What Is a Guarantor? Everything You Need to Know Before Signing a Lease

Written by Sunny | Edited by Dr Katherine Blake
11 minute read
Sunny’s AI summary
Navigating the apartment renting process often requires a guarantor, especially for first-time renters, students, or those with fluctuating incomes. This guide demystifies the guarantor role, highlights eligibility criteria, and explores alternatives and professional services for those without a personal guarantor. It also outlines the responsibilities of guarantors and offers tips for both renters and guarantors to ensure a smooth renting experience.


Many first-time renters in the U.S. find themselves in need of a guarantor to secure their dream pad. If you’re dipping your toes into the rental pool for the first time, the concept of a guarantor might seem as perplexing as finding a needle in a haystack.

That’s why we’re here to shine a light on this crucial aspect of the renting process. In this guide, we’ll explore the role of rental guarantors, offering first-time renter tips to navigate this process with ease.

What Is a Guarantor and Why Might You Need One?

What Is a Guarantor?

Ever been in a situation where you’re all set to sign the lease for your dream apartment, only to hit a snag because your credit score did a Houdini on you, or your income is as unpredictable as weather forecasts? Enter the guarantor. Think of a guarantor as that friend who says, “I’ve got your back,” but in the financial sense. They essentially agree to cover your rent if, for any reason, you’re unable to.

Now, you might wonder, “Why on Earth would I need one?” Well, here’s the scoop:

  • You’re a student or a recent grad with a credit history so thin, it’s practically invisible.
  • Your income is too low to based on the average income required to rent the specific apartment.
  • You’re new in town – perhaps an international adventurer with no U.S. credit history to speak of.
  • You’re self-employed – your income swings more than a jazz band, making landlords a tad nervous.

Guarantor vs. Co-signer: Know the Difference

Before you dive in, let’s clear the air about guarantors and co-signers – they’re similar but not quite twins:

  • Guarantors jump into the picture only if you default on rent. They’re like the understudy waiting in the wings.
  • Co-signers are on the lease from the get-go, sharing equal responsibility for the rent and utilities. Think of a co-signer as your co-pilot in this leasing flight.

The Growing Need for Guarantors in Today’s Rental Market

The rental market today is like a rollercoaster that only goes up. With rising rent prices and stricter leasing criteria, snagging an apartment without a stellar credit score or a hefty income can feel like trying to win The Voice without being able to sing.

This is where guarantors come in, providing a safety net for both renters and landlords. They’re becoming more common than ever, reflecting the evolving landscape of urban housing and the challenges younger renters face in meeting stringent leasing requirements.

Who Can Serve as Your Guarantor?

Scouring your contacts list for a hero without a cape? A guarantor isn’t just anyone. They’re your financial safety net, ready to swoop in if the rent’s due and you’re in a pinch. So, who can take on this role?

Eligibility Criteria for Guarantors: The Financial Knight in Shining Armor

First things first, not everyone can be a guarantor. This role requires someone with a robust financial background and a stellar credit history. Here’s the lowdown:

  • Must be over 18 years of age, because with great power comes great responsibility (and you need to be an adult for that).
  • Should boast a strong credit score, showcasing their reliability in handling money. Think of it as their financial report card.
  • Required to have a stable income that’s hefty enough to cover the rent if you can’t.

Beyond the Family Tree: Finding Your Guarantor

While your first thought might be to turn to family, not everyone has that option. But fear not, your guarantor could be closer than you think:

  • Mentors or Employers: Someone who knows your character and work ethic might be willing to vouch for you financially.
  • Close Family Friends: Those who have seen you grow up might just be ready to support your next big step.
  • Professional Guarantor Services: Yes, they exist! For a fee, companies will act as your guarantor, making your dream apartment a reality.

Myth Busters: Guarantor Edition

Let’s clear up some common misconceptions with a mini Q&A:

  • Q: Does my guarantor need to own property?

    • A: Not necessarily. While some landlords prefer property-owning guarantors, the key is financial stability and a solid credit history.
  • Q: Can my guarantor live in a different state?

    • A: Absolutely! While some landlords might have a preference for local guarantors, what matters most is their financial ability to cover your rent if needed.
  • Q: Will being a guarantor affect their credit score?

    • A: Only if you default on your rent. As long as the rent is paid on time, their credit score remains untouched.

In the quest for your rental knight, remember that a guarantor is a vote of confidence in your responsibility as a tenant. Whether they’re family, a trusted mentor, or a professional service, ensure they’re fully aware of their responsibilities and are comfortable with the arrangement.

Understanding the Responsibilities of a Guarantor

What Is a Guarantor?

So, you’re considering becoming a guarantor, or perhaps you’re on the hunt for one? Either way, understanding the responsibilities of a guarantor is crucial before anyone signs on the dotted line. Let’s break down what it means to be the financial safety net in the world of leasing.

The Financial and Legal Obligations of a Guarantor

At its core, being a guarantor means you’re saying, “I’ll pay the rent if the tenant can’t.” Sounds simple, right? But there’s a bit more to it. Here’s the lowdown:

  • Rent Payments: If the tenant misses a payment, it’s on you. You’re the backup plan, ensuring the landlord doesn’t miss out.
  • Lease Terms: As a guarantor, you’re also saying you’ll ensure the tenant sticks to all other lease terms. Think of it as promising that your friend won’t throw wild parties that lead to calls from the police.

When Guarantors Can’t Fulfill Their Obligations

What happens if the guarantor can’t cover the rent or lease breaches? It’s not a scenario anyone wants, but it’s important to understand:

  • Legal Action: Both the tenant and guarantor could face legal proceedings. This means court dates and possibly even garnished wages.
  • Credit Score Impact: Just like late payments can ding a tenant’s credit, they can also affect the guarantor’s. A defaulted payment isn’t just a temporary headache—it’s a long-term credit score migraine.

