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.