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A credit report tells the landlord if a prospective tenant has honored their financial obligations in the past, and serves as a good indicator of the renter's timeliness and financial stability. The report will show missed payments, late payments, and any balances owed. It may also show any past or outstanding litigation, especially against landlords. It may even include criminal and court records.
This is usually not intended to be an invasion of privacy but rather to see if you have a history of paying your bills on time. A small blemish will usually not interfere with getting the rental, but a chronic history of bad debt and the amount of debt may be relevant.
It is a good idea to get a copy of your credit report before looking for rental properties, so you will be able to explain to prospective landlords the reason behind any blemishes.