Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tip for Winter

While browsing some winterizing your apartment tips online, we ran across this great one from the Des Moines Register webarticle.

Stop using your venting fans! You want to keep the moisture from your shower in the house! The moisture is great for the air that gets dried out by the heater. When you are cooking, don't turn on the vent fan that pulls that oven heat out of the kitchen, keep that warmth in!



Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Having Roomates

When deciding to have roommates in your first apartment or your tenth, having a clear set of rules will make the experience much better! Using accomidationforstudents.com, here is a list of important considerations.

-Be sure everyone is very clear of the terms of the lease and how each will fulfill their responsibility. Know who pays what, when it is due, and how long it will be paid.

-Set up to each pay individual portions of the rent to the landlord on a certain date and a certain place.

-Decide how meals will work. Who will grocery shop, will there be an individual effort or group effort?

-Overestimate for bills so no one is surprised when they are due.

-Plan how living arrangements will go with joint spaces. Can parties be held? When? Who is invited?

-Work with each other in deciding who will clean what and when.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Tenant / Landlord Rights

The legal relationship between a tenant and a landlord of the apartment is governed by a few different factors. First, several statutes in the Texas Property Code, particularly Chapter 92. Second, the oral or written lease. The terms of the lease are considered legal documentation for the acting relationship of the landlord and tenant. Read the lease carefully before you sign it, you will be held accountable for the content. If there is something you do not agree with, propose a change to the landlord. Once the lease is written out and signed by both parties, it becomes a legally binding document. Changes can be initialed by both parties, putting the change into effect.

Information gathered from the Texas Attorney General website.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Apartment Amenities

When searching for an apartment, finding the right amenities can be just as important as location and price. Start by listing what features you want in your apartment, and ones you simply can not live without. This will help your search and narrow down possible apartment homes. Below is a list of different features apartments commonly offer. Bring your checklist to us and we can search for the apartment that fits your needs!

Apartment Amenities-

- Hardwood Flooring
- Fireplace
- Balcony
- Garden Tub
- Walk In Closet
- Linen Closet
- Outside Storage
- Microwave
- Dishwasher
- Vaulted Celing
- Washer/Dryer
- Yard

Complex Amenities- 

- Access Gates
- Free Cable/Internet
- Pool
- Jacuzzi
- Laundry Room
- Fitness Center
- Business Center
- Clubroom
- Sports Courts
- Pets Allowed
- Parking Options

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dog Breeds That Are Good In Apartments

The question "do you accept pets" always comes up when apartment hunting. But what breeds of dogs are a good match for apartment life? We found a list on dogbreedinfo.com that answered that question! Click here for the complete list.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Renting With No Social Security Number

Unlike employers, landlords are not restricted from renting to undocumented residents of the United States or those without social security numbers.  In fact there are many people in Texas that fall under this category.  In general there are two types of residents without social security numbers:  documented and undocumented.

Examples of documented residents that may not have a social security number include those with green cards, work visas, work permits, or I90 student visas. For these types of renters there is a supplemental non-resident application that you will need to fill out.  With this type of application, apartments will also require legal documents verifying your status within the United States.  These residents often do not have verifiable income from an employer within the United States.  If that is the case it is important that you are able to show money in a US bank account, whether the money is wired in from your country of origin or from a student loan.

Undocumented residents are those that have no social security number and no documentation of their status within the United States.  Since criminal and rental history checks are much more complicated for these types of residents, very few apartments will rent to them.  Those that will usually require an additional deposit that can be as much as 1 month’s rent.  All will require some form of ID, like a Matricula (if your country of origin is Mexico), or a driver’s license or resident card from another country.  They will also require you to verify your income.

If you have questions about renting without a social security number, give us a call, we can help you navigate your options quickly and help you find the best possible Austin apartment!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Food Storage

With all of the recent natural disasters, keeping food storage is a great idea for everyone. Even if you live in a small apartment, keeping some necessities on hand in case of an emergency is important! This list is an example of what to have in an emergency kit, but you should personalize it to you own needs.

-Water and/or water purification system
-Medications
-Cash
-Change of Clothing
-Contacts Information
-Flashlight
-Hygiene Products
-Non perishable food items
-Insurance Policy
-Copies of birth certificate and/or social security card

*This list compiled with the help of the Food Storage Made Easy website.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Lease Terms

When leasing an apartment, it is important to know several items covered in your lease. The Texas Apartment Association defines some of those points of interest.

- When rent is due and what late charges will be placed.
- Requirement of advanced notice when you plan to leave the rental property.
- Responsibilities at the end of the lease term.
- Room mate policy.
- Restrictions affecting security deposit.
- Owners obligation for repairs.
- How to request repairs.


These are among the most important terms to know when you are signing a lease.






Thursday, August 25, 2011

Getting Your Deposit Back

The Texas Attorney General describes how to get your apartment deposit back.

Recovering Your Deposit. Most landlords require you to pay a security deposit to cover any repairs needed when you move out or to cover your failure to pay the last month's rent. By law, landlords cannot refuse to return the deposit without a valid reason.
Deductions for damages. Under Texas law, you must give the landlord a forwarding address and the landlord must return the deposit — less any amount deducted for damages — within 30 days. If the landlord withholds part or all of your deposit, he or she must give you an itemized list of deductions with a description of the damages.
Normal wear and tear. The landlord may not charge you for normal wear and tear on the premises and may only charge for actual abnormal damage. For example, if the carpet simply becomes more worn because you and your guests walked on it for a year, the landlord may not charge you for a new carpet. If your water bed leaks and the carpet becomes mildewed as a result, you may be charged.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Renting With No Verifiable Income


The large majority of Austin apartments and rentals will require you to prove that you can afford to pay the amount of rent they are charging before they will lease to you.  In apartment speak, this is called ‘verifiable income’.  In short, verifiable income would be a steady paycheck that you can show a pay stub or have an employer verify that you receive.

