Sometimes prospective renters pass up opportunities to apply for their dream apartment because they feel they won’t meet the income level, credit score or other requirements of the lease terms and policy. However, renters tend to overlook an option that can strengthen their application and also possibly grant them their dream apartment: an apartment guarantor, also known as a co-signor. Many landlords will notify you if you need a guarantor; however, since not all landlords do, it’s important to keep this option in mind. If, for whatever reason, you fall short of the lease requirements, a guarantor can potentially help reduce the stress of applying.

College students and recent graduates often take advantage of using guarantors (typically parents or family friends, assuming that they meet the necessary credentials). The guarantor cosigns a lease when a potential renter is unable to meet the requirements requested by a landlord. The most important thing to keep in mind is that having a guarantor does not reflect whether or not you are a good or bad tenant. Instead, a guarantor acts as extra insurance to reassure landlords that they will receive each month’s rent.

In many cases, landlords prefer guarantors who live nearby or who earn a significant amount of money (relative to the cost of the monthly rent). Landlords commonly require a guarantor to earn at least 80 times the rent rate; however, this varies based on location and landlord. In metropolitan areas with large rental markets, there may also be programs that act as stand-in guarantors for a one-year lease. In New York City, The Insurent Lease Guaranty Program is a unique program providing institutional guarantors to creditworthy college students, non-U.S. residents, retired individuals and other tenants in need of a little help. These programs require an average credit score and a lower required annual income, bringing many renters one step closer to signing a lease.

When you discuss a lease with a potential guarantor, it’s important to explain that you will likely need personal information, which might seem invasive (such as your guarantor’s recent tax returns, a letter of employment, recent pay stubs and/or recent bank statements). You must also be sure that your guarantor is fully aware that if for whatever reason you are unable to make the payments, he/she is obligated to pick up your rental tab. Signing a lease with a guarantor legally binds both of you to the lease, so be honest and explain exactly why you need him/her to co-sign your rental lease.

Lastly, regardless of your financial situation or what type of guarantor you choose to use, remember to thank him or her after the lease is signed, and respect your promises!