An apartment cosigner guarantees a lease or rental agreement for the primary renter. Some landlords or property managers may require an apartment cosigner when a potential tenant does not meet credit, financial, or background requirements that are typically required for renting an apartment. The cosigner takes on responsibility for paying any rental obligation as well as for damages caused to the apartment that are not covered by a security deposit. In situations where an apartment resident defaults on his or her rent or damages the rental unit, the landlord or property management company can sue the cosigner for any money owed just as if the cosigner was the primary resident. In some jurisdictions, the cosigner's credit may also be affected as a result of a primary renter's failure to meet his or her financial obligations.
Landlords and property management companies often establish criteria for those who wish to rent an apartment. Typically, the landlord will look at an individual's income to ensure that he or she is able to pay the rent and may also examine the applicant's credit to see how well the applicant manages his or her finances. In addition, the landlord may also run a complete background check to get an idea of the applicant's personal history. These screenings are typically performed to protect the landlord's business by helping to ensure that selected tenants will pay their rent and not damage their apartment or use it for illegal purposes.
If the renter does not have a good credit history, has no credit history, or the landlord is not comfortable with his or her income or background, the landlord may agree to allow the applicant to find an apartment cosigner. The cosigner will typically undergo the same screening process as a tenant. If the cosigner qualifies to rent an apartment, the cosigner will sign off on the lease, agreeing to meet its obligations if the tenant does not.
There are several risks involved when becoming an apartment cosigner. The obvious risk is that the primary tenant may default on his or her rent obligations or may damage the apartment and be unable or unwilling to pay for these damages. The difficulty is that the apartment cosigner may not be informed of these problems until the landlord or property manager files a lawsuit against the tenant and the apartment cosigner. In addition to having to cope with a lawsuit and make any necessary payments, a lawsuit and judgment may be reported on the apartment cosigner's credit report. This can be extremely damaging to the cosigner's credit rating and cause significant friction between cosigner and tenant.