Short guide to using a cosigner in San Francisco

Don’t just assume that your dream apartment is out of your reach.

Editorial Team

By Editorial Team

The multicolored houses in a row in San Francisco that is called the Painted Ladies. The street goes up at an angle and there are trees in front of the homes with a blue sky behind them

You’ve found a great job in San Francisco and now you need to find a place to live. You check out various listings online and find a few places you might be interested in, but then you take a look at the requirements and you realize you don’t qualify.

Does that mean you’re never going to find a place to rent in San Francisco?

No, of course not.

Instead, you have a few options, one of which is to find a cosigner.

Also, keep in mind, though, that not all landlords accept a cosigner in San Francisco. First, let’s take a look at what a cosigner is and why you might need one. 

Why do I have to qualify to rent an apartment?

If you’re moving from another country, you might not understand what all these rental qualification requirements are about.

Well, it’s quite simple really. They’re the equivalent of qualifying for a mortgage. Just like how a bank wants to make sure you will be capable of paying the loan bank, landlords want to make sure you are capable of paying the rent.

two people sitting at a table having a meeting and discussing cosigning

The more competitive a market is, the more stringent these requirements are. San Francisco is a competitive market as more and more people are flocking to the city, making it increasingly difficult to find an apartment to rent.

While different landlords might have different requirements, most want to see (at a minimum) stable employment. They want to be sure that you earn enough money to pay the rent.

Stable employment often means that you have worked for at least a year for the same company. However,  some landlords will accept the same industry – especially if you can prove that the reason you are moving is to take a new job. 

Earning enough money to pay your rent usually translates into earning a monthly paycheck that is at least three times the value of the rent.

Some landlords will also demand that you have a good credit history and/or renter’s history. Larger management companies tend to be sticklers for this, while some smaller landlords probably will not check your score at all. In the event that you don’t meet some of these requirements, some landlords will accept a cosigner in San Francisco.

How a cosigner in San Francisco can help you rent an apartment?

Legally speaking, a cosigner is responsible for paying your rent if you are unable to do so, just like with a guarantor on a loan.

Some landlords will accept a cosigner because it reduces the risk they are exposing themselves to. For instance, if you don’t earn enough money to meet the income requirements, you have a poor credit history or none at all.

However, the law in California is somewhat different to somewhere like New York, for example. Some NYC landlords won’t accept a lease guarantor because it’s far too difficult for them to recover their money (as the cosigner isn’t really liable).

What requirements does a cosigner in San Francisco have to meet?

If you do find a landlord willing to accept a cosigner in San Francisco, not just anyone will do. They will have to meet certain requirements.

Generally, most landlords want the guarantor to at least live in the same state. This makes it easier for them to sue the person in order to recover their money.

The cosigner will also have to earn enough money to cover the rent comfortably.

So, like you, they will have to at least earn three times the value of the rent. Sometimes though it might be even more, especially if they are also renting a space for themselves.

Finally, they will require an excellent credit score. Keep in mind that credit scores of 650 and below are now considered to be sub-prime, so you need someone who has a credit score of at least 700, if not more.

Are there other options?

If a cosigner in San Francisco isn’t an option, either because you don’t know someone who meets the requirements or because you haven’t found a place that accepts one, don’t panic!

There are a few alternatives. 

Offer to pay in advance

As the saying goes, money talks, and in this case it often does. You’ll find many landlords tend to become more lenient when you offer to pay a few months’ rent in advance.

Also, paying a security deposit along with the first and last month’s rent is often enough to get your foot in the door, although you might have to pay even more.  

Try subletting

In some situations, your best option is to try to sublet an apartment. This basically means renting space in an apartment (or the whole apartment in some cases) from the current tenant. This won’t always work because some landlords won’t agree to it.

For many, though it’s not a problem as they know they’re still guaranteed to get their rent paid.

Don’t give up

San Francisco is a competitive market so it might take you some time to find an apartment you can rent. Don’t lose hope and get discouraged!

two people moving in together getting a key to their new apartment

Another alternative is to rent an apartment from a property management company like Blueground. They provide fully-furnished, completely equipped homes that come serviced via an app. The flexible lease terms mean that you can move between apartments and explore various neighborhoods within the same city.

Your ideal apartment can be ready and waiting for you from the moment you arrive in the city.

Editorial Team

Editorial Team

The Blueground editorial team covers the best things to see, do, and experience in our cities around the world.