You’re apartment hunting, but you also know that your credit rating is hardly through the roof—in fact, it’s somewhere in the basement next to your old soccer shoes. This doesn’t mean that you will never find a decent place, however, it just means you have to be more proactive:
First of all, know your credit rating. You can get a free report every year from Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. You can also check if there are any discrepancies in reporting between these bureaus by using the TrueCredit 3-in-1 Credit Report. Know what you’re up against. You’ll look a lot better, too, if you don’t look shocked at the state of your finances.
Know why your rating is low and be prepared to explain it. You should understand what has gotten you to this place, both so you can avoid similar circumstances and begin to build good credit again, and so you can tell a landlord exactly why your past problems won’t be factors in renting from him.
Once you start looking, get to know your landlord first. If you take time to get on good terms with a prospective landlord, she’ll be more likely to trust your explanation of credit problems. If you’ve already presented yourself as an excellent steward of whatever apartment you rent, she’ll be much more likely to take a chance on you than if you’re a stranger emailing her about on online ad.
You can also search for places that don’t require credit checks. They do exist. Also, some of the hippier property managers don’t end up running credit checks—this has happened to me personally, and had a lot to do with me seeming charming and responsible, I do believe.
When the conversation comes around to it, tell them upfront about your credit situation. Better yet, if the manager is prepared to run a credit check, offer to provide it yourself. That way, you look prepared and accountable, and you prevent too many “hard checks,” or people other than yourself requesting your credit information, which can slightly damage your score.
At the end of the day, don’t pin all your hopes on one place, and don’t get discouraged. Some landlords are stricter than others. There are other fish in the sea, and there are other cute little apartments with understanding owners just waiting for you and your tenuous finances.