There are several sets of people that may not have what is considered verifiable income, yet they would still be able to afford rent.  For example you may get paid in cash or live off a bank account, or the support of another person.  If you fall under one of these categories, there are some things that you can do to verify your ability to afford rent besides show a pay stub:

1) Have a Cosigner.  In Texas, cosigners don’t have to sign the lease, or even be in the city you are renting in.  Their purpose is to financially back-up the renter in the case that they are unable to pay rent.  The cosigner application is a separate lease.  If the renter does not default on their rent, then they will not be affected at all.  A cosigner will typically have more stringent income requirements of as much as 5 times rent and exceptionally strong credit.

2) Supply Bank Statements.  Typically they will require 3 times rent TIMES the lease term.  For example, on an $800/mo rent and a 1 year lease term, you will need $800 * 3 * 12 mo = $28,800 in the bank.

3) Supply Tax Returns.  If you are self-employed, but do have steady income, you may be required to supply the previous year’s tax return or even multiple years worth of tax returns to verify your income level.

3) Supply a Letter of Hire.  If you are new to a job, or paid in cash, then an apartment might allow you to bring in a letter from your manager, signed on verifiable company letterhead stating your start date and your expected wages.

Renting without verifiable income can complicate your application process and not all Austin apartments will accept alternate forms of verification.  An apartment locator can help you determine your best options for qualifying at the apartments you want.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Keeping Cool in this Heat!

Below is an article from the Care 2 website about keeping your home or apartment cool while keeping energy costs down this summer!

Adapted from Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings, by Alex Wilson, Jennifer Thorne, and John Morrill.
Puzzling out how to keep your house as cool as possible during these hot summer months? Trying to remember the conventional wisdom but not quite sure how it goes? Those window fans, for example, should they be placed to draw air in or out? Upwind or downwind of the dwelling? And what about windows, shades, and awnings? Are windows on the North side of the house better left closed or open during the day? Are awnings better than shades?
Find out the answers to these questions and more, right here:
The recent heat spell on the East Coast dredged these questions up for me, and I am sure these questions are seasonal for many of us. Efficient cooling saves money, energy, and the quality of our lives.
Turning to Consumer Guide to Home Energy Savings by Alex Wilson, Jennifer Thorne, and John Morrill of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy has provided a wealth of answers to just these questions and more. I’ve compiled 23 tricks about how to keep a house cool to reduce the need for air conditioning from this book, as well as a few from The Real Goods Solar Living Sourcebook. These tips are really useful.
1. Reduce the cooling load by employing cost-effective conservation measures. Provide effective shade for east and west windows. When possible, delay heat-generating activities such as dishwashing until evening on hot days.
2. Over most of the cooling season, keep the house closed tight during the day. Don’t let in unwanted heat and humidity. Ventilate at night either naturally or with fans.
3. You can help get rid of unwanted heat through ventilation if the temperature of the incoming air is 77 F or lower. (This strategy works most effectively at night and on cooler days.) Window fans for ventilation are a good option if used properly. They should be located on the downwind side of the house facing out. A window should be open in each room. Interior doors must remain open to allow air flow.
4. Use ceiling fans to increase comfort levels at higher thermostat settings. The standard human comfort range for light clothing in the summer is between 72 F and 78 F. To extend the comfort range to 82 F, you need a breeze of about 2.5 ft/sec or 1.7 mph. A sow-turning ceiling-mounted paddle fan can easily provide this air flow.
5. In hot climates, plant shade trees around the house. Don’t plant trees on the South if you want to benefit from passive solar heating in the winter.
6. If you have an older central air conditioner, consider replacing the outdoor compressor with a modern, high-efficiency unit. Make sure that it is properly matched to the indoor unit.
7. If buying a new air conditioner, be sure that it is properly sized. Get assistance from an energy auditor or air conditioning contractor.
8. Buy a high-efficiency air conditioner: for room air conditioners, the energy efficiency ratio (EER) rating should be above 10; for central air conditioners, look for a seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER) rating above 12.
9. In hot, humid climates, make sure that the air conditioner you buy will adequately get rid of high humidity. Models with variable or multi-speed blowers are generally best. Try to keep moisture sources out of the house.
10. Try not to use a dehumidifier at the same time your air conditioner is operating. The dehumidifier will increase the cooling load and force the air conditioner to work harder.
11. Seal all air conditioner ducts, and insulate ducts that run through unheated basements, crawl spaces, and attics.
12. Keep the thermostat set at 78 degrees F or higher if using ceiling fans. Don’t air-condition unused rooms.
13. Maintain your air conditioners properly to maximize efficiency.
Additional tips from the Real Goods Solar Living Sourcebook, edited by Doug Pratt and the Real Goods staff.
Warm Weather Window Solutions
14. Install white window shades or mini-blinds. Mini-blinds can reduce solar heat gain by 40-50 percent.
15. Close south and west-facing curtains during the day for any window that gets direct sunlight. Keep these windows closed, too.
16. Install awnings on south-facing windows, where there’s insufficient roof overhang to provide shade.
17. Hang tightly woven screens or bamboo shades outside the window during the summer to stop 60 to 80 percent of the sun’s heat from getting to the windows.
18. Apply low-e films.
19. Consider exotic infills in your windows, a new technology that fills the space between panes with krypton or argon, gasses that have lower conductivity than air, and which boost R-values.
Tips for your A/C
19. Provide shade for your room A/C, or the outside half of your central A/C if at all possible. This will increase the unit’s efficiency by 5 percent to 10 percent.
20. Clean your A/C’s air filter every month during cooling season. Normal dust build-up can reduce air flow by 1 percent per week.
22. Turn off your A/C when you leave for more than an hour.
23. Several studies have found that most central air conditioning systems are oversized by 50 percent or more.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Renting Instead of Buying

For many people, home buying is not a good option, renting an apartment is better. Finances, short term move, and many other reasons can be factors when deciding to rent or buy a home. Below is an exerpt in an article from the National Real Estate Investor. It explores the housing market and where renting is a better use of your money. Find the complete article here.


