Sunday, December 23, 2012

Repair Rights

Your right to repairs by your landlord does not authorize you to withhold rent.  There are also several other rules governing your right to have repairs done on broken items in your apartment, as well as rules for what remedies you can seek if your landlord does not make necessary repairs.  The Austin Tenant's Council lays out these guidelines.
Repairs are categorized as either ones that threaten your health or safety or ones that do not.  If your dishwasher or garbage disposal doesn't work, then it is not a health/safety threatening repair.  Texas law requires that your landlord: provides an apartment that is decent, safe and sanitary, repairs items threatening your health or safety, provides hot water heated to a minimum of 120 degrees Fahrenheit, provides working smoke detectors, and provides locking doors and windows, including a keyless bolting device.  
In addition, Austin Housing Code requires heat that can maintain at least a room temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit, hot water supplied to plumbing fixtures at a temperature of at least 110 degrees Fahrenheit, and a kitchen sink, a shower or bathtub, a toilet and hot and cold water.
If any of these requirements are not met, you can request repairs, but you may not withhold rent.  If you don't pay rent, you can be kicked out of your apartment and give up the right to have repairs made until you pay rent.  
If your landlord doesn't get back to you when you make requests by phone or verbally, send a letter by certified or registered mail with the date, tenant's name and address, repair problem description, declaration that the broken item is a threat to health or safety, a request that repairs be made in a reasonable time period (a week for non-emergency repairs, 24 hours for emergencies), ask for a written answer if work can't be completed by the deadline, and a signature.  If no repairs are made by the deadline, you can file suit in court against your landlord.  
Hopefully, at this point your landlord will begin repairing your problem.  But if they don't, The Austin Tenant's Council outlines further steps you can take, such as terminating your lease and moving out.

Monday, December 10, 2012

West Lake and Homeowner Square Off Over Tree Removal

West Lake Hills is in a legal fight with the owner of C3 Presents over scores of trees he cut down along his property line.  The city requires permits for any trees that are cut down in its city limits, whether they are living or dead, and is debating over inforcing legal action and heavy fines on Charles Attal, the homeowner, reports.
Attal says that the juniper trees were dead and he had them removed because he was worried about wildfire danger.  However, the city says he has to replace the trees with new ones or pay fines of as much as $2,000 per tree.  They also maintain that they have proof that many of the trees were not dead and have said they will sue if Attal does not comply.
Attal says that West Lake's figure of 338 inches total in diameter of the trees is incorrect and he only wants to replace 200 diameter inches.  He says that replacing what the city wants would cost over $100,000 and that there's a chance he'd have to get rid of $40,000 of new landscaping and trees to follow the order.  
The city said their number was drawn from the number of stumps on the property and the West Lake Hills City Council will make their decision on what action to pursue at their meeting Wednesday evening.
Looking for a great apartment surrounded by lots of trees?  Apartment Experts South can help!

Austin Best Cheap City to Visit

View this article on Austin Apartment Specialists' Slideshare account

 Food and Wine magazine named Austin one of its best cheap cities to visit.  Check out why our weird city is increasingly getting a reputation as a real foodie destination.
Food and Wine magazine was a real fan of First Thursdays on South Congress.  This monthly extravaganza was praised for its plethora of drink and food specials courtesy of the restaurants lining SoCo.  They also gave a special shout-out to our infamous food trailers for their culinary marvels that are at once well-priced and unique.  Peached Tortilla was a favorite for its worldly tacos and tasty creative sliders that marry Southern and Asian flavors.
24 Diner, located at Lamar and 6th Street, just across the street from the Whole Foods World Headquarters, was home to one of Food and Wine's top rated grilled cheese sandwiches.  Andrew Curran, chef at 24 Diner and a contestant on last season's Top Chef Texas, goes for a sophisticated approach to this old favorite, with sourdough bread, cheddar and Fontina cheeses, and roasted tomato.  
Franklin Barbecue, on 11th Street just one block east of 35, gets yet another best barbecue nod for its brisket plate.  The editors were not deterred by the line at the establishment, which often lasts for two hours or more.  Finally, Curra's Grill gets a recommendation for Mexican food.  Food and Wine mag loved this East Oltorf gem for its plethora of tasty tacos, including the al pastor.
After you sink into a food-induced coma, Food and Wine touts the Hotel San Jose on South Congress as the place to lay your head.
Did you come for the cheap eats and stay for the fantastic living?  Apartment Specialists can help you find the perfect apartment to start your Austin life in.  

