Can Lenders See My Utility and Rental Payment History?

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When you apply for new a new loan or credit card, the lender or card issuer will always check your credit report or reports as part of the underwriting process. And, because you already know that lenders are likely to review your credit report anytime you seek financing, it’s normal to wonder what information they might see. In addition to all of your prior bank relationships, you may be wondering, can lenders see my utility and rental payment history as well?

What you’re really asking, even if by accident, is whether utility and rental payment history will show up on your credit reports.  You might have a positive payment history that you’re hoping will show up on your credit reports. Conversely, you might have a negative payment history associated with your rent or utility accounts that you hope won’t be there for a prospective lender to see.

In most cases, your rent and utility payments will not appear on your credit reports, especially if they’re in good standing. But, there are scenarios where these types of accounts could show up on your credit reports and could either help or hurt your credit scores.

Positive rental and utility payment history

As far as on-time rent and utility payments go, those accounts are unlikely to appear on your credit reports. While it is certainly not forbidden, landlords, tenant management companies and utility companies rarely act as “furnishers”, the formal term for a company that reports information to the credit bureaus.  Nonetheless, there can be some exceptions to the norm.

For example, some landlords proactively report rental payment history (positive or negative) to Equifax, TransUnion, and/or Experian for their tenants. There are also potential ways to add rent and utility accounts to your own credit reports if you wish to do so.

Here are some of your options

  • Rent Reporting Services: If your landlord does not report rental payment history to the major credit bureaus, you can consider subscribing to rent reporting services. For a fee, these services may share your rental history with one or more of the major credit reporting agencies. And, if you have a positive payment history the information could possibly benefit your credit scores. The downside, of course, is there’s a fee to this option.

  • Experian Boost: Experian Boost is a free service that’s available to any consumer. When you sign up for Experian Boost, you give Experian permission to comb through your bank account data for your payment history on utility accounts, mobile phones, and some subscription services (e.g., Netflix). If payment history shows up, Boost can add those accounts to your Experian credit report where they have the potential to help some of your Experian-based credit scores. The downside is Boost only applies to Experian so it will not do anything to help your credit reports at TransUnion or Equifax.

  • eCredable Lift®: eCredable Lift is a service that may help you proactively add utility payment data to your TransUnion credit report for a fee. However, this service does add both positive and negative payment history to your TransUnion credit report. So it probably isn’t a good fit for anyone who has history of paying their utility bills late.

Negative rental and utility payment history

If you don’t pay your rent and utility payments, you might experience some unpleasant credit-related consequences, in addition to your power being cut off for non-payment. Unpaid debts can sometimes show up on your credit reports in the form of collection accounts.

Collection accounts can stay on your credit reports for up to seven years. If a collection account does appear on one or more of your credit reports, anytime a lender checks your credit report it could see the negative account.

Not only could a collection account potentially cause you problems on a loan or credit card application, but it might also lower your credit scores. As long as a collection account appears on your credit report credit scoring models like FICO can consider it when calculating your credit scores.

In sum

While your rent and utility accounts don’t always show up on your credit reports, there are some options available. There are pros and cons to the options, including the price and the limited practical benefit of information that doesn’t appear on all of your credit reports. If you’re unsure if your rent or utility accounts appear on your credit reports you can check for free at AnnualCreditReport.com.

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