The U.S. housing market has been declining since the expiration of the tax credit last spring, although recent data show some signs of leveling off. Helped by the 2011 spring selling season, the April S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices dipped 0.1% month-over-month, the smallest decline since July 2010.

Nonetheless, U.S. home prices have declined by approximately 30% on average since peaking in the summer of 2006. As both current and potential homeowners consider their housing options, we believe that continued price declines and a slow recovery in home prices are reshaping the economics of the “rent or buy” question.

With housing affordability near its all-time high, does it still make sense to rent? Here we compare the costs of renting versus owning in the top 49 markets across the country.

The price-to-rent ratio is one of the most common metrics used in assessing the health of housing markets. Historic data from 1983 through 1998 show a steady relationship between median home prices and rents at the national level [Exhibit 1].

Starting in 2000, rent growth did not keep pace with the steep home price appreciation, pushing the price-to-rent ratio well above the historic average. Many market observers have identified the dislocation between prices and rents as both an indicator of the housing bubble and as a tool for helping to understand the relative affordability of these two housing options.

Home prices have been declining since 2006, forcing the price-to-rent ratio to revert to its long-term average. As of the first quarter of 2011, the price-to-rent ratio is slightly below 1.0, suggesting that on the national level renting is essentially the same as buying economically, although the trend seems to be tilting toward buying going forward [Exhibit 1].

Although the price-to-rent ratio is a simple and effective comparison of the costs of buying and renting, it does not take into account the full range of economic considerations associated with the two housing options.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Criminal History: Felony


Renting when you have a criminal history is complicated and can be very difficult.  If you have been charged with a crime, whether you were convicted or not, if can and will be found during a criminal background check and can make it difficult to rent.  Two types of criminal records make it difficult to rent: misdemeanors and felonies.

For misdemeanors, the major components that the landlord will look for is the age of the offense, the degree of the offense and whether the offense was aggressive or non-aggressive.  Regardless of the degree of your misdemeanor, typically if you are within 5 years of your offense, landlords will address these on a case by case basis.  Typically apartment managers will not accept applicants whose criminal record contains crimes of person or property.  For example DUI & public intoxication is accepted more often then an aggressive assault, drug charges, or theft which is sometimes considered a crime of property.

For those whose criminal record contains a felony, your Austin rental options are very limited.  Due to Fair Housing regulations apartments don’t want to open themselves up to the possibility of having to accept higher degree felonies if they accept lower degree felonies, so they tend not to accept felonies of any kind.

If you have a criminal record you will need extra help to find rentals that will work with your situation.  An apartment finder may be able to help.  

Monday, July 18, 2011

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Humane Society Renting With Pets


Great article from the Humane Society regarding renting with pets.

Following these steps will help you conduct a successful search for animal-friendly rental housing.

1. Give yourself enough time.

No one likes the hassles involved with moving, much less finding rental housing that accepts pets. If possible, start to check ads and contact real estate agents and rental agencies at least six weeks before you plan to move.

2. Understand why many housing communities reject pets.

Put yourself in the shoes of a landlord, housing manager, property owner, or condominium association board member for a moment: They may have had bad experiences with irresponsible pet owners who didn't safely confine their animals or pick up their feces, sneaked pets in, or left ruined carpets and drapes when they moved out. They may be worried about complaints from neighbors about barking dogs and wonder how they are going to deal effectively with pet owners if problems arise. All these concerns are legitimate.
That's why people looking for an apartment, house, or condominium to rent must be able to sell themselves as responsible pet owners, who are committed to providing responsible pet care and being responsible neighbors.

3. Make use of available resources.

Contact the humane society or animal care and control agency serving the area into which you are moving; the agency may be able to provide you with a list of apartment communities that allow pets. If you know any real estate agents, rental agents, or resident managers who own pets themselves or who share your love of animals, ask them for leads. Look for a community apartment guidebook at the supermarket or near newspaper distribution boxes on the street. The guide may indicate which apartment communities allow pets and may list any restrictions, such as species allowed or weight limits.
In addition, be sure to check local newspapers. Finally, take a look at our links to sites that list animal-friendly apartments.
Looking for an animal-friendly apartment? We have a state-by-state list to help you on your search »

4. Recognize that it may be futile to try to sell yourself and your pet to a large rental community with a no-pets policy.

You're more likely to be successful if you focus on places that allow most pets, allow certain pets (for example, cats or dogs weighing less than 20 pounds), or that don't say, "Sorry, no pets." Individual home and condominium owners may be easiest to persuade. Ideally, look for a community with appropriate pet-keeping guidelines that specify resident obligations. That's the kind of place that's ideal for pet owners because you'll know that other pet caregivers there also are committed to being responsible residents.

5. Gather proof that you're responsible.

The more documentation you can provide attesting to your conscientiousness as a pet owner, the more convincing your appeal will be to your future landlord. Compile the following documents:
  • A letter of reference from your current landlord or condominium association verifying that you are a responsible pet owner.
  • Written proof that your adult dog has completed a training class, or that your puppy is enrolled in one.
  • A letter from your veterinarian stating that you have been diligent in your pet's medical care. Supply documentation that your pet has been spayed or neutered and vaccinated against rabies. (Sterilized pets are healthier, calmer, and far less likely to be a nuisance to neighbors.) Most veterinarians routinely fulfill such requests for their clients.

6. Make your request to the individual or group with the ultimate authority to grant your request.

Usually this will be the owner of the house or apartment. The owner may, however, delegate the decision to a property manager or resident manager. Check to see if, in addition to obtaining the landlord's approval, you must also submit a written request to the building's board of directors (or association, in the case of a condominium community).

7. If you encounter a no-pets policy, ask if it is the result of a negative experience with a previous resident.

Addressing your landlord's prior experience may show you how to present your own request most effectively.