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Zilker Park Could See Further Environmental Protections

Zilker Park could see more environmental protections if the Austin Blind Salamander is added to the endangered species list.  Portions of the park would become "critical habitat", which would require the city to get approval from the Fish and Wildlife department for certain projects, reports.
The designation shouldn't cause any problems for the city, as they already included the Austin Blind salamander in their habitat conversation plan in case it was added to the endangered species list.  The city wanted to be sure they'd covered all their bases and would still be able to keep Barton Springs Pool and Zilker Park open to the public for recreation use.  
Currently, Austin's Parks and Recreation Department gets very few federal grants and none are for work in Zilker Park.
 Austin is currently trying to get even more land listed as critical habitat, in sharp contrast to officials in Williamson County, who have fought fiercely against the endangered species listing for the four salamander species, including the Austin Blind.  Williamson County officials are concerned that the endangered species listing would prevent development in their area.
Fish and Wildlife are set to put out an economic impact analysis in 2013, which will include how they predict the critical habitat designations would impact area economies.  After the report is released, there will be a public comment period followed by a final decision by August 21, 2013.  
Looking for a great Austin apartment to use as your habitat?  Apartment Specialists can help!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Small Apartment Partying: Play Host in a Small Space

A small apartment can play host to holiday parties, you just have to plan right. helps you have a successful gathering even in a studio or one bedroom.
Your best type of party to have is a small dinner party.  Keep the guest list short, around four to six people, and serve simple dishes that will allow you to play host or hostess rather than cook.  Pasta or soup, salad and bread are great choices that can even be eaten on the couch if you don't have a large table.  Throw in wine and dessert to please a crowd.  Other options are drinks and appetizers at your place before you go out for a big event. 
Cleaning your apartment for guests is much easier in a small space, but you have less storage space for stuff you don't want people to see.  A great storage option you probably haven't thought of is your bathtub!  You can store anything you don't want guests to see there.  Just don't forget to shower BEFORE piling in the clutter.  Moving large furniture out of the living room into your bedroom will allow  more room for guests to circulate.  You can throw guests' coats on your bed yourself so they don't see your furniture-stuffed room.  Also, keep the television off and put chairs in front of it facing away from the tv.
When it comes to food, choose stuff that won't stain if it spills.  In other words, save the red wine and dips for another time.  Snacks that don't require plates or utensils are great like chips, olives, cheese, crackers and fruit that's already cut up.  Beer and soda in bottles or cans cut down on glassware and food that can be prepared ahead of time keeps you out of the kitchen so you can enjoy your guests.  Rather than using a buffet, place food throughout the party so guests can get food easily from wherever they are.
Finally, be considerate of your neighbors and noise levels.  Warn them about the party ahead of time and ask them to let you know if it gets too loud or, better yet, invite them!  Choose some great tunes to be played at a reasonable volume and you're on your way to a lovely evening!
Looking for a great Austin apartment where you can throw a party?  Call Apartment Specialists today!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Formula One is Here

Formula One comes to town this week, whether Austin is ready or not.  Our population is expected to swell by at least 115,000 as people travel into Austin from all over the globe to watch a grand prix race, reports.
Even though local authorities have been working extremely hard to plan for the event and to make sure enough personnel are working, they say there's no way to know how things will go until the event is actually here.  Nearly three quarters of those who have bought tickets are from outside Texas, and only about 10 percent of attendees are from this area.  Approximately 20,000 are from other countries.  
There are also expected to be an unknown number of people who come to Austin to play tourist and to attend Austin Fan Fest, which is a street festival in the Warehouse and Second Street District.  Street Closures abound across downtown, for the street fest and also for shuttle buses.  Capital Metro will have a free bus that will run around downtown to help get people from place to place.
Approximately 17,000 people are estimated to get to the track by their personal car, helicopters, and even motorcycles and bicycles.  There will be 400 shuttle buses that will run from downtown, the Travis County Expo Center and a couple of other places.  Taxis will also be a mode of transportation for fans.
Looking for an apartment far from the race hustle and bustle?  Apartment Specialists can help!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Hosting Your First Thanksgiving Dinner

