Are you putting off declaring bankruptcy because you're afraid you'll never be able to rent an apartment again? Have you heard horror stories from friends or relatives about how they got turned down for a rental because of their bad credit? Relax. Having a bankruptcy on your credit report won't prevent you from finding a great place to live.
It's true that some places – particularly apartment complexes – do check your credit, and do accept or deny your application based on the results. If you have your heart set on living in a place like this, do yourself a favor: call them up beforehand, and ask what their requirements are. Be specific. Ask if they refuse to rent to anyone with a bankruptcy on their record. Find out your credit scores in advance, and ask the apartment manager if your scores sound like they're in the right range. If not, you've just saved yourself the $40-50 application fee. If the manager says, “well, they're a little low,” offer to bring documentation showing your reliability: pay stubs from work, bank statements, savings accounts, rental history, letters of recommendation. Some apartment complexes will rent to people with lower credit for an additional deposit.
Remember, too, not every apartment owner will check credit. Many individual owners don't do a credit check. Even those who do are likely to listen to your story about what happened, and why you declared bankruptcy. Be brief but honest; most importantly, explain how your situation has changed. Make sure they understand that the bankruptcy means you owe less (or no) money now, and are therefore better placed to make the rental payments. Again, bring documents to support your story. You can also point out that since a person can't declare bankruptcy for another seven years, you are actually, in some ways, a better risk than someone who hasn't declared bankruptcy – if you stop making payments, they could take you to court and you wouldn't be able to discharge those debts. Be careful with this argument though: although it's both true and valid, some landlords might consider the fact that you're bringing up the possibility of not paying rent as a bad sign.
Another suggestion is to look for places to rent that are less strict. Some rentals will advertise: no credit check required. Check out apartments that are offering specials: one month free if you rent by June 1st, for example, or no deposit required. Generally, this indicates a place with low occupancy, and owners who can't afford to be quite as picky.
Finally, once you get established in a new apartment, do everything you can to maintain the path to financial stability you started by declaring bankruptcy. Take steps to rebuild your credit. Begin to establish a nest egg so that you have some savings in case of emergencies. Most importantly, pay your rent on time every month. If you need to rent another place in the future, having a solid record of making monthly payments could be invaluable.