I never thought paying my rent late could do this to my credit score

Pay Dirt is Slate’s money advice column. Do you have a question? Send it here to Lillian, Athena and Elizabeth. (It’s anonymous!)

Dear Pay Dirt,

I live in a rental apartment managed by a fairly large local property management company in my small town of Portland, Oregon. I recently got a new job and due to the changes in my pay dates and salary schedule (and with no buffer fund in the bank), I’ve been begrudgingly paying my rent a day late for the past three consecutive months. I am finally back on track (paid on time this month, and will be able to continue to do so in the future).

I just tried to accept a credit card offer that I was supposedly pre-approved for, but it was declined. The reason given was due to my credit score. Then I checked my credit score online and found it had dropped from a good 672 to a bad 624, with the only negative note on the screen being three late payments. I am current on all my other bills, with absolutely no other delinquent payments for many years, so the drop must be due to my late rent. I had no idea that the property management company could or would report payments to credit bureaus. Is this typical? Do I have reasons to ask them to stop reporting? For some context, landlords in my city are required by law to provide a four-day grace period for arrears in rent (meaning they can’t charge arrears until the fifth day’s rent is overdue).

– I didn’t want to pay late

Dear did not want to pay late,

I’m generally a fan of the various services that report rent to credit bureaus because it’s an excellent way for people to build credit history without borrowing money. It is increasingly common for property management companies to offer services such as Credit Builder as a perk to their tenants, although this is generally an opt-in service. Unfortunately, these services can hurt more than help if you pay late. But most of these services only report to one credit bureau. Request a free copy of your credit report from all three annualcreditreport.com bureaus so you can get a clearer idea of ​​where you want to remove delinquent payments.

Since you were in the allotted grace period, it’s worth contacting your property management company and asking them to remove the delinquent payments from your credit report. If you don’t have any luck with them at first, you can write a letter of goodwill explaining the situation and outlining the grace period and your temporary payday hiccups. You can also ask to unsubscribe from a credit reporting service when you talk to them. However, they still have the right to report overdue rent payments and bills in collections, but flagging them a day late is extreme. In the long run, the best thing you can do for your credit score is to pay your bills on time every time – the more positive history you have on your credit report, the fewer three late payments matter.


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