What is a Guarantor for Lease, and When Do You Need One?

Published on Apr 5, 2024


Even with careful screening, prospective tenants who look great on paper may not live up to their reputation. Late rent payments, damages, or mid-lease disappearances—unfortunately, nothing’s out of the question.

It’s the type of stuff that makes for sleepless nights, and rightfully so. Unreliable tenants can ruin investments and force owners to take on unforeseen costs. That's why smart landlords (like yourself) have a backup plan. Enter the rent guarantor: your financial safety net for when a rental agreement turns nightmarish.

What is a Lease Guarantor?

A lease guarantor is an individual who accepts financial responsibility if a tenant defaults on the lease agreement. So let’s say the tenant fails to pay rent, causes damage exceeding the security deposit, or incurs legal fees related to the lease; the guarantor is contractually obligated to cover these costs. No if buts or maybes. Lease guarantor agreements have a firm legal basis, making them enforceable in court. They’re definitely not something to take lightly.

What is the Difference Between a Cosigner and a Guarantor?

Cosigners and guarantors seem similar, but the devil's in the details. A guarantor is your “break glass in case of emergency” insurance—they provide the financial backstop when a tenant defaults.

Cosigners, though, are on the hook from day one. They're treated like co-renters and are just as liable as tenants for everything from paying rent on time to wine-stained carpets—the whole nine yards. An agreement with a co-signer gives you more say in choosing a tenant, but if things go south, you could be chasing down two people for payment, not just one.

Here are the nitty-gritty details so you choose the right protection for your investment:





Obligated to cover the tenant's obligations only if they fall into default. This typically includes rent, damages, and legal fees.

Shares equal legal responsibility with the tenant for all lease terms from the get-go and is responsible for every payment the tenant misses.


Limited rights regarding the property. Cannot make decisions about the lease or reside in the unit.

The same rights as the tenant, including the right to live in the property and make decisions about the lease.


Typically less involved in the day-to-day leasing process. Involvement only if the tenant defaults.

Actively involved throughout the leasing process, with equivalent obligations as the tenant.

Real-life scenarios

The tenant stops paying rent. The guarantor is liable once the tenant defaults.

The tenant stops paying rent. The cosigner is liable immediately.

*Note: State-by-state legal obligations can vary.

Learn more: Understanding residential leases.

When Should Landlords Require a Lease Guarantor?

Not every renting agreement calls for a guarantor for lease. Some prospective tenants are a no-brainer to rent to. Background and credit checks are a-OK, and their finances are top-notch. Other times? Well, guarantors just make good business sense. Here are common scenarios when this may be the case:

  • Do you have prospective tenants like students or first-time renters in your crosshairs? They often have zero credit history, not bad credit. A guarantor reassures you they have someone to fall back on.

  • Freelancers, the self-employed, and anyone with variable paychecks, including high earners. A guarantor makes sure rent gets paid, even during lean months.

  • Even internationally relocated professionals with good credit abroad often need help establishing themselves in a new country. Guarantors can also solve this issue.

  • Own a luxury unit? Even someone who exceeds income requirements might be unable to cover repairs if they seriously damage the place. A guarantor bridges that gap.

  • Past evictions, spotty rental history...sometimes a hefty deposit isn't enough. A guarantor provides an extra layer of security if you take a risk on someone.

  • Roommates that aren’t added to the lease also pose risks. A guarantor safeguards against uninvited tenants skipping out on their share of the rent.

Some advice: The conversation with potential tenants around a guarantor can be an awkward one. The best approach? Don’t beat around the bush. Be upfront but remain positive:

  • Frame it as a normal policy or “a standard practice,” not a knock on their reliability.

  • Stress the benefits by mentioning how it will help someone with poor credit or low income secure their dream apartment.

  • Be transparent and explain exactly what you require from the guarantor (proof of income, etc.) so there are no surprises.

Learn more: how to sell a home with a tenant.

The Advantages of Having a Guarantor for Landlords

Let’s flesh out the advantages of guarantor-ships for landlords. That way, you can be absolutely sure the benefits are worth the initial hassle.

1. Streamlined Screening Process

With a guarantor in place, you can stop agonizing over those unreliable numbers and focus on what matters: finding tenants who'll treat your property right. Think of it as a prequalifier—if someone with solid finances is willing to vouch for them, it's a sign they're worth your time. It frees you up to fill vacancies fast without sacrificing peace of mind.

2. Attract Better Tenants

With a guarantor in place, your applicant pool widens significantly. Here's how it helps you find those hidden gems:

  • The “not on paper” crowd, like our recent grads, freelancers, and those relocating internationally, often have the means and motivation to be great tenants, even if their credit score lags behind.

