With East Texas rents averaging $679 for a one-bedroom apartment and more than $800 for a two-bedroom, it behooves potential renters to research the property — and property management company — before putting down a deposit along with the first and last month’s rent and signing a year-long lease.
More than 7,500 complaints against apartment complexes and landlords were filed with Better Business Bureau in 2013. That’s an increase of 17 percent over 2012 data. Most of the issues were related to incorrect billing, trouble getting security deposits returned or having repairs performed in a timely manner.
Tenants typically go through a rigid screening process before being approved to rent a new apartment. Renters should likewise do their due diligence when selecting a landlord or property management company.
If you’re looking to rent, your BBB offers these tips:
Do your homework. To help focus your search, have an idea of the amount of rent you can afford, the desired location, and number of bedrooms before you look. Go to bbb.org to check out apartment complexes and property managers you are considering. BBB Business Reviews show a company’s rating a history of complaints, as well as an overall view of the company’s track record.
Get everything in writing. Before signing the lease, make sure you read and understand the rental terms and your responsibilities as a tenant. Do not sign any contract containing blank spaces. Keep a copy for your records.
Ask questions. When is rent due? Who pays for utilities? Are pets allowed? How accessible is the landlord? Do they have an emergency or cell number?
Do a walk-through. Before moving in, look over the condition of the apartment in person and document all flaws and defects in both writing and with photos. Have all agreements, such as what improvements will be made and when, put into writing.
Who is responsible for upkeep? Find out how maintenance and repair concerns are handled and within what time frame. What is your responsibility when it comes to minor repairs or replacing light bulbs?
Know your rights. Remember that you have certain rights when it comes to a livable space, such as heat, water, electricity and clean, safe surroundings. Visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at hud.gov for information on landlord-tenant rights.
BBB also warns potential renters:
Be wary of bogus rental ads on online forums. Scam artists post phony ads using photos and addresses of legitimate properties and state they are unable to show the property because they are out of town. Never wire money for a property you have not seen.
Consider renter’s insurance. Although the property owner carries insurance on the building, it is the renter’s responsibility to insure all personal furnishings and belongings against theft or disasters such as fire, flood or tornado.
For more information on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call the BBB Hotline: (903)581-8373.