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The reporting of negative information could affect tenants who might want to withhold rent as a way to force landlords to maintain or repair buildings, Ms. Nelson said. If landlords report the withheld payments, tenants may feel pressured to pay to avoid harming their credit. A recent news report suggested that has happened in New York City.

Zillow’s service deems payments on time if they are received within 30 days of the due date, said Amy Wipfler, senior product manager for social impact at the company. Payments made after that aren’t reported. The new service is available to “tens of thousands” of renters, she said.

Currently, Zillow’s service reports just to Experian. If a participant applies for a loan with a lender that uses one of the other credit bureaus, the positive rent payments won’t have an impact. Zillow aims to add the other credit bureaus, Ms. Wipfler said. (Other services, like Esusu and Self Financial, report to all three.)

Here are some questions and answers about using rent payments to help credit scores:

No. Only the latest, but not yet widespread, versions of credit scoring systems from FICO, the data analytics company, can incorporate rent data, said Ethan Dornhelm, the company’s vice president for scores and predictive analytics. The FICO 8 version, an older but widely used model, cannot factor in rents, he said. All versions of VantageScore, a scoring model owned by the major credit bureaus, are able to factor in rent payments, a spokeswoman, Sarah Cain, said in an email.

That varies. Some services are free for both landlords and tenants, while others may charge one-time or monthly fees. (Some are free for new rental payments but charge for reporting prior rental history.) It may not be worthwhile for consumers who already have top-tier credit scores to have their rent reported, since they would probably see incremental benefits from an even higher score, Ms. Johnson at TransUnion said.

Options for building credit if you have a scant credit file or marred credit include opening a “secured” credit card. You typically make a deposit and get a line of credit up to that amount, and your payment history is reported to the credit bureaus. Some community banks and credit unions offer “credit builder” loans. The money you borrow is held in a bank account while you make payments, which are reported to credit bureaus. Once you have paid the loan amount, you get access to the funds.

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