  • Knowing you have a backup means you can make faster decisions without sacrificing your standards. More showings + quicker approvals = money in your pocket.

3. Less Tenant Turnover

Longer tenancies mean predictable income, less time spent on marketing, less cleaning costs, and even the potential to raise rent incrementally with a reliable resident. It all contributes to a healthier bottom line for your rental business. A guarantor can help reduce churn in several ways:

  • Tenants who know a loved one could be liable for damages are often more mindful of your property.

  • Financial disputes are a common reason for lease breaks. With a guarantor in place, there's a clearer path to resolution if issues do arise.

  • Tenants willing to involve a guarantor are often those planning to stay put. This saves you the hassle of frequent tenant searches.

4. Stronger Negotiating Position

The best tenants often have their pick of properties. In a tight rental market, a guarantor policy can be your ace in the hole. Here's why:

  • Savvy tenants know landlords with guarantor requirements are better prepared for unforeseen issues. It signals that your property is a secure choice.

  • If a tenant's loved one is willing to act as a guarantor, it shows the tenant themselves is likely to be reliable.

  • Top-tier tenants often research potential landlords, eliminating those who seem unprepared. Your policy demonstrates you're a pro.

5. Protection Against Market Shifts

Even the best tenants can get hit hard by job losses, rising living costs, and crazy inflation. A guarantor is your safety net during tough times. It's an extra layer of peace of mind that lets you sleep at night, knowing your investment is protected, no matter what the economy throws your way.

Learn more: What happens if a tenant wants to break a lease before moving in?

Who Can Be a Guarantor?

Theoretically, anybody can act as a guarantor. Frequently, though, guarantors are close friends or family of a renter. These close relationships can present conflict of interest issues. A guarantor with an intimate relationship with a prospective tenant may feel pressured to help even if it's not financially wise for them to do so, jeopardizing their own financial security and putting you at risk.

That’s why choosing the right guarantor shouldn’t be about who likes the tenant the most. Instead, you should base your decision on cold, hard financials. Just like you thoroughly screen the tenant, you need to do the same with their potential financial savior. Here's what to scrutinize:

  1. Start with a credit report. Treat this like a second rental application, aiming for the same standards you set for a primary tenant.

  2. Next, dive into their income. Are they steadily employed? Do they make enough to cover their OWN living expenses AND still be able to step in if the tenant defaults? Proof of income and employment history, such as pay stubs or tax returns, is your go-to.

  3. But don't stop there. Background checks, social security numbers, and a review of their bank statements will reveal if debt payments are an issue, even if their annual income seems okay at first glance.

Quick caveat: Close relationships aren’t always a bad thing. A close family member or lifelong friend is far more likely to step in during a crisis than someone who barely knows the tenant. Why? Because, of course, when someone you love needs help, you find a way.

The nuance here is to be careful and do your due diligence. If the prospective guarantor seems hesitant or doesn't have their finances in order, that's a red flag. Remember, you're asking them to take on serious financial risk. There needs to be that deep level of trust and commitment on THEIR end for this to work.

How to Add a Guarantor to a Lease

Adding a guarantor to a lease requires more than a casual agreement. To ensure it's legally binding and protects your interests, there's specific paperwork and procedures to follow.

Firstly, you'll need to write a guarantor agreement. This can be either attached to the primary lease or a standalone document. Use plain language and clearly outline what the guarantor is liable for (monthly rent payments, specific types of damage, etc.), as well as how their liability aligns with the lease terms. It's wise to specify if they're responsible for the annual rent or a set period within the lease.

Ideally, find the guarantor during the initial tenant screening process, but they can be added later if necessary. Remember, the guarantor needs to undergo a process that’s reflective of a rental application process. Thorough background and credit checks are essential, as the guarantor's financial stability makes this worthwhile.

Lastly, ensure all parties—landlord, tenant, and guarantor—sign all relevant documents. Lease laws vary by state, so if in doubt, consult an attorney to review your guarantor agreement or utilize a reputable template designed specifically for your jurisdiction.

Learn more: Common lease agreement clauses for landlords and tenants.

Secure Your Rental Investment

Thorough screening, the right paperwork, and a guarantor to back everything up—that's the recipe for a secure real estate investment and the freedom to focus on what matters.

Your pathway to risk-free rental property ownership doesn’t stop there, though. Savvy property managers ditch the worry and enjoy their investments. How? One word: Ziprent.

From finding amazing tenants and maintenance scheduling to making rent collection a breeze, we have everything you need for smooth sailing. This brings us full circle back to our original goal: passive income.

See how Ziprent will help you achieve that work-life balance landlords dream about.

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