As a landlord, your current credit score is pretty low and is likely below the threshold that many property managers will allow. You may want to try units that are managed by mom and pops rather than professional agencies. They may be less likely to run a credit report or more likely to make an exception.
In the meantime, things I look for in a prospective tenant: 1) They have all the documentation that I require ready to go; 2) they make 3x income to rent; 3) they come to a showing on time; 4) they don't demand a bunch of improvements before moving in (No, I'm not installing a $5,000 AC system for you).
Before you pay another application fee, be upfront with the landlord about your history. Maybe even have letters from your past two landlords documenting that you always pay your rent on time and left the property in good condition. Some people try to offer 6 or 12 months rent in advance to overcome bad credit. This has only happened to me once and I turned the applicant down.
In the meantime, work on cleaning up your credit report. Good luck!
As a landlord, I looked at the big picture.
I did charge an application fee, as permitted by law. The fee was the direct cost to run credit. (No profit for me.) Recent credit (last few years) is important to me.
I called references, to include past landlords. If I can't get a previous landlord, makes me wonder why....
I also look at paystubs (usually 2-5 months) and debt.
I know what the utilties average in the place, for multiple family sizes.
I look at the BIG picture from recent credit, to take home pay, to debt payments, to can the person REALLY afford the place & still make ends meet? I look at all the applications received during a 2 day window, sometimes ask for additional documentation, run credit, and make a decision whom to rent to.
I have turned down applicants who thought they were a perfect fit. I have rented to folks that have had tough times elsewhere. It's the BIG picture that's important.
Honesty is important. Knowing YOUR budget up front is important too. (One applicant had a take home pay of $1800 a month and so desperately need my place for $1500 a month. Yeah, that didn't happen.) Show that you have the savings to make the full deposit plus first months rent plus the fees for turning on utilities in your name.
Individual folks like me have more room to make decisions. Professionally managed places have less room to make decisions.
I still have to evaluate if you can really afford the place without hardship, will you maintain the place, will you keep it clean, will you break the lease (in any number of ways, like the cat example below), will you pay the rent on time, will you pay the water bill on time, will I have to legally nudge to you to pay the rent every month, or will I most likely have to evict you.
Cat example - you show up covered in cat hair, you have cat treats on the dashboard of your car, a photo of your cat is on your phone wallpaper, and you tell me that you are going to give away your beloved cat to move into my place?? Uh, not likely. You might say that and then bring the cat in thinking I wouldn't know or care if you paid the rent on time. In this scenario, you would not be someone I would rent to.
Edited to remove extra lines & add a cat example.
Look at houses and multi family houses for rent by owner.
Sometimes you get more for your money than in an apartment.
2 years ago I was renting a small house but 2-4 bedrooms (if you count the addition with no closet and basement bedroom it's 4)
I had a driveway, yard and detached garage. It wasn't a big house but much bigger than the apartment I moved into in the same town for the same rent.
I know it's cheaper and easier to run credit now but over the years only once did I have a landlord run mine when I wanted to rent their house and I had problems then but he knew I had good income and a good job history and took a chance on me. The owner can make his own rules for who he will rent to and since they don't own an apartment complex they may not have as much experience with bad tennants and be more willing to take a chance.
Start looking on Craigslist.
I listed rentals on Craigslist with success.
* the owner is "out of town" but will email you a rental application for you to fill out and return via email - RED FLAG. I was willing to email an application to someone, but they needed to return it to me in person. I needed the person to see the place, or send a delegate to the see the place, and meet me. First meetings are important! First in person impressions are important!
* the owner tells you to wire or bank transfer or deposit the application fee directly to another account. Nope. Bring me the cash please. No checks. No credit cards. Just cash. Getting $40 in cash for the application fee shouldn't be a problem.
* you are approved for the place without ever meeting the owner or visiting the place or having someone else visit on your behalf. Only once in the years as a landlord did I rent to out of state folks. The folks received a streaming video tour of the place in real time. The folks had to have a real person bring me a check.
* the owner tells you to wire or bank transfer or deposit the security deposit directly to another account. Nope. AFTER I have approved you as a renter, THEN we can make arrangements for the funds to go to my bank account. Not before.
* the owner tells you there is a delay in your ability to move in AFTER you've paid your deposit/first months rent. Uh, no. Stuff happens, got that. But to say something like the other people didn't move out? Not likely. To say that a pipe burst on the main floor, the dry out company is currently on site, the repairs are expected to take a week, and you have choices. Move in anyways & maybe get a small discount on the rent due to inconvenience, or wait a week to move in & rent will be prorated. Ok - that sounds legit.
Please go see the place in person before handing over any funds!
I had a scammer steal my photos for my listing on Zillow and list my rental on Craigslist at 1/3 the market rate. The scammer told people to just go to my property and peek in the windows to see if they liked it. Freaked my tenants out. I had to post signs in the windows and front of the property advising people the existence of the scam, the amount the place was actually being rented for and to not disturb my current tenants.
Since then, I have learned to watermark my photos with my name and email address so my listings don't get spoofed.
Another thing to look for with a fake listing is that everything under the sun is included: Dogs okay! Cats okay! Utilities, laundry and internet included! Bottom line: if a listing is too good to be true, it probably is.
My heart goes out to you! Just over 3 yrs. ago my husband & I were in the same boat but much worse. We had co-signed a vehicle for 1 of our kids that went into repo & a few months later my husband suffered a heart attack & was out of work for 3 mos. In a matter of months the score dropped to mid 400's. We couldn't use our homeowner at the time for a reference because we were 10 days late 3 mos. in a row on the rent (after my husband's heart attack). He notified us he was selling the house & gave us our 30 day notice. We didn't even have the $ for Security or moving. We looked at several homes but nothing we were interested in enough for a credit check (which we knew we would never pass). Finally, I found a house online the instant it was posted. Long story short, we were able to meet w/the homeowner alone (without the realtor) and explained our situation. The homeowner was so happy to meet us & appreciated our honesty, she told the Realtor to draw up a 3 Yr. Lease with NO Credit Check. We even had to get a Registration Loan for the Security Deposit. 3 Years + 3 mos. later, we're still in the house with not 1 minute late EVER on the rent & hoping to purchase our own home in about a year. Scores are low to mid 600 but we're getting there. All I can say is Don't lose Faith, there's always a way!
Renting is tough when you don't have good credit and don't make a lot of money. My mom had to pay a years lease due to her credit and living off Social Security. Luckily she had a friend that was willing to loan her the money and just pay them back the price of rent each month. Had she not been able to do that, she would have been in trouble.