide a safety net in times of need can be beneficial.

Understanding the Basics

One term you’ll frequently encounter when looking to rent is “cosigner.” But what exactly does this role entail?

A cosigner is a trusted individual, typically a family member or close friend, who agrees to sign your lease alongside you. Their commitment acts as a safety net, promising to cover the rent or any damages if you’re unable to meet your obligations.

How a Cosigner Can Be Beneficial

Let’s paint a clearer picture with a scenario. Imagine you’re fresh out of college, armed with dreams but burdened by a thin credit file. You’ve found the perfect first apartment, but the landlord hesitates, your financial history being as sparse as a deserted island.

Enter your cosigner, your financially stable Aunt Mary, who agrees to sign the lease with you. Her solid credit and stable income reassure the landlord, and voila, the apartment is yours. This situation highlights the transformative power a cosigner can wield, turning uncertainty into assurance.

Cosigner vs. Guarantor: Understanding the Distinction

What Is a Co-Signer for an Apartment [2024]

However, it’s important to distinguish between a cosigner and a guarantor, as they’re similar but sail in slightly different waters.

A cosigner is on the hook alongside you, with equal responsibility for the lease. If you can’t pay the rent one month, your cosigner is expected to cover it as if they were living in the apartment themselves.

On the flip side, a guarantor steps in only when you’ve missed payments. They’re a bit like a safety net, only coming into play if you fall.

While both serve to assure the landlord that rent will be paid, their involvement and timing differ. For instance, if you’re a student moving to a city for university, your parents might cosign your lease, given their direct interest in your welfare. Alternatively, if you’re an established professional who’s hit a rough patch, a guarantor might be more appropriate, stepping in only if there’s a hiccup in your payment history.

Responsibilities and Considerations

Here’s the lowdown on what becoming a cosigner entails, the importance of a strong relationship between the cosigner and renter, and the legal implications that ripple through their financial waters.

Financial Responsibilities of a Cosigner

First off, a cosigner is not just a signature on a piece of paper. They shoulder a significant financial load, agreeing to cover rent or any damages if the renter can’t cough up the cash. Beyond monthly rent, this can also includes any unforeseen damages that might occur during the lease term.

The Foundation of Trust and Communication

The bedrock of any cosigner-renter relationship is trust and open communication. It’s crucial to have heart-to-heart chats about finances and responsibilities before signing on the dotted line. This is not just about ensuring that the renter can keep up with the payments but also about what happens if things go south.

Cosigning can have significant effects on a cosigner’s credit score. If the renter defaults on payments, not only does the cosigner need to cover the costs, but their credit score could also take a hit. This is a big deal because a credit score is pretty much your financial report card. It affects your ability to borrow money, secure mortgages, and even influence interest rates offered to you. In essence, by cosigning, you’re tying your financial reputation to someone else’s financial behavior.

The Rental Process with a Cosigner

What Is a Co-Signer for an Apartment [2024]

Let’s take a look at the process of renting with a cosigner ans how having one can turn the tide in your favor, especially when you’re entering the market with a less-than-stellar credit score.

Step 1: Finding Your Cosigner Compass
Before you even start eyeing potential apartments, identify your cosigner. This could be a family member, a close friend, or anyone with a solid credit history willing to vouch for you. Ensure they understand the responsibilities involved – including the potential need to cover rent or damages – and are fully on board.

Step 2: Gathering Your Navigational Charts
You and your cosigner will need to collect a few key documents to present to potential landlords. These typically include proof of income (recent pay stubs or tax returns), photo IDs, and possibly references. Your cosigner may also need to provide a credit report to prove their financial stability.

Step 3: Setting Sail – The Application Process
Once you’ve found your dream apartment, it’s time to fill out the rental application. Here, you’ll list your cosigner as part of your application, providing all the necessary documents for both of you. The landlord will likely run a credit check on both parties, so make sure your cosigner is prepared for this.

Step 4: Anchoring Down – Signing the Lease
If your application is successful, the next step is signing the lease. Both you and your cosigner will need to sign, agreeing to the terms outlined by the landlord. This is a binding agreement, so make sure everyone fully understands the commitments being made.

Navigating Credit Squalls
When you try and rent with a subpar credit score, landlords may view you as a risky tenant, potentially leading to your application being denied. This is where having a cosigner can calm the waters. Their good credit score and financial stability can persuade landlords to take a chance on you, providing the assurance that rent will be paid on time, even if you hit a financial snag.