Are You Ready to Be a Guarantor? A Checklist

Before jumping into the role of guarantor, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is My Credit Score Solid? You’ll need a good to excellent credit score to be considered.
  • Can I Afford It? Ensure you can cover the rent if necessary, without jeopardizing your own financial health.
  • Do I Understand the Lease? Know what you’re signing up for. If the tenant violates lease terms, you need to be ready to step in.
  • Am I Prepared for the Possible Impact on Our Relationship? Money matters can strain relationships. Ensure both parties understand the implications.

Becoming a guarantor or finding one is a significant step in the rental process. It’s about trust, financial stability, and a willingness to support someone in securing their home.

Finding a Guarantor: Tips and Alternatives

Finding a trustworthy guarantor isn’t as daunting as it might seem, even if your immediate circle doesn’t include a financially stable, credit score-wielding superhero.

Strategies for Finding a Trustworthy Guarantor

  1. Start Close to Home: Approach family members or close friends who understand your situation and may be willing to help. Transparency about your financial situation and the responsibilities involved is key.
  2. Broaden the Horizon: Look beyond your immediate circle. Employers, mentors, or long-standing family friends might be willing to step in, especially if they have a vested interest in your success and stability.
  3. Prepare Your Pitch: When asking someone to be your guarantor, come prepared. Outline your financial plan, how you intend to cover rent, and how you’ll handle potential financial hiccups. Demonstrating responsibility can go a long way.

Third-party Guarantor Services: A Modern Solution

For many, family and friends might not be an option, or perhaps you prefer to keep finances strictly professional. That’s where third-party guarantor services come into play. These companies act as your guarantor for a fee, offering a lifeline to those unable to meet the stringent requirements of landlords.

Alternatives If a Suitable Guarantor Isn’t Available

Don’t lose heart if you can’t find a guarantor or the service fees are out of reach. Consider these alternatives:

  • Offer to Pay More Upfront: Some landlords may be willing to bypass the guarantor requirement if you can pay a higher security deposit or a few months’ rent in advance.
  • Look for Guarantor-Free Rentals: Some landlords and rental platforms specialize in accommodations for those without guarantors. It might limit your options, but it’s a viable path to independence.
  • Build Your Credit: If time allows, focus on improving your credit score. A healthier credit profile can sway landlords to consider you without a guarantor.

Remember, the journey to finding your ideal apartment is rarely a straight line. Whether through a guarantor, a third-party service, or an alternative route, persistence and creativity will serve you well.

Before You Sign: Essential Considerations for Renters and Guarantors

Before diving headfirst into the world of guarantors and rental agreements, it’s crucial to press pause and consider a few essential points. Here’s a quick guide to ensure you’re not only crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s but also safeguarding your financial future and personal relationships.

Understanding the Rental Agreement

First off, wrap your head around every detail of the rental or lease agreement. This document is a binding contract that outlines your responsibilities as a renter and, if applicable, as a guarantor. Misunderstandings or overlooked clauses can lead to unexpected obligations or disputes. So, if legal jargon isn’t your forte, don’t shy away from seeking clarification or professional advice.

Impacts on Credit Scores and Personal Relationships

Signing as a guarantor is akin to tying your financial wellbeing to someone else’s ability to pay rent on time. It’s a big deal. A financial advisor’s gem of wisdom here is simple yet profound: understand the full extent of your commitment. If the tenant defaults, not only could this put a dent in your credit score, but it might also strain or sever personal relationships.

Vetting Guarantor Arrangements

Not all guarantor arrangements are created equal. It’s essential to vet the specifics of what you’re signing up for, whether you’re the renter or the guarantor. Look for clarity on the extent of the financial commitment, under what circumstances the guarantor would be called upon, and how disputes are resolved.

Final Thoughts

In summary, take the time to fully understand the rental agreement, discuss the potential impacts with those involved, and thoroughly vet any guarantor arrangements.

Now that you’re equipped with this knowledge, why not take the next step towards finding your ideal apartment? Our AI-powered apartment-finding platform personalizes your search, helping you find rental options that meet your specific preferences and requirements. Whether you need a guarantor or not, we streamline the process, making it easier and faster to find your next home.

Get started today!


Q: Can someone be a guarantor with bad credit?
A: Unfortunately, no. A guarantor needs to have a good to excellent credit score. This ensures they’re seen as financially reliable in case they need to cover rent payments.

Q: How do I ask someone to be my guarantor?
A: Approach the conversation with honesty and preparedness. Share your financial plan, how you aim to cover rent, and why you think they’d be a great fit as your guarantor. Remember, it’s a big ask, so give them space to think it over.

Q: Is there a way to rent without a guarantor?
A: Yes, there are a few routes you can take. You might offer to pay a higher security deposit, seek out guarantor-free rentals, or work on boosting your credit score to meet landlord requirements.

Q: Do guarantors need to sign the lease?
A: Yes, guarantors usually sign a part of the lease that outlines their responsibilities and obligations. This ensures everyone understands their role in the rental agreement.

Q: Can a guarantor withdraw their support?
A: Withdrawing as a guarantor isn’t simple once the lease is in effect. It generally requires the consent of all parties involved, including the landlord, and may necessitate finding a replacement guarantor.

Q: How many guarantors can I have for a rental?
A: Typically, one guarantor per lease is standard. However, this can vary based on the landlord’s policies and the specifics of the rental agreement.

Q: Does being a guarantor affect my ability to get a loan?
A: Being a guarantor shouldn’t affect your loan eligibility unless the tenant defaults, and you’re required to cover their payments. It’s a responsibility that should be considered carefully.

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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