Hosting your first Thanksgiving dinner can be a daunting experience, but if you plan ahead and use's tips, you'll be hosting like an old pro by the time it's turkey day!
Your first step is come up with a written plan that details all the tasks that have to be completed for your dinner, from a guest list to recipes and shopping lists.  Make sure you have a timeline for making all those tasks happen.  Make sure you give your guests a date they must respond by so you can plan ahead to be sure you have enough food, seating, and dinnerware for them.  If you don't have enough, you can asks your guests to BYOC (bring your own chair!)
Go ahead and buy items that won't go bad by Thanksgiving weeks in advance of the big day, and leave them in their bags in a place they won't be in your way.  When it's time to cook, you can just grab the bags and get to work, rather than having to poke around in your pantry to find your ingredients.
When it comes to what to cook, choose simple dishes and don't cook something for the first time.  Also, don't serve too many different items, as coordinating the timing of everything is a complex skill that isn't learned in a day.  Make sure you practice each dish at least once in advance of the holiday so you are sure you can get it done successfully.  Also, go traditional with your menu, it's what your guests want and expect.
Don't be afraid to give your guests tasks like pouring drinks or circulating the appetizers, they'll be happy to help since you are hosting the main event.  Also, consider making it a potluck where you take on the turkey, dressing and gravy, and assign your guests the other courses.
Set your table in advance of the big day so you aren't scrounging for your formal china the day of.  Also, consider adding a few dishes that don't have to be cooked to the menu, or pick up tasty pies from your local bakery rather than slaving over them yourself.  Also, consider how much time the turkey will take in the oven, and plan accordingly.  Your other dishes could be made on the stove or in the microwave.  
Looking for a great Austin apartment to host your first Thanksgiving?  Apartment Specialists can help!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Story of Survival and Hope

Today's post is written by one of our Managers, Natalie Young. Natalie is a Model of Courage for Ford Warriors in Pink and graciously agreed to share her story of overcoming breast cancer in the hopes of encouraging and inspiring others. Thank you, Natalie.

I was 28 years old when my doctor told me I had breast cancer. Words I never expected to hear. I was healthy and exercised daily. I had breastfed my daughter for a year. I had no family history.

After navigating through the shock of my diagnosis, it was time to fight. I can vividly remember looking at my daughter sleeping peacefully that Sunday night, while my mind was racing with fear and anxiety. I told my Mom, "I'm more scared of how she is going to have to see me go through this". And that's when my fight really started.

I went through many treatments and procedures over the course of the next couple of years. As of December 2010, I was done. I am done. No more surgeries, no more chemo. I'm cancer free...but that's just one side of my story.

The other side is, I am a breast cancer SURVIVOR! I have learned so much about how strong I can be and myself. I was inspired by a survivor here in Austin, Texas, who said that she "didn't want to waste her cancer." When I heard that, it really struck a chord with me. I knew that what I had been through stunk. It was hard. I didn’t want to do it again. But I also knew I had to do something with it. I may have been cancer free, but I wasn’t done. That is the other side of my story… and it’s just beginning.

Earlier this year, I was chosen as one of eleven Models of Courage for Ford Warriors in Pink. What an incredible experience! Models of Courage are survivors from across the United States--nine women and two men--that are doing something with their cancer. Ford Motor Company has raised more than $115 million dollars to fight against breast cancer in the past eighteen years. You can watch a new documentary featuring the Warriors in Pink program, Bang the Drum: Living Out Loud in the Face of Breast Cancer, at their website

I'm also very proud that the company I work for, WTA, is helping in the fight against breast cancer with their Go Pink Campaign, which has raised nearly $13,000 for breast cancer awareness, treatment and research over the last 4 years. You can learn more at

Please consider contributing to or joining our Race for the Cure Team, Forever Young, and help us race towards ending this disease.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Hawaii Party a Great Success!

A big thank you to all the property managers and agents who came to our annual Hawaii Party Friday, October 5th at Molotov.  It was a phenomenal success!  We loved having the opportunity to talk to all our highly valued managers and leasing agents and toast you for your hard work.  
 We want to give an especially big congratulations to Kathy Chomycia from Broadstone Travesia who won the trip for two to HAWAII!  Kathy was a great sport as she grinned from ear to ear while donning her grass skirt and showing off her certificate.  Aloha, Kathy!
As always, we're very grateful to the Austin Rental Community for all that you do.  It's been a pleasure working with you for the last 25 years and we look forward to 25 more and beyond! 
Until next year!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Craft Brewers Try to Find Common Ground

Craft brewers cannot legally sell their beer at their brewery, under Texas laws that have been in place since Prohibition. Brewpubs, on the other hand, can't sell their product to distributors.  They've been trying to change the law for the last few legislative sessions, but are now exploring new tactics to get their cause heard, reports.