8. Let the landlord, manager, or condominium board know that you share any concerns about cleanliness.

Point out that your pet is housetrained or litter-box trained. Emphasize that you always clean up after your dog outdoors and that you always properly dispose of your pet's waste.

9. Promote yourself.

Responsible pet owners make excellent residents. Because they must search harder for a place to live, pet caregivers are more likely to stay put. Lower vacancy rates mean lower costs and fewer headaches for landlords and real estate agents. Let prospective landlords and managers know that you understand that living with a companion animal is a privilege, not a right.

10. Promote your pet.

Offer to bring your pet to meet the owner or property manager, or invite the landlord to visit you and your pet in your current home. A freshly groomed, well-behaved pet will speak volumes. Emphasize that the same pride you take in caring for your pet extends to taking care of your home. Many landlords are concerned about fleas, so be sure to let your prospective landlord know that you maintain an active flea-control program for your pet and home. Provide written proof that your pet is spayed or neutered and is, therefore, healthier, calmer, and less likely to be a nuisance.
Make it clear to the landlord, manager, or condominium board that you keep your cat inside and your dog under control at all times and that you understand the health and safety benefits of doing so.
If you can't arrange for a meeting, consider making a short scrapbook with photos of your pampered pet in his or her current home, and/or draw up a résumé for your pet. Scrapbooks and résumés are unique ideas that are guaranteed to make a strong, yet positive, impression.

11. Be willing to pay a little extra.

Tell your prospective landlord or resident manager that you are willing to pay an extra security deposit to cover any damages your pet might make to the property.

12. Get it in writing.

Once you have been given permission by a landlord, manager, or condominium committee to have a pet, be sure to get it in writing. Sign a pet addendum to your rental agreement. Comprehensive agreements protect people, property, and the pets themselves. If your lease has a no-pets clause, verbal approval won't be enough. The no-pets clause should be removed from the lease (or crossed out and initialed) before you sign it. Be sure it has been removed from or crossed out on your landlord's copy, too.
You may be required to pay a pet deposit, some or all of which may be nonrefundable. Be sure to discuss deposits and monthly pet-related fees in advance. And have these fees put into writing, too. Request a copy of any house rules pertaining to pets. Let the landlord know that you will abide by the rules set for the broader community and respect the concerns of residents who do not own pets.

13. Be honest.

Don't try to sneak your pet in. Keeping an animal in violation of a no-pets rule contributes to the general inclination of landlords not to allow pets. You also may be subject to possible eviction or other legal action.

Friday, July 8, 2011

What TAA Can Do For Renters

The Texas Apartment Association has many great resources available for apartment renters. Below is an excerpt from their site.
  • TAA has developed a new Lease Contract Overview video that highlights important information in the lease for residents. This resource is available in both English and Spanish.
  • The TAA Education Foundation offers Renting 101, a free online program to better educate first-time renters about their rights and responsibilities.
  • TAA communicates regularly with our members about changes in the laws and regulations that govern rental property.
  • TAA provides resources and assistance to ensure that our members are operating effectively, legally and ethically.
  • TAA has been a key proponent of legislation that has increased habitability and security standards for residents of rental housing.
  • Legislation supported by TAA has set the standard for security devices (locks and other items) required in residential rental housing. Texas laws are among the nation's toughest for required security devices and for return of security deposits.
  • TAA has also supported uniform statewide fencing requirements for pool yards at rental properties to improve pool safety and reduce the likelihood of accidental drowning.
  • TAA has also been instrumental in supporting the passage of meaningful tort reform in the state. These reforms have helped keep a lid on operating costs and costs associated with frivolous lawsuits, which can add to the cost of rent.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Smoke Detector



A landlord must install smoke detectors throughout the apartment. But which rooms require them? For the answer, we turn to the State of Texas Property Code for landlord and tenant.

Sec.A92.255.AA
INSTALLATION AND LOCATION IN NEW CONSTRUCTION.
(a) Before the first tenant takes possession of a dwelling unit,
the landlord shall install at least one smoke detector outside, but
in the vicinity of, each separate bedroom in the dwelling unit,
except:
(1)AAif the dwelling unit is designed to use a single
room for dining, living, and sleeping, the smoke detector must be
located inside the room;
(2)AAif the bedrooms are served by the same corridor, at
least one smoke detector must be installed in the corridor in the
immediate vicinity of the bedrooms; and
(3)AAif at least one bedroom is located on a level above
the living and cooking area, the smoke detector for the bedrooms
must be placed in the center of the ceiling directly above the top
of the stairway.
70
(b)AAIn this section, "bedroom" means a room designed with
the intent that it be used for sleeping purposes.
Acts 1983, 68th Leg., p. 3650, ch. 576, Sec. 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1984.
Sec.A92.256.AAINSTALLATION IN UNITS CONSTRUCTED OR OCCUPIED
ON OR BEFORE SEPTEMBER 1, 1981. (a) If the dwelling unit was
occupied as a residence on or before September 1, 1981, or the
building permit for the unit was issued on or before that date, the
landlord shall install at least one smoke detector in accordance
with Sections 92.255 and 92.257 on or before September 1, 1984.
(b)AABefore September 1, 1984, a tenant may install a
battery-operated smoke detector in the tenant ’s dwelling unit
without the landlord ’s prior consent if the installation is made
according to Sections 92.255 and 92.257. When the tenant ’s lease
terminates, including after a renewal or extension, the tenant may
remove the smoke detector, but the tenant is liable to the landlord
for any unnecessary damages to the dwelling unit caused by the
removal.
Acts 1983, 68th Leg., p. 3651, ch. 576, Sec. 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1984.
Sec.A92.257.AAINSTALLATION PROCEDURE. (a) Subject to
Subsections (b) and (c), a smoke detector must be installed
according to the manufacturer ’s recommended procedures.
(b)AAA smoke detector must be installed on a ceiling or wall.
If on a ceiling, it must be no closer than six inches to a wall. If
on a wall, it must be no closer than six inches and no farther than
12 inches from the ceiling.
(c)AAA smoke detector may be located other than as required
by Subsection (b) if a local ordinance or a local or state fire
marshal approves.
Acts 1983, 68th Leg., p. 3651, ch. 576, Sec. 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1984.
Sec. 92.2571.AAALTERNATIVE COMPLIANCE. A landlord complies
with the requirements of this subchapter relating to the provision
of smoke detectors in the dwelling unit if the landlord:
(1)AAhas a fire detection device, as defined by Article
5.43-2, Insurance Code, that includes a smoke detection device
71
installed in a dwelling unit; or
(2)AAfor a dwelling unit that is a one-family or
two-family dwelling unit, installs smoke detectors in compliance
with Chapter 766, Health and Safety Code.
Added by Acts 2007, 80th Leg., R.S., Ch. 1051, Sec. 12, eff. September 1, 2007.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Criminal History



