Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Keep Payment Receipts

When renting an apartment, it is a good idea to keep any receipts for rent, deposit, or any other money you pay. The Austin Tenants' Council provides this advice. Proof of Rent Payment(s) Keep a file of all your rent receipts as documentation that your rent is always paid and current. If the landlord will not provide you with receipt(s) for rent payments, write the receipt(s) yourself and obtain the landlord’s signature on those receipts for your records.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Reasonable Modifications

If you have a disability, you have a right to reasonable modifications in your apartment. This article is from the Fair Housing of San Antonio website.

Reasonable Modifications

Under the Fair Housing Act, it is also unlawful for any housing provider to refuse to permit, at the expense of the disabled person, reasonable modifications of existing premises occupied or intended to be occupied by such person if such modifications may be necessary to afford such person full enjoyment of the premises of a dwelling. A “modification” is any structural change to the public or common-use areas of a building or any structural change to a dwelling unit.

clipboard icon NOTE: Although tenants are generally responsible for paying the costs of the modifications, this is not the case if the modifications should already be in place. Many apartment complexes that were built for first occupancy after March 13, 1991, do not meet all of the accessibility requirements under the Fair Housing Act. If the apartment complex is not in compliance with the accessibility requirements, the owner of the complex should pay for the modifications that a tenant requests which the owner is already responsible to completing in order to bring the complex into compliance. Furthermore, if the tenant lives at an apartment complex that receives federal funding, the tenant can, in most cases, request that the owner of the apartment complex pay for the modifications, as an accommodation to the tenant.

In the case of a rental unit, the landlord may, where it is reasonable to do so, condition permission for a modification on the tenant agreeing to restore the interior of the premises to the condition that existed before the modification, reasonable wear and tear excepted. However, in general, if the modifications do not affect the landlord or subsequent renter’s use and enjoyment of the premises, the renter should not be required to restore the modifications to their prior state.

The landlord may not increase for disabled tenants any customarily required security deposit. However, the landlord may negotiate a restoration agreement with the tenant where it is necessary in order to ensure with reasonable certainty that funds will be available to pay for the restorations at the end of the tenancy. This restoration agreement would outline provisions requiring the tenant pay into an interest bearing escrow account (over a reasonable period of time) a reasonable amount of money not to exceed the cost of the restoration. The interest in any such account shall accrue to the benefit of the tenant. This means that landlords may not routinely require such escrow payments, but must instead make a case-by-case determination based on such factors as the extent and nature of the modification involved, the duration of the lease, and the credit and rental history of the individual tenant.

A landlord may condition permission for a modification on the tenant providing a reasonable description of the proposed modifications, as well as, reasonable assurances that the work will be done in a workmanlike manner and that any required building permits will be obtained.

EXAMPLE# 1:
An applicant for rental housing has a child who uses a wheelchair. The bathroom door in the dwelling unit is too narrow to permit the wheelchair to pass. The applicant asks the landlord for permission to widen the doorway at the applicant's own expense. It is unlawful for the landlord to refuse to permit the applicant to make the modification. Furthermore, the landlord may not, in usual circumstances, condition permission for the modification on the applicant paying for the doorway to be narrowed at the end of the lease because a wider doorway will not interfere with the landlord's or the next tenant's use and enjoyment of the premises.

EXAMPLE# 2:
A disabled tenant asks his landlord for permission to install grab bars in the bathroom at his own expense. It is necessary to reinforce the walls with blocking between studs in order to affix the grab bars. It is unlawful for the landlord to refuse to permit the tenant, at the tenant’s own expense, from making the modifications necessary to add the grab bars. However, the landlord may condition permission for the modification on the tenant agreeing to restore the bathroom to the condition that existed before the modification, reasonable wear and tear excepted. It would be reasonable for the landlord to require the tenant to remove the grab bars at the end of his tenancy. The landlord may also reasonably require that the wall to which the grab bars are to be attached be repaired and restored to its original condition, reasonable wear and tear excepted. However, it would be unreasonable for the landlord to require the tenant to remove the blocking, since the reinforced walls will not interfere in any way with the landlord’s or the next tenant’s use and enjoyment of the premises and may be needed by some future tenant.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Safety Tips for Summer Apartment Moving



From our friends at Unicorn Moving:

