Tuesday, June 28, 2011
From the Spring 2011 Austin Tenants' Council Newsletter:
No one wants to deal with repair issues, especially not after a move. Unfortunately, in the first month at his new apartment, Tyrone Branch faced a number of problems including a roach infestation, malfunctioning electric outlets and bathroom vent, and cabinets with rotted wood.
When he could not get the manager to respond to his repair requests, Branch contacted ATC. Housing specialist Linda Aleman met with Branch at his apartment and documented the conditions. Funded by the City of Austin NHCD, the Renters’ Rights Assistance Program, helps low-income renters enforce their rights for repairs through advocacy and mediation.
After receiving Aleman’s letter, the manager promised to make the repairs but wanted to charge Branch for pest control. Aleman advocated for Branch, advising the manager that because the roach infestation was an existing problem when Branch moved in, the cost to exterminate was the landlord’s responsibility.
“I cannot thank ATC enough,” Branch says. “Everything on my list was fixed.”
Rental repair assistance is a free service available to Austin residents who do not exceed income guidelines. Call 474-1961 for an initial phone interview.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
The real estate adage that the three most important things about a property are "location, location, location" applies to rental properties as well.
Local rents usually take into consideration:
the cost of living in the community
the cost of doing business in the community (taxes, utility costs, impact fees, inspection fees or permits, etc.)
the cost of building and financing the property
the cost of operating the property (staff costs, maintenance, improvements, etc.)
what comparable properties are renting for
what features and amenities are offered to all residents at the property
the size and particular features and amenities of the actual apartment
There are no rent control laws in Texas. That means property owners are free to set their own rental rates, and you are free to accept them or look for a better deal at another property that meets your needs.
Know your budget, and don't look at properties you can't afford. If you've identified properties you're interested in, ask for the properties' rental criteria to find out if they are in your price range.
Rent will be a big part of your budget, but it's not the only expense you'll have associated with your cost of housing. Make sure you also plan for other expenses.
Your budget will also need to consider:
Furnishings and household necessities
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
It goes without saying that Texas is HOT in the summer. We can all make small changes that can dramatically decrease the amount of energy we consume, thereby reducing our electric bills. The Austin Energy website provides some great advice to avoid wasting electricity.
* Keep lights off whenever possible. The standard light bulb gives off 90% heat and 10% light -- heat that makes your air conditioner run more. Switch to CFLs which give off 10% heat, 90% light and use up to 75% less power than incandescents.
* Keeps curtains and blinds drawn on windows hit be direct sunlight. Direct sunlight shinning into a room can raise temperatures 5 degrees or more very quickly.
* Set your AC thermostat at 78 degrees or higher when possible. Every degree higher can save up to $90 a summer. Use a programmable thermostat to raise the temperature when you are gone and cool down your house before you return.
* Wash and dry clothes, iron and cook in the morning or later in the evening. Microwave ovens produce much less heat than stoves for cooking.
* Washing clothes in cold water rather than hot can save as much as $100 a year or more in energy use.
* Replace old refrigerators. They use about twice the energy as newer models. Refrigerators located in the garage use even more.
* Setting your water heater temperature lower than 120 degrees will save about $45 a year on average.
* Unplug cell phone chargers, microwaves, TVs, computers and other electrical devices which are using power even when turned off. Phantom power use can account for as much as 10% of home energy use.
* When possible, reduce the number of times you come in and out of entry doors, which brings in hot air and lets cool air out.
* Fans blowing directly on you will make you feel 2-4 degrees cooler.
Monday, June 20, 2011
- If you'll be sharing the rent with a roommate, make sure you both understand your responsibilities.
- If you both sign the lease, each of you will be responsible for the full amount of the rent if the other does not pay.
- If your roommate moves out before the end of the lease, you'll still be responsible for all the rent.
- If you need to find another roommate to help with expenses, your new roommate will need to be approved by the property owner, and you may need to sign a new lease or a lease addendum.
- An unauthorized occupant is not considered a roommate and is not responsible for fulfilling the terms of the lease. If you move, any unauthorized occupant is not responsible for the remaining lease term and you, alone, will be required to fulfill any terms required by the owner in relinquishing your occupancy of the unit prior to the end of the lease term.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
With the drought lately, any story about rising water bills catches my eye. Recently read this interesting story about a steeply climbing water bill for a resident in a 1-bedroom apartment. Glad he was able to get the issue resolved! Click here for the full story.
Sunday, June 12, 2011
What does discrimination mean in housing? The Fair Housing Council of Greater San Antonio has defined discriminatory housing practices as follows.
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
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Can an apartment community discriminate based on age?
The short answer is yes. Although there are a few legal exceptions, typically 18 is the minimum age to legally sign a contract, and yes a lease is a contract. In additional some communities are considered ‘senior living communities’ and restrict those under the age 55. Some good examples of Austin senior living communities include:
Bluffs Landing in Round Rock
Lodge at Merilltown in Wells Branch has a 60 and over community
Sun City in Georgetown is a purchase senior living community
Typically, if a community has age restrictions, they abide by them very strictly, meaning that none of the residents in the home (not just those paying rent) can be under the age requirements. Violating this may result in an eviction or a forced sale of your home.
Saturday, June 4, 2011
So you've decided on a great place that you want to live, but how do you decide how much you can afford in rent? How do you know you are getting the amenities you want, and still paying an amount you can spend each month on housing? Well, there are several great tools we provide that can help you decide what is right for you.
Using our rent calculator, you can plug in your budget and income, and get how much you can afford.
Reality Times has an article that is fantastic for understanding not only what you can afford in rent, but also gives you what to expect to pay for moving costs, deposits, etc. A great read!