Renting when you have a criminal history is complicated and can be very difficult.  If you have been charged with a crime, whether you were convicted or not, if can and will be found during a criminal background check and can make it difficult to rent.  Two types of criminal records make it difficult to rent: misdemeanors and felonies.

For misdemeanors, the major components that the landlord will look for is the age of the offense, the degree of the offense and whether the offense was aggressive or non-aggressive.  Regardless of the degree of your misdemeanor, typically if you are within 5 years of your offense, landlords will address these on a case by case basis.  Typically apartment managers will not accept applicants whose criminal record contains crimes of person or property.  For example DUI & public intoxication is accepted more often then an aggressive assault, drug charges, or theft which is sometimes considered a crime of property.

For those whose criminal record contains a felony, your Austin rental options are very limited.  Due to Fair Housing regulations apartments don’t want to open themselves up to the possibility of having to accept higher degree felonies if they accept lower degree felonies, so they tend not to accept felonies of any kind.

If you have a criminal record you will need extra help to find rentals that will work with your situation.  An apartment finder may be able to help. 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Renters Insurance



If your apartment is vandalized or an accident occurs, having renters insurance will ensure replacement of your property. Here is an explanation from the Texas Apartment Association.

If you have renters insurance, your insurance should cover your losses, minus any deductible. If you don't have insurance, you'll be responsible for replacing or repairing your property. The property owner's insurance does not cover property belonging to residents; it only covers the property owner's belongings, buildings, etc. If the property owner or his employees negligently caused the accident, you may have grounds to recover damages from the owner, but you'll need to have legal advice.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Rights for Safety


As a renter, you have rights to a safe living environment. The Texas Attorney General outlines these rights.

You have a right to demand that the landlord repair any condition that materially affects your health and safety. Under Texas law, by renting you the property, the landlord guarantees that the unit will be a fit place to live.
SB 1448 (81st Regular Session), effective January 1, 2010, now grants justices of the peace authority to order landlords to repair or remedy conditions affecting a tenant's health and safety, as long as the cost of the repair does not exceed $10,000. Tenants can go to justice court without an attorney to obtain a repair order.
Under certain conditions, you and the landlord may have a written agreement that you will make needed repairs. The landlord does not have a duty to pay for or make repairs if you or your guests cause an unsafe or unhealthy condition through negligence, carelessness, abuse or accident—unless the condition resulted from "normal wear and tear."
Also, the landlord must provide smoke detectors. You may not waive that provision, and you may not disconnect or disable the smoke detector.

Friday, June 3, 2011

When to Start Looking for an Apartment

 
You start looking today!!!  Right now!!!!!! When can we meet???!!!  Seriously, most properties know availability 60 days out…but if they are on UT shuttles or close to a school/university, often times “preleasing” occurs way before that. So contact us when you know you want to move, and we can work on the best place for you in the timeframe you are looking at.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Lockout


What exactly is a lockout? The Austin Tenants' Council provides an explanation on what a lockout means.