The Alleviation a Cosigner Provides
Besides improving your chances of application approval, a cosigner can also help you secure a better rental agreement. With their financial backing, you might be able to negotiate a lower security deposit or more favorable lease terms. It’s like having a seasoned sailor on board, helping you navigate through choppy rental markets to find a safe harbor.

Renting Without a Cosigner: What Are Your Options?

Increased Upfront Costs

One way to bypass the need for a cosigner is to make a grand entrance with your wallet. Some landlords are open to forgoing a cosigner if you can front a larger security deposit or prepay several months of rent.


Subletting from an existing tenant can offer smoother sailing, with potentially more lenient terms than a direct lease. Always ensure subletting is allowed to avoid running aground on legal barriers.

Rent Guarantor Services

For those without a personal cosigner, companies like Insurent act as a guarantor for a fee. While this can be a lifeboat, it’s essential to navigate the costs carefully, including application fees and a percentage of your annual rent.

Cosigner Services: Navigating the Pros and Cons


  • Accessibility: These services offer a lifeline to those without a willing family member or friend.
  • Simplicity: The straightforward process, typically involving an application and a fee, provides a streamlined path to satisfying landlord requirements.


  • Costs: The financial burden can swell with application fees and a slice of your rent, potentially making your rental more costly.
  • Impersonal: Unlike a personal cosigner, these services may not offer the same level of flexibility or understanding.

What to Watch Out For

Read the Fine Print: Understanding the full scope of your agreement, including all fees and obligations, is crucial.

Compare Your Options: Not all guarantor services are the same, so doing careful research to find the one that best aligns with your financial situation and rental aspirations is key.


Can a cosigner be removed from an apartment lease?

Removing a cosigner from an apartment lease isn’t as straightforward as adding one. Typically, this can only be done if all parties agree to alter the lease agreement—a process known as a lease amendment. Alternatively, the lease might need to end, with a new lease signed without the cosigner. This decision largely depends on the landlord’s policies, and some may require proof that the primary renter can handle the financial responsibility alone before agreeing to remove a cosigner.

What happens if the renter defaults on rent?

If the renter defaults on the rent, the cosigner is expected to step in and cover the owed amount. This is because a cosigner agrees to take on the financial obligations of the lease, including monthly rent, damages, or any other lease-associated costs, in case the primary renter cannot pay. Defaulting on the rent can have significant consequences for both the renter and the cosigner, including legal action, negative credit reporting, and potential financial strain.

And if the cosigner cannot pay?

Should the cosigner also find themselves unable to pay, the situation becomes more severe. Landlords may pursue legal action to recover the owed rent, which can lead to judgments against both the renter and the cosigner. This situation can damage both parties’ credit scores and may result in wage garnishment or liens against property.

Is cosigning an apartment lease risky?

Yes, cosigning can be risky. It involves financial liability that can affect the cosigner’s credit score and financial standing. Before agreeing to cosign, it’s crucial to assess the renter’s reliability and financial stability, and the cosigner should be prepared to cover the rent if necessary. Transparent communication and trust are key components of a successful cosigner-renter relationship.

Can cosigning affect my ability to get loans or credit in the future?

Cosigning an apartment lease can indeed impact your ability to secure loans or credit. As a cosigner, you’re taking on additional debt responsibility, which lenders consider when evaluating your debt-to-income ratio. If the renter consistently pays on time, it may not negatively impact you. However, if the renter defaults, and you’re required to pay, it could increase your debt-to-income ratio and potentially lower your credit score, making it harder to receive favorable terms on future loans or credit applications.

What should I do before agreeing to become a cosigner?

Before becoming a cosigner, thoroughly discuss and understand the lease terms, assess the renter’s financial stability and ability to pay rent, and consider your own financial situation and ability to cover the rent if the renter defaults. It’s also wise to set clear expectations and agreements with the renter about handling potential financial issues. Additionally, some cosigners and renters agree to create a separate agreement outlining what will happen if the renter fails to make payments, providing an extra layer of protection and clarity for both parties.

cosigner for apartment
Meet our contributors
Dr Katherine Blake
Dr Katherine Blake
Content Editor
Dr. Katherine Blake is a content editor with Apartment List and Sunny, where she helps ensure our renter and rental management content is fresh and informed by the latest data. Holding a PhD in English Literature from Indiana University, Dr. Blake is not only adept at creating compelling narratives but also brings over a decade of experience as an academic researcher.
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