When you have bad credit, you don't just have trouble making purchases on credit. You also run into difficulties when you try and rent an apartment. However, having bad credit doesn't mean that you can't get a good place to hang your hat. This is how you can get a good apartment on less than perfect credit.
Examine and Attack Your Credit Rating
This won't be the quickest way to get a good apartment, but it will be the longest lasting. Getting a copy of your credit report allows you to see what the problems are with your credit. This allows you the opportunity to explain any problems you might have on your credit to a potential landlord. Perhaps, more importantly, you can also begin addressing trouble spots on your credit. Write letters to resolve issues that might not belong on your credit report and start paying down old debts to reverse the damage done to your credit score. It might not help you get the apartment this time, but it will in the future.
For now, talk to your future landlord from an informed position. Particularly at smaller rentals not owned by larger companies, your knowledge of your financial problems can impress your way into a great apartment.
Cosigners are people who sign a lease with you, making themselves legally responsible for the costs associated with an apartment. This can give your landlord a little more confidence about renting to you. Find a friend or family member with better credit and see if they will sign a lease with you. Cosigning is something best avoided if possible, but many landlords have no trouble renting to people with bad credit, provided that someone with good credit is willing to cosign the lease.