A LOCKOUT IS NOT AN EVICTION. There are many misconceptions about a lockout. Some think it is a way to evict a tenant, and others think that the tenant has to pay the delinquent rent to be able to reenter the dwelling. The Texas Property Code, §92.0081 – §92.009, describes under what conditions a landlord may change the locks on a rental unit and the tenant’s remedies if the law is not followed.
A landlord may not change the locks because of a tenant’s failure to pay the rent unless the lease includes written notice of the landlord’s right to exercise a lockout.
The intention of the lockout law is to force a tenant who is delinquent in rent to have contact with the landlord to discuss the problem or to arrange payment. Landlords must follow a strict procedure when changing the door locks of a tenant, and the tenant must be given a new key whether or not any delinquent rent is paid. A landlord cannot legally, permanently lock a tenant out without going through the eviction process.
In short, the lockout law says:
  1. The lease must include written notice of the landlord’s right to exercise a lockout.
  2. The tenant must be behind on rent.
  3. The landlord must give advance, written notice to the tenant.
  4. The tenant does not have to pay any money to regain entry into the rental unit.
  5. The landlord must give the tenant a key upon request.
  6. A lockout is not an eviction.
The landlord of an apartment complex that receives housing tax credits is prohibited from locking out or threatening to lock out a tenant.
Exclusion of a Residential Tenant
For a landlord to legally change the door locks of a tenant, the tenant must be delinquent in paying all or part of the rent and the lease must include written notice of the landlord’s right to exercise a lockout. A landlord must do the following when changing the door locks of a tenant:
First Notice. At least five calendar days before the date the locks are changed, the landlord must locally mail a written notice to the tenant. This notice may also be hand-delivered to the tenant or posted on the inside of the tenant’s front door at least three days before the date the locks are changed. This written notice must state:
  1. The earliest date the locks will be changed;
  2. The amount of rent the tenant must pay to prevent lockout;
  3. The name and address of the person to whom, or the location of the on-site management office at which, the delinquent rent may be discussed or paid during the landlord’s normal business hours; and
  4. In underlined or bold print, the tenant’s right to receive a key to the new lock at any hour, regardless of whether the tenant pays the delinquent rent (for leases signed or renewed after January 1, 2008).
Second Notice. When the locks are changed, the landlord must place a written notice on the outside of the tenant’s front door stating:
  1. The on-site location where the tenant may go 24 hours a day to obtain the new key, or a telephone number that is answered 24 hours a day that the tenant may call to have the key delivered within two hours after calling the number;
  2. The fact that the landlord must provide the tenant with a new key at any hour whether or not the tenant pays the rent owed; and
  3. The amount of rent and other charges the tenant owes.
A landlord may not change the locks:
  • On, or the day before, a day when the landlord isn’t available, or an on-site management office isn’t open, for the tenant to pay the back rent and late fees. This means the tenant has to have an opportunity to pay the rent due before the locks are to be changed;
  • When the tenant or any other legal occupant is in the dwelling;
  • More than once during a rental payment period; or
  • To prevent the tenant from entering a common area of the rental property.
The Locks are Changed, Now What?
As soon as the locks are changed, the tenant should request a new key from the landlord. If the tenant arrives at the dwelling “after hours” or if the landlord is not on-site, the tenant should contact the name in the notice that is posted on the door. The landlord must bring a new key within two hours of the tenant requesting it.
Once a landlord is called, the tenant should remain at the rental property at least two hours until the landlord arrives. The reason is that if the landlord responds to the tenant’s phone call in a timely manner and the tenant is not there, the landlord just has to leave a notice on the front door of the dwelling stating the time the landlord arrived with the key and the street address to which the tenant may go to obtain the key during the landlord’s normal office hours.
A landlord who has changed the door locks of a tenant must give the tenant a key regardless of whether or not the tenant pays the delinquent rent. Some landlords will try to convince the tenant that the tenant does not have the right to live in the rental unit anymore. They will tell the tenant that the door is being unlocked so that the tenant can remove his/her belongings. This is incorrect. The law clearly states that the landlord must give the tenant a new key. The tenant can actually continue living in the dwelling until a court orders an eviction. Any lease clause waiving any of a tenant’s rights under the lockout law is void and not enforceable.
What if the Landlord Does Not Give the Tenant a Key?
If the landlord refuses to give the tenant a new key, the tenant can get assistance from the justice of the peace court by requesting an order called a writ of reentry. The tenant will need to specify both in writing and orally as to how the landlord violated the law. The court will typically charge the tenant a fee for the constable to deliver this order to the landlord. The tenant can ask the court to waive this fee by asking for a pauper’s affidavit. The tenant will have to disclose some financial information so the judge can make a decision. If the judge approves the pauper’s affidavit, the order will be delivered free of charge. This order will require the landlord to allow the tenant access to the rental unit.
As soon as the landlord is served with the writ of reentry, the landlord will need to immediately comply with the order or otherwise face the risk of being arrested and in contempt of court. The constable is allowed to use reasonable force in executing a writ of reentry.
Tenant Remedies
If a landlord doesn’t follow the lawful procedure for changing a tenant’s door locks — either by not giving advance notice or not giving the tenant a new key when requested — the tenant has several options. The tenant may:
  1. Recover possession of the premises or terminate the lease contract; and
  2. Recover from the landlord a civil penalty of one month’s rent plus $1,000, actual damages, court costs, and reasonable attorney’s fees in an action to recover property damages, actual expenses, or civil penalties, less any delinquent rent or other sums for which the tenant is liable to the landlord.
If a landlord locks out a tenant and will not give the tenant a key unless the tenant pays delinquent rent, a tenant may recover an additional civil penalty of one month’s rent from the landlord in a court action.
The information in this brochure is a summary of the subject and other pertinent matters. It should not be considered conclusive or a substitute for legal advice. Unique facts can render broad statements inapplicable. Anyone needing legal assistance should contact an attorney.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Renting with an Eviction






Unlike a broken lease which appears solely on your credit report, an eviction is a legal judgement against you where the landlord had to file through the courts to forcibly have you removed from the rental property.  Evictions are typically the result of at least 30 days, but up to 45 days, of accumulated unpaid rent.

In the state of Texas, the eviction process has four steps:
1) The Notice to Vacate:  A letter to you as the tenant informing you of the eviction proceedings
2) The Filing: The landlord will file an eviction suit against you
3) The Court Ruling: The court decides on the suit in favor of either the landlord or the tenant
4) The Writ of Possession: If the court ruling is in favor of the landlord and you, as the tenant, do not vacate the property, then the landlord may file  to obtain a court order to the Constable to place themselves in possession of the property and have you forcibly removed.

Regardless of the reasons behind an eviction, they are universally frowned upon by prospective landlords.  If you are trying to rent with an eviction in your rental history you will have very limited options when it comes to Austin apartments.

If you have an eviction on your rental history and an apartment does accept your application you will mostly likely have to pay a higher deposit of 1-2 months rent.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Finding Your New Place

An apartment locator can find you the perfect apartment to meet your individual desires. We start with price range, as money determines the places you can live. Then we listen to the prospective tenants needs, ask questions, and compare and contrast where you currently live/or have currently visited.  We show pics and floor plans to narrow the search. All of this so we can found you the best place to live, within your budget!


Contact us today to find the apartment match for you!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Getting a Good Deal






View this article on the Austin Apartment Specialists SlideShare account!

Ever wonder how to get a great deal on an apartment? Complexes periodically have specials varying from $150 off to one month free. They run the specials depending on occupancy. The best way to find these great deals is through a locator of course! We get emails and faxes daily advertising rates and specials for different complexes. Visit our website or contact us today to see what we can find for you!


Friday, April 29, 2011

Utilities


Do you have questions or concerns about your apartment's utilities? The Austin Tenants' Council provides good information regarding utilities.

