Start your apartment search by scanning ads. Numerous websites including rent.com and apartments.com can connect you directly with landlords who may be forgiving of your credit history. It is likely they suffered in the market downturn just like you did.
In the event that your credit score is requested, honesty is always the best rule of thumb. Be upfront about your credit history and even consider adding a written note to your report explaining shortcomings and discrepancies. Remember, the goal is to build trust with the landlord.
If concerns still remain, then providing written references can go a long way, especially if they come from previous landlords who can vouch for your promptness with payments and how you cared for your last apartment. Also consider negotiating with other tools, such as paying several month’s rent at signing or offering a higher security deposit. Actions like these can do a lot to make up for questionable credit.
If you still can't strike an agreement, then keep a few other options in mind as well. For example, suggest a month-to-month rental agreement as opposed to a fixed-term lease. Landlords often view month-to-month agreements as a better option for questionable tenants. You also might volunteer to set up an automatic payment option to reassure a skeptical landlord.
With the right approach, a poor credit rating doesn't have to keep you out of your perfect apartment.