A credit check is one of the background checks a landlord or management company will run on a potential tenant before allowing them to lease an apartment. It helps landlords mitigate their risk and ensure that you can pay rent and not damage their property during the term of your lease. The credit check is part of the application process, which also includes employment and income verification, rental history, and criminal background check.
Potential landlords will almost always run a credit check during the qualifying process to verify that you pay your bills in a timely manner and that you follow through on any contracts you agree to. Your credit report will also show if you owe any money to previous properties you have lived at, so it is an important way to check your rental history.
There are some things that you may have on your credit report that a potential landlord is not concerned about. These are medical bills and student loans. Both are quite common and in an apartment complex's eyes, do not reflect poorly on your ability to be a good renter. On the other hand, the worst thing a property manager could see on your credit report would be money owed to another apartment community because it shows you have been a bad tenant in the past.
If there are issues with your credit report, there are some management companies that will work with your credit in its current state. They would most likely request an additional deposit to cover that risk. If you owe money to another property or have a broken lease, there are some management companies that will work with you, but problems with your rental history severely limit what apartments you are eligible to lease.
An apartment locator can help you find which properties will work with bad credit or rental history problems, and help facilitate a conversation with them.