Bad credit keeps family out of apartments

A 36-year-old Filipina did not expect life in America to be hard.

For a month now, Ruth Balderrama and her family—her 8-year-old daughter, 5-month-old son and boyfriend Douglas Rainey—have been living in a motel, paying $59 a day.

Getting an apartment to rent is out of the question. They’re already been turned down 6 times by apartment complexes because of bad credit.

“Every time we apply, they always tell us they can’t accept us because of our credit situation,” said Balderrama.

Balderrama and Rainey both work as full-time caregivers and believe they can become responsible renters if only they are given the chance.

Rainey said: “It’s not an issue of whether we can pay. We can pay. It’s just a matter of getting accepted for housing.”

Balderrama’s financial troubles began in 2008 when she lost her job in retail and she went through a divorce. Her credit score became worse when a friend stole her personal information and opened credit cards under her name.

Now her credit is down to 520. It does not help that her boyfriend’s credit score is also bad.

“I don’t want to raise my children in this motel. But we have no choice,” she said.

The United States government has yet to pass a measure that would push apartment complexes not to deny housing to those whose credit scores went down because of the recession.

Advocates are now lobbying for landlords not to rely on the FICO scoring system when approving tenants. They said landlords should also take into consideration the tenants’ ability to pay — pay stubs, phone and utility bills — to determine that even those with low credit scores can be responsible renters.

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