Credit reports and credit scores affect consumers in a variety of ways, including their ability to finance a car, rent an apartment or buy a house.

Yet for many people, particularly those with a low to moderate income, getting a credit card or other financing to start to build a credit profile can be difficult. Consumers without a credit report won’t have a credit score at all and those who struggle financially in other ways may have a poor credit score.

Lower or nonexistent credit scores are part of the barrier to homeownership faced by many people of color, and a contributor to the racial wealth gap. According to Creditcards.com, 18 percent of Black Americans had no credit score, compared to 15 percent of Latinos, 13 percent of White Americans and 10 percent of Asian Americans in 2020. In October 2020, White Americans had a median credit score of 725 compared to 661 for Latinos, 612 for Black Americans and 603 for Native Americans.

One way consumers can build their credit profile and potentially increase their credit score is to have their rent payments reported to the three credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Recently the Credit Builders Alliance (CBA) announced the creation of the Rent Reporting Technical Assistance Center (RRTAC) with financial support from Experian. The tool will make it easier for affordable housing providers to report their tenants’ rental payments and provides information to renters about how they can request their monthly payments to be sent to the credit bureaus.

According to the CBA, renters are more likely to have a lower income and less wealth than homeowners, with renters accounting for nearly 60 percent of U.S. households with an annual income under $25,000. Renters are also more likely to be households of color, with Black and Latino households twice as likely as White households to rent. In addition, the CBA says that renters are seven times more likely to be “credit invisible” and lack a credit score compared to homeowners.

Reporting rent payments offers an opportunity to build credit without taking on debt. The CBA’s 2012-2014 Power of Rent Reporting pilot program found 100 percent of residents who started off with no credit score became scorable at the near prime or prime level. Additionally, on average, residents with subprime scores saw those scores increase by 32 points.

To learn more about the Rent Reporting Technical Assistance Center, visit www.rentreportingcenter.org.

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