A landlord may shut off any utility (electricity, water, wastewater, and gas) to carry out repairs or construction or in an emergency. A landlord may never shut off electricity, water, wastewater, or gas because the tenant is delinquent with a rent or utility payment. Any provision of a lease that purports to waive any of the tenant’s rights, liabilities, or duties under the utility shut-off law is void.
Note: The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) believes that the Texas Property Code does not prohibit a landlord from shutting off water utilities if the landlord follows TCEQ rules. The Austin Tenants’ Council disagrees.
Tenant Remedies for Illegal Shut Off
If a landlord or a landlord’s agent violates any of the rules for shutting off electrical service, the tenant may:
  • Either recover possession of the premises or terminate the lease; and
  • Recover from the landlord actual damages; the greater of one month’s rent or $500; reasonable attorney’s fees; and court costs, less any delinquent rent or other sums for which the tenant is liable to the landlord.
Tenant’s Right of Restoration After Unlawful Utility Disconnect
If a landlord has interrupted utility service in violation of Section 92.008 of the Texas Property Code, the tenant may obtain relief after filing a sworn complaint specifying the facts of the landlord’s disconnection with the justice court in the precinct in which the rental premises are located. The tenant must also state orally under oath the facts of the unlawful utility disconnection during an appearance in court.
If the court believes that an unlawful utility disconnection has likely occurred, the court may issue an order that entitles the tenant to immediate and temporary restoration of utility service pending a final hearing.
If the Landlord Fails to Pay the Utility Company in an All Bills Paid Rental Unit
If a landlord fails to pay the utility company for utility services in an “all bills paid” unit, Section 92.301 of the Texas Property Code addresses a tenant’s remedies if the utilities are disconnected or notice is received from the utility company stating the utility service is about to be disconnected. The tenant’s remedies are as follows:
  1. Pay the utility company the amount owed to reconnect or avert the shutoff;
  2. Terminate the lease with a written notice within 30 days from the date the tenant has notice from the utility company of a future shutoff, or notice of an actual shutoff, whichever is sooner;
  3. Deduct the amount paid to the utility company to reconnect or avert the shutoff from the rent, without the necessity of judicial action;
  4. If the tenant terminates the lease, the tenant can deduct the security deposit from the rent, without judicial action, or obtain a refund of the deposit;
  5. If the tenant terminates the lease, the tenant can recover a pro-rated refund of any advance rental payments;
  6. Recover actual damages including, but not limited to, moving costs, utility connection fees, storage fees, and lost wages; and
  7. Recover court costs and attorney fees.
If the tenant deducts money from the rent after paying the utility bill, the tenant must provide a copy of a receipt from the utility company showing the amount paid to reconnect or avert the utility shutoff.
NOTE: The tenant loses the above-mentioned remedies if, before the tenant terminates the lease or files suit, the landlord provides the tenant with written evidence from the utility company that all delinquent sums have been paid.
Rules for Allocating Non-Submetered, Master-Metered Utility Bills
There has been a trend among landlords over the last couple of years of switching from “all bills paid” to master-metered bills, especially in large apartment complexes. This means that the landlord no longer pays for the utilities, but now makes the tenant pay the bill. The problem is that most apartments are not individually metered and the landlord does not usually want to spend the money to install meters for each rental unit. Because there are not individual meters to measure the tenant’s actual usage, the tenant may end up paying more than his share because of how the bill is allocated, or divided.
The Texas Public Utility Commission regulates how a landlord may allocate an electric bill; the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) regulates how a landlord may allocate a water and wastewater bill; and the Texas Railroad Commission regulates how a landlord may allocate a gas bill. Gas allocation is very rare so it will not be discussed in this brochure.
Electricity — Applies to Rental Properties With Two or More Units
If a tenant lives in a rental unit where the electricity is master-metered, there are several rules the landlord needs to follow. First, the rental agreement must contain a clear written description of the method the landlord will use to allocate the bill and a statement of the average monthly bill for the previous calendar year for that rental unit. Second, a landlord may not charge the tenants more than the actual amount charged to the landlord. Third, the landlord must maintain adequate records that are available to the tenant for inspection during normal business hours. Finally, the electric bill must be separate from any other amounts due and the tenant shall have at least seven days in which to pay the bill.
Currently, the only approved method for allocating a master-metered electric bill, is to base it on the total square footage of the living area of the rental unit.
For example, if a tenant lives in an apartment complex that contains five 800-square-foot apartments and five 1,000-square-foot apartments, the final bill would be a percentage based on the total square footage of living space in the apartment complex. In this example, the total square footage is (5 x 800) + (5 x 1,000) = 9,000 square feet. A tenant who lives in an 800-square-foot apartment would pay 800/9000 or 8.88 percent of the total bill.
Water and Wastewater — Applies to Rental Properties With Five or More Units
If a tenant lives in an apartment complex with five or more units and the tenant is billed for the water or wastewater using an allocation method, the landlord must comply with the following rules. First and foremost, the landlord must disclose in the lease agreement:
  1. That the tenant will be billed for water on an allocated basis;
  2. That the tenant has a right to information from the landlord to verify the bill;
  3. The average monthly bill amount and the highest and lowest bill amount for all units in the past calendar year;
  4. The date bills are usually issued and the date bills are usually due; and
  5. A clear description of the allocation method used to calculate the bill.
A landlord has four options when it comes to allocating a water bill. Some of them are complicated so tenants are encouraged to contact either TCEQ or the Austin Tenants’ Council for additional clarification. A landlord must use one of the following methods for allocating a water bill:
1. Use the number of occupants in the tenant’s dwelling as a percentage of the total number of occupants in all apartments.
For example, in a complex of 50 tenants, an apartment with two occupants would pay 2/50 or 4 percent of the total bill.
2. Recognizing that apartments with two or more occupants do not typically use two or more times as much water as a single occupant, this method assigns a fractional portion for each occupant in excess of one. It must use a fractional portion of no less than that on the following scale:
  • Unit with one occupant = 1
  • Unit with two occupants = 1.6
  • Unit with three occupants = 2.2
  • Unit with more than three occupants = 2.2 + 0.4 for each additional occupant over three.
For example, in a complex of 50 tenants, an apartment with two occupants would pay 1.6/50 or 3.2 percent of the total bill.
3. So that landlords do not have to calculate the total number of tenants every month as in methods 1 and 2, the rules allow the landlord to use a fixed formula that estimates the number of occupants based on the number of bedrooms in each unit. The total number of occupants in the entire apartment complex is estimated using the same formula. The percentage a tenant pays is then determined by dividing the estimated (not actual) number of occupants in the tenant’s apartment by the estimated number of occupants in the entire complex:
  • Unit with an efficiency = 1
  • Unit with one bedroom = 1.6
  • Unit with two bedrooms = 2.8
  • Unit with three bedrooms = 4 + 1.2 for each additional bedroom over three.
For example, in a complex with five one-bedroom units and five two-bedroom units, the landlord would first estimate the total number of occupants as (5 x 1.6) + (5 x 2.8) = 22 occupants. A tenant living in a two-bedroom unit would then pay 2.8/22 or 12.7 percent of the total bill.
4. A landlord may also use a method combining the square footage and total occupancy in which no more than 50 percent is based on square footage. The square footage portion is based on the total square footage living area of the tenant’s unit as a percentage of the total square footage living area of all units of the apartment complex.
For example, suppose the square footage of a tenant’s apartment is 8.88 percent of the total and the total number of tenants living in the apartment is 3.2 percent of the total. The landlord could decide that 40 percent of the bill will be based on square footage and the other 60 percent is based on the number of occupants. The tenant would then pay (0.40 x 0.0888) + (0.60 x 0.032) = 5.47 percent of the total bill.
The information in this brochure is a summary of the subject and other pertinent matters. It should not be considered conclusive or a substitute for legal advice. Unique facts can render broad statements inapplicable. Anyone needing legal assistance should contact an attorney.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Renting with a Broken Lease


