MIAMI (CBS4) – When former NFL player John Diggs found an apartment after a long search, he knew he had scored a touchdown.
There was just one catch.
“My credit has some challenges,” Diggs admitted, “and the landlord requested that I get a co-signer.”
Diggs didn’t want to burden his family, so he paid a company to co-sign the lease for him.
“I didn’t know these kind of services existed,” said Diggs.
Janna Herron with BankRate.com said the premise is simple; for a fee companies like WeCosign, Insurent, and CoSigner.com will guarantee your lease for a contractual period of time, even if you have bad credit or an unstable source of income.
“If you default, they pay the landlord the rest of the lease,” she said.
With the financial crisis and a shaky job market, experts said these services are in demand.
“We have people that are students, and then we have people that are mid-life age,” said Frank Jakubaitis of WeCosign.
“We’ve also co-signed athletes and lawyers and doctors,” he added.
Fees vary depending on the service. It is usually a percentage of the monthly or annual rent, typically ranging between 6% and 10%.
“You may have to pay some other fees, such as a sign-up fee, a processing fee, a background check fee and those could easily add another $100 to $200,” Herron said.
Even though these services are designed for those with poor credit, applicants still need to qualify.
“They have their own minimum income and credit score requirements and some others will deny you if you have too many outstanding utility bills, too many evictions or a violent criminal record,” Herron warned.
CBS4 News contacted the Better Business Bureau which said it’s important to keep in mind that this is “a fairly new industry,” one that could have “real potential for abuse.” In fact, there were several complaints online.
Herron said don’t be afraid to try friends and family first.
“It’s the option of last resort,” she said.
Diggs was happy to have the option and within days he had his keys in hand.
“It’s a sense of peace, a sense of warmth that I now have my home,” he said. “I’m on my way to re-building and re-establishing my life.”