The law divides the sale of alcohol into three tiers:  manufacturing, wholesale and retail.  Manufacturers of any size are prohibited from selling their products to consumers directly.  The original intent of the law was to combat monopolies and marketing that promoted "excessive consumption."  But as the volume of craft beers consumed continues to climb, Independent Craft Brewers say that it's time to reexamine the law.

A lack of legislative savvy has hindered the craft breweries when trying to lobby legislators for a change in the law, but the brewers are now trying to align themselves with the two wholesale beer distributor lobby groups that have opposed their measures in the past.  The brewers are currently conducting meetings with the two lobby groups to try and craft a law that benefits the big and the little guys.

The two lobby groups expressed appreciation for the craft brewers, but were a little gunshy of changes to the law that might take a bite out of their distributors' sales.  The craft brewers have at least two state lawmakers on their side, but that might not be enough to get the big guys to loosen up on their share of the sales and allow the little guys to expand their businesses because of the increased revenue on site beer sales would cause.

Looking for a great Austin Apartment where you can kick back with a tall crafty brew?  Call Apartment Specialists today!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Make Your Fridge Efficient

Making your fridge efficient might not be the most exciting topic you've ever tackled, but considering the fact that your refrigerator is probably 3rd in the power-using department after your air conditioner and your water heater, it's worth it to find out how you can save money and save the environment at the same time. has tips on how to make sure your fridge is running optimally.

Cover liquids and keep food wrapped in the refrigerator.  Food that isn't covered can release moisture, causing the compressor to work harder and leaving the foods dry and inedible.  You should also clean the door gasket.  You can make sure your fridge is sealing properly by closing the door on a dollar bill.  If the dollar bill comes out easily without any resistance, it's time to replace the gasket.  If you have a newer fridge that has a magnetic seal, place a flashlight inside the refrigerator and close the door, turn off the kitchen light, and see if you can see light leaking out.

If you keep a deep freeze or refrigerator in your garage, turn it off.  It costs $310 (or more) annually to run an appliance outside.  Be sure to take the door off so children can't get stuck inside.

Vacuum the condenser coils on the refrigerator at least once a year.  They're usually located on the back of your fridge or underneath it.  If the coils are clean, waste heat is carried off more quickly, and the refrigerator will run shorter cycles.  You should also make sure there is at least 2 inches between the coils and the walls to allow for air to circulate.

If your refrigerator has a power-saving or summer/winter switch, keep it in the power-saving/winter mode.  Also, if frost is built up, defrost your refrigerator.  If relocation is possible, keep your fridge away from the stove, dishwasher, or direct sunlight.  Keep your refrigerator set between 38 and 42 F and your freezer between 10 and 15 F, judging the temperature by a real thermometer. 

Finally, keeping the refrigerator full will make it work more efficiently, and opening it as seldom and for as short of a period of time as possible will keep the cold air in.

Looking for an apartment where you can take good care of the refrigerator?  Call Apartment Specialists today!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

AISD Explores New Way of Funding Schools

AISD is exploring a new way of funding schools that will make a huge difference in how they spend government money by tying the funds to students.  The district is in the process of trying to get roughly $2 million in grants to find where funding inequities exist and to come up with a new student-based formula, reports.

Right now, AISD distributes funds primarily based on state staffing formulas, program requirements or building needs, which does not ensure that if a child transfers schools that the actual cost of their education is covered.  Under the new system, which follows a model used by many districts including Chicago, Denver, Boston and Houston, different "weights" are given to factors such as being poor, gifted, or an English Language learner.

AISD has long been accused of funding inequities, but this is the first time they have considered using this new system, which is meant to make sure extra funds follow needy students, but which also could put a burden on small, underenrolled schools.  The goal is to have schools be able to use the funds they are given as they see best.  

Critics point out that because principals are able to determine how money is used, they become much more powerful in this sort of system.  They also often are not able to use their budget to its full potential because they do not have the experience in allocating money.  

Critics also say that the system can really affect small or underenrolled schools negatively because they don't have the economies of scale of larger schools.  A lot of small schools in Houston were forced to cut nurses, librarians and art and music teachers because the money for these positions were not there, resulting in parents pulling their kids out and leading to even lower enrollment.