View this article on the Austin Apartment Specialists Slideshare account

How apartments work with a broken lease is a source of confusion for a lot of renters in this position.  I want to start by stating that a broken lease IS NOT an eviction.  A broken lease could be anything from owing money to a property for damages, utility bills, or rent due from not fulfilling the lease.  Evictions and broken leases are considered separately during the renter’s qualification process apartments go through.

Every management company assess your broken lease differently.  The tend to categorize them into money owed and no money owed.  The majority of Austin rental properties will not take an applicant that still owes money to another rental property.  On the other hand, if you have a broken lease with no money owed to the property, it is much less likely to affect your application.  Even if the original broken lease resulted in you legally owing the money property, but you have since paid the balance to $0, it is less likely to affect your application.

If you have a broken lease with money owed, some rental properties that have a less thorough computerized qualification process discover your debt to another rental property because it shows up on your credit report.  In these cases if does not appear there, then they may not to discover it.  Others that do a more thorough manual qualification process are likely to call your previous rental properties, and will discover the debt then.

Occasionally an apartment will take circumstances into account when considering an applicant that has a broken lease and may allow you to pay an extra deposit if the money owed to the other property is less than a certain breaking point, for example $1500.  Other apartments may allow you to arrange a payment plan with the owed property based on a minimum amount each month in order to consider the broken lease ‘no money owed’.

If you have a broken lease, whether you owe money on it or not, you would benefit greatly from an apartment locator or apartment finder.  Our expertise and personal relationship with most property management will help you navigate the rental waters and our service is free to you.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Renting vs. Home Ownership













Read this article on Austin Apartment Specialists' SlideShare Account

Many people are unsure if they want to continue renting or if they should buy a home. There are many things to consider. A great resource is this article is on the Texas Apartment Association website.





  • What will it cost you?
  • Buying a home usually requires a substantial investment of cash for a down payment, closing costs, and points paid to lenders. You may also need to buy appliances, additional furniture, window coverings, and other items.
  • What will you get for your money?With a home, you may possibly have a yard, a community pool or other amenities, and more space. Of course you'll also be responsible for maintaining the yard, heating, and cooling a larger space, and perhaps paying homeowner association dues to maintain the pool and other amenities.
  • Will you be free to quickly relocate?If your company relocates employees frequently, or you're not interested in staying somewhere for more than a year or two, you may want to think twice about buying. What happens if the neighborhood changes, crime increases, or you don't get along with your neighbors? The costs you incur to sell a home (realtor's fees, closing costs, costs to market the property) may outpace any gains in the property's value or selling price.
  • How likely is it that your life and your needs will change?Is your family growing, or do you have children who are getting ready to leave home or go to college? Is divorce or separation a possibility in your near future? Will there be other demands on your income or savings?
  • What return will you get on your investment?
    Most people believe property always appreciates or gains value, but that's not always the case. A change in the neighborhood or the economy can affect the value of your property. Sometimes you'll make money as a result, but you may lose money on your investment if you haven't owned the property for long. You'll also need to consider any additional money that you put into the property for improvements or upkeep while you live there.
  • How much maintenance do you want to do?When you own your home, you are responsible for making the repairs or hiring others to make them, being available when repairs need to be made, paying for the repairs, etc.
  • Where do you want to live, and is what you want available there?If you want to live close to your work or school, are homes available in that area and can you afford them? Can you find rental housing where you would like to live, or is a home you buy the only option?
  • Are there any tax advantages?
    If you itemize your income tax, you can deduct interest you pay on a mortgage, and property taxes that you pay. You can also deduct points paid to lenders in the year that you incur that cost. If you don't itemize, you won't get these deductions.
  • What will make you happy?
    Ultimately, you need to decide if you'll be more satisfied and comfortable in a home you own, or in a home you rent.