Portrait of a young woman. "Need a co-signer"It was love at first sight. When you saw that custom-tile walk in shower, you swooned. That was even before you found out that the tile floor is heated. You just had to have it. But as often happens in life, reality intruded.

You’re young. There is nothing like the bloom of youth, but you don’t have much credit, any rental history, and while you just landed your first job out of school – and it’s a great opportunity – you don’t start until next week. In other words, you’re an unknown.

Or maybe it’s not quite like that. Sometimes in the bloom of youth we make mistakes, mistakes that we later regret. You’ve learned some important lessons and now things are different, but in this instance, you’re not an unknown, but what is known, we’d rather not talk about.

So what to do? Maybe the solution is to get a co-signer.

So the answer to the question, “why do I need a co-signer,” would be because your track record is either lacking or negative. Landlords make rental decisions based on things like landlord references, credit reports, criminal background checks and continuity of income. If you don’t have much history in these areas or if the history is checkered, you may need a co-signer.

A co-signer is a person that is not going to live in the apartment, but is going to take financial responsibility for the apartment as if they did live there. The co-signer is not only responsible for the rent on the apartment, but also any damage to the apartment. In other words, co-signing is a big responsibility.

Given the degree of responsibility involved, it’s usually a parent or close relative that co-signs. But whoever co-signs, they are going to need to have the things that you lack. In other words, the co-signer needs to be financially stable, have sound credit, good income continuity and be free of criminal drama. In short, the co-signer is subject to the same rental criteria as the person occupying the apartment. In fact, the co-signer fills out the same application as the occupant.

In fairness to your co-signer, there are a few things they should know. First, this is no short-term hitch. While the initial lease term may only be for a year, typically the co-signer is obligated to successive rental periods as well. This is the case with Decker Properties. In other words, the co-signer is responsible for the entire term of tenancy for as long as the resident continues in the apartment or until another arrangement is made in writing.

Second, the co-signer does not have the opportunity to change their mind. Sometimes those youthful indiscretions we were discussing earlier take longer to sort out than anyone anticipated. In addition, the co-signer can get frustrated with broken promises and the resulting checks the co-signer has to write. So the co-signer decides on some tough love: no more rental or damage payments. If a balance remains unpaid and the apartment remains occupied, the property owner may choose to evict. The co-signer will almost certainly be named as a defendant in addition to any actual occupants.

As you might imagine, there can be a lot of hurt feelings over co-signing, not to mention hurt bank accounts. Often, everything goes as planned and everyone is happy. However, there are risks and responsibilities with co-signing that are very real.