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Expert Interview: Shazia Virji of Credit Sesame Discusses Renting and Financial Literacy for Renters

Being financially literate and understanding what implications there are for your financial actions is very important, not only for homeowners, but for renters as well. Credit scores impact your ability to obtain a favorable lease, and not having a properly planned budget can backfire when it comes to making the monthly payments beyond rent.

credit sesame shazia virji

To give you more insight into the financial aspects any renter should be aware of, we’ve asked Shazia Virji, General Manager of Credit Services at Credit Sesame, to share some of her thoughts on increasing financial literacy for renters and especially on managing your credit score to gain an edge in the lease approval process.

•  How can renters gain an edge in the process of lease approval?

The lease approval process can happen rather quickly, especially when there are multiple applicants and the landlord is motivated to fill the vacancy as soon as possible. Most landlords will check your credit score as one of the final items on their checklist, to determine if they’re comfortable renting to you. Having a good understanding of where your credit stands before the landlord even gets to that step can help you save a lot of time and effort.

•  How important is it for renters to monitor their credit scores? What tools are there to help renters do so?

Your credit score is an important factor when a landlord decides if you’re the most qualified applicant. This score is a strong indicator of how responsible you are with your finances and if you’re accountable for paying your credit cards and other debt obligations on time. Your score provides a signal to the landlord if you’ll be paying your rent on time, which at the end of the day, is one of most important things to the landlord. It’s like a reference, but for your finances! There are various tools to monitor and find out what your credit score is, but the most critical thing to know is how to boost your score if it’s not in the best shape, especially if you’re looking to make a big financial decision, such as renting an apartment.

•  What are your go-to recommendations for improving credit score as a renter?

For many households, rent is the single largest monthly expense and, historically, these payments have not been part of the credit score equation. But it is now and it’s an option that many renters aren’t aware of yet. Some financial wellness platforms such as Credit Sesame can collect, verify and report your rental payments to the credit bureaus on your behalf to help you establish credit and also improve your credit based on your consistent and on-time payment history.

The positive impact to your score can happen immediately, sometimes in as little as 10 days. This will help you get a leg up as you’re looking to move into a new apartment or even take the step toward purchasing a home. For those who are new to credit, immigrants, students, or those who are just getting their foothold into the financial system, this is an easy and affordable way to get rewarded for a payment that you’re already making on a monthly basis.

•  What other financial aspects should renters be aware of? Do you have any tips for renters to increase their financial literacy?

44 million Americans are considered credit invisible, meaning they have little to no credit history. Many consumers have largely avoided credit cards and other traditional credit products due to the fear of racking up debt and, ironically, these financial decisions have led consumers to be locked out of the credit system, making it more difficult for them to reach their financial goals. If a landlord notices that you don’t have a credit score, this could be a red flag that you have limited experience and knowledge within the financial ecosystem.

The most important thing you can do for yourself is to gain the awareness and look to build and strengthen your credit. If you don’t know where to start, there are plenty of services, such as Credit Sesame, to help you out. You won’t become an expert overnight, but being armed with the right information and tools can make a significant difference in both your short and long term financial aspirations.

Mihaela Buzec
Mihaela Buzec
Mihaela Buzec is a senior writer and online content developer for RentCafe. She covers topics about everything related to the renting lifestyle, from decorating and interior design to finding the right apartment, frugal living, money saving advice, and more. She dives deep into topics of interest, writing well-researched comprehensive guides on subjects such as renting with pets, saving on utilities, or avoiding rental scams to help renters stay informed and live smart. Mihaela holds a BA in English and German Language and Literature, an MA in Current Linguistics, and she is currently pursuing a PhD in neurolinguistics.

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