Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Utility Costs

When renting, it is important to find out if any utilities are included in rent at no extra cost to you. Some complexes can include gas, water, cable, internet, etc. The Texas Apartment Association has this valuable information.

* When you are comparing apartments, ask which, if any, utilities are included.
* You'll almost certainly be paying for electricity and gas, if applicable.
* Paying for water and wastewater, and even trash collection, is becoming more common.
* You'll pay for any cable and phone service you use, as well.
* Most utilities charge on consumption--the more you use, the more you pay.
* In some parts of the state, you may have more than one choice when it comes to your electric provider. Check out the Texas Electric Choice Education Program website for more information on electrical providers in your area at www.powertochoose.org.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fair Housing San Antonio

The Fair Housing Council of Greater San Antonio is a non profit organization designed to promote fair housing and eliminate housing discrimination. They classify discrimination as follows.

Discriminatory Housing Practices

The Fair Housing Act provides that in the rental and sale of most housing, it is unlawful for any housing provider to take any of the following actions against a person because of his or her race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and/or handicap:

  • Refuse to rent or sell housing
  • Refuse to negotiate for housing
  • Impose different sale prices or rental charges for a dwelling
  • Evict tenants because of their race or the race of their guests
  • Otherwise make housing unavailable or deny housing
  • Set different terms, conditions, or privileges for the rental or sale of a dwelling (example: a landlord cannot demand an additional security deposit because you are disabled or have children)
  • Deny or limit services because a tenant refused to provide sexual favors
  • Delay or fail to perform maintenance or repairs to dwelling units
  • Falsely deny that housing is available for inspection, sale, or rental
  • Advertise or make any statement with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference, limitation, or discrimination (example: a landlord cannot post an advertisement that states, “Two bedroom, two bath for rent, $600 a month, NO KIDS, ADULTS ONLY”)
  • Assign any person to a particular section of a complex or neighborhood or to a particular floor of a building
  • Discourage the purchase or rental of a dwelling by exaggerating drawbacks or failing to inform any person of desirable features of a dwelling, community, neighborhood, or development
  • Communicate to any prospective resident that he or she would not be comfortable with existing residents of a community, neighborhood, or development
  • Threaten, coerce, or intimidate anyone for exercising his/her fair housing rights or for assisting others in exercising their rights

Finding the Perfect Fit

How do you know an apartment is right for you? Using us as locator is of course the best way! We ask you questions about your job, school district and activities to help determine the best location. We consider your family, your lifestyle, and your expectations to evaluate the complex that best suits your personal needs. All in all, we have the knowledge to find the best fit for you in an apartment complex.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Right Apartment

As an apartment locating company, we can find you the best place to live for your budget, lifestyle, and family. We ask questions about your job, school districts, activities, your desired commute, if you like city vs suburb living. So contact us when you are looking for a great place to live, we can find it!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Having Problems with Your Apartment

No one likes to have trouble with their home, but occasionally some do occur. On the Texas Attorney General's website, we found a great resource that explains the process you should follow if you are having a problem with your landlord or apartment, below is an excerpt.

If You Have Problems

If the landlord won't make repairs needed to protect your health, safety, or security, and you follow the procedures required by law, you may be entitled to:

  • End the lease;
  • Have the problem repaired and deduct the cost of the repair from the rent; or
  • File suit to force the landlord to make the repairs.

You MUST Follow These Steps:

  1. Send the landlord a dated letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, or by registered mail, outlining the needed repairs. You may also deliver the letter in person. Keep a copy of the letter. Be sure that your rent is current when the notice is received.
  2. Your landlord should make a diligent effort to repair the problem within a reasonable time after receipt of the notice. The law presumes seven days to be a reasonable time, but the landlord can rebut this presumption. If the landlord has not made a diligent effort to complete the repair within seven days and you did not have the first notice letter delivered to your landlord via certified mail, return receipt requested, or via registered mail, you will need to send a second notice letter regarding the needed repairs.
  3. If the landlord still has not made diligent efforts to repair the problem within a reasonable time after receipt of the notice letter sent by certified mail, return receipt requested or by registered mail, you may be entitled to terminate the lease, repair the problem and deduct the cost from your rent, or get a court to order that the repairs be made. You should consult with an attorney before taking any of these actions.

Under Texas law, it is illegal for a landlord to retaliate against you for complaining in good faith about necessary repairs for a period of six months from the date you made such a complaint. Of course, you can always be evicted if you fail to pay your rent on time, threaten the safety of the landlord or intentionally damage the property.

You do not have a right to withhold rent because the landlord fails to make repairs when the condition needing repair does not materially affect your health and safety. If you try this method, the landlord may file suit against you.

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.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

When to Start the Search for an Apartment

When should someone start looking for a new apartment? 30 to 45 days before move in seems to be a good number in this market. Properties are experiencing above average occupancy rates right now. Waiting too long may limit your choices. The most effective way to find an apartment on your own time line is to use our apartment locating services. We can find what you need, when you need it.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Affordable Rent for Your Budget

How much rent can you afford? A great resource is our rent calculator found on our website.

Another helpful article is found on the Austin Tenants' Council website-

After determining how many roommates there will be, consider how much rent each person can afford. Generally, 30 percent of a person’s income is considered an affordable housing cost. Other expenses such as utility bills, phone bills, and cable TV bills should be included in calculating what can be afforded. There are many up-front costs when renting such as security deposits, pet deposits, utility deposits, and installation charges. Except in an “all bills paid” unit, these items are extra.

Ensuring that all roommates can afford to pay the rent and other expenses is the best way to avoid problems. Careful preparation and assessment of financial resources will prevent any roommates from getting in over his head and jeopardizing the other roommates’ credit and rental histories.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Rental and apartment maintenance: How does it work?

In renting, there are two types of maintenance, emergency and non-emergency and apartments and other rentals handle them differently.

Typically emergency maintenance includes power outages, water breakages and air conditioning (heating and cooling) issues that make conditions within the apartment unlivable. Exceptions might include two toilets, with one stopped up but not overflowing. That is not considered a maintenance emergency, just a smelly problem. Emergency cases are typically responded to within 24 hours, although some properties only guarantee 48 hour responses.

Things that might fall under non-emergency would be a light bulb out, a faucet dripping. Only certain appliances fall under an emergency, and it is very property specific. Commonly a refrigerator could fall under the emergency category, but a stove most likely will not. A dishwasher, probably won’t unless it is leaking. Response to non-emergency cases varies by property, but usually occurs within three business days (weekends NOT included).

At Individually owned properties like duplexes or single family homes, response times vary greatly and usually depend on the owner locating a contractor they are willing to work with for that specific problem. For example, AC people in summer are hard to find.

Professionally managed properties, like apartment complexes, have their own set of certified maintenance crews, so response times are much more reliable. A professionally managed property will provide you with a lease agreement that spells out what constitutes a maintenance emergency, non-emergency, and response times for each.

Have more questions about rental maintenance? Not happy with your current set up? Call me! The apartment finders in our office have long-standing relationships with most of the Austin apartment managers. We won’t steer you wrong!