Looking for a great Austin apartment where you can allocate your funds wisely?  Call Apartment Specialists today!

Monday, September 24, 2012

WTA is going PINK!

WTA realizes the importance of using our resources to give back to our community. To that end, we have participated in raising money for the Susan G. Komen Foundation for the last 4 years. WTA's Go Pink Campaign has raised almost $13,000 for breast cancer awareness, treatment and research and in 2012, our fifth year, we want to raise at least $3,000 through our Passionately Pink Campaign for Susan G. Komen. 75% of the funds raised stay in the five county area: Travis, Williamson, Caldwell, Hays and Bastrop.

WTA is proud that in 2011 we were one of the top 20 Austin fundraisers for the Susan G Komen Foundation's Race for the Cure. Our team, "Forever Young", named in honor of our very own Natalie Young, a breast cancer survivor and Ford Warriors in Pink Model of Courage, had 13 racers from 3 cities and raised more than $2,500.

We need your help to make 2012 our best year yet! If you are an onsite, you can mark your referrals 'Susan G Komen' and we will donate an EXTRA $25 to Susan G Komen on top of your referral fee through November 4th, 2012. Want to do a little more? You can spend some face time with us by joining our race team, Forever Young! You can also donate on your own to the Forever Young fundraising team.

Thank you so much for your support as we continue to race towards the goal of ending this disease.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Food Trailers Have Become a Key Piece of Austin's Economy

Food trailers have become ubiquitous on the Austin foodie scene, but it wasn't always that way, Statesman.comreports.  Trailers now number 1,200 in Travis County and are an important part of Austin's unique culture, but just 6 short years ago, were limited to taco stands on the East Side and the "roach coaches" that traveled to construction sites to feed workers.

When Torchy's Taco's owner Michael Rypka opened his first location on South First in 2006, the year that also saw the debuts of Hey Cupcake and Flip Happy Crepes, people scratched their heads at what in the world he was doing selling food out of an Airstream.  But now, in addition to that first trailer, Rypka has 11 other locations, including in Dallas and Houston, plans to open two more Austin locations, and keeps 450 people in a job.

The popularity of food trailers (and trucks in some cities), continues to rise nationwide, and in Austin, it has contributed a new facet to Austin's identity, adding "foodie destination" to a robust resume that already has "live music capitol" and "silicon hills" under special skills.  In addition to attracting tourists, food trailers are a great small-business opportunity in a town crawling with entrepreneurs and they serve as test kitchens for a lot of chefs who go on to open brick-and-mortar restaurants.  

Trailers appeal to those wanting to start serving food because opening one costs a fraction of opening a restaurant in a building.  Counter Culture owner Sue Davis started her business in a trailer on North Loop before trading it in earlier this year for a brick-and-mortar version on the East side.  She said Austin's a great place to open a trailer because people are always eager to try the next new thing and write about it.  It's maintaining a business "after the buzz (that) you have to worry about.", she says.

Looking for a great apartment near all the best trailers?  Call Apartment Specialists today!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Relax and De-Stress At Home

Relaxing and de-stressing at home seems like a natural thing to do, but sometimes we walk in the front door to find so much undone work that it can feel like coming home is the start of a second job.  Apartment Therapy helps you to find peace with your home and find "real comfort."

Try making an appointment with yourself to unplug and unwind in your apartment or house.  Put it in your calendar and treat it like any other meeting by not scheduling anything at that time.  You may feel like it's indulgent to take care of yourself, but the truth is you need "me" time to make sure you are at your best both physically and mentally.

During your weekly appointment, completely turn off all your devices:  phone, computer, tv, etc.  This is about staying away from technology and all those intrusions in modern life.  This is time to spend alone, so select a time when those who dwell with you are gone, or lock yourself in your room.  Don't feel bad about hanging up a sign saying, "intrustions under penalty of death!"  However, you can allow in your furry four-legged friend.  Time with your pets can really add to your feeling of happiness and well-being.

Write down what makes you happy and pick something from your list to do during your hour each week (or go crazy and add ANOTHER hour).  For no less than 60 minutes, take the time to indulge in something that you find completely relaxing:  reading, bathing, painting, etc.  Make sure it recharges your batteries and resist the temptation to sneak in that unplugged technology.

When you're done with your time, write three adjectives that describe how your experiment was.  This little task will make you more likely to follow through and help you realize why this me time is so important.