Moving can be a challenging process, but can be especially difficult in the extreme Texas heat. During the summer months, it is important for individuals or families that are preparing for a move to be prepared to face the high temperatures. After you have found your new home, it may be necessary to take precautions for the moving process.
Ways to Stay Safe in the Heat
Apartments are a popular home choice in Austin because of their convenient locations, affordable rent, and availability to the large student population. The busiest moving season is from May to August, and although this may be the most convenient time to move to your new home, it is also the hottest time of year. Some tips for safe summer time apartment moving include:
• Ensuring that your electricity and air conditioning have been turned on at the new location
• Providing plenty of water to your family, friends, and moving team
• Storing plants in a place where they will be safe from the heat
• Finding a place for children and pets to stay during the moving process
• Knowing where the elevators and ramps are in the apartment complex ahead of time
Moving can be simplified with the help of an experienced apartment locator and a qualified team of Austin movers. For more information about summer moving safety or to begin preparing for your move, please visit our website.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Avoiding Problems

The Texas Apartment Association gives this advice on avoiding rental problems.

Most disagreements between residents and rental housing owners or managers occur because of misunderstandings about obligations each has agreed to in the lease.

To limit problems:

  • Read your lease carefully before you sign it.
  • Ask questions about anything that is unclear, or that you don't understand.
  • Put everything in writing, including agreements, notices and requests.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Austin Market

This is an article from The Statesman- with a good look into the current Austin apartment market.

With rents at an all-time high and occupancies rising, the Austin-area apartment market is among the healthiest in the nation right now and it could stay that way for a while, national and local real estate experts say.

Thanks to the area's job and population growth and the limited number of apartment units under construction, the Austin market is performing at a level similar to cities like San Jose, Calif.; San Francisco; Portland, Ore.; and Seattle.

"In my 25 years of analyzing the apartment market in Austin, I've never seen things as tight as they are right now," said Charles Heimsath, president of Capitol Market Research, an Austin-based real estate consulting firm.

That's created a favorable situation for landlords — but a challenge for Austin renters like Joshua Love.

Love, an information technology manager, said rising rents will likely prompt him to leave the Woodtrail at Riata complex in Northwest Austin. He's been paying $586 a month for a one-bedroom apartment but got notice last month that his monthly rent could rise to $694 a month for a six- to nine-month lease renewal, or to $840 for a three- to five-month lease and as high as $890 for a month-to-month renewal.

"I would say shock was kind of an understatement," said Love, 35. But with the complex at 98 percent occupancy, he said, "they can do whatever they want with the rent."

Across the Austin area, rents soared to a record high in June, averaging $772 a month for a one-bedroom unit and $1,043 for a two-bedroom, according to Capitol Market Research.

The occupancy rate was 96 percent and could reach 97 percent by the end of the year, Heimsath predicts. That's because only two new apartment communities brought units to market in the first half of 2011, and only three new projects with 839 units combined are scheduled to be completed in the second half of the year, Heimsath noted in a midyear report. Five projects are under construction, with 1,623 units that are expected to be ready next year, Heimsath said.

Several developers are poised to start projects this year or next, including Cypress Real Estate Advisors, Gables Residential, HPI Residential and Grayco Partners.

Taylor Bowen, vice president of development for AMLI Residential, said Austin "continues to be one of our top-performing markets."

Minus concessions, AMLI has seen rent growth of about 6.5 percent this year and projects about 7.5 percent rent growth for 2011 at its seven Austin apartment complexes with 1,700 units.

Bowen said the apartment development pipeline is heating up, and there's stiff competition for sites. The number of units being proposed could be cause for concern "if we hit a severe economic downturn or double-dip recession" and job growth wanes, because "we could be setting ourselves up to where we could start to see an oversupply" of apartments in some areas.

"We think somewhere around 10,000 to 12,000 new starts are being proposed, and we know that that's above the historical norm," Bowen said. He said 7,000 to 8,000 new apartment starts annually is a healthy number for the Austin market.

But for now, the relative limited new supply, coupled with other factors, leads Heimsath to predict that rents will be on the rise for the next 12 to 18 months.

On a per-square-foot basis, overall rents, across all unit sizes, rose 6 percent by June to $1.04 a foot from 98 cents a square foot in December, Heimsath said.

"I'm not surprised at the occupancy rate," Heimsath said. "I was quite surprised at how quickly the rents had moved up. I expected about a 3 percent increase in rent, and to have an increase of twice that amount was really extraordinary."

Robin Davis, manager of Austin Investor Interests, said in her latest report that rising occupancies and rents at historical highs "point to a market that is currently operating at astounding levels." With rents escalating — Davis said they are up for the sixth quarter in a row — tenants are doubling up, making two-bedroom units the most-requested type, Davis said in her report.

Davis said the Austin area added about 9,200 new jobs from June 2010 to June 2011.

Out-of-state job seekers or employees being transferred also are beefing up the tenant pool, accounting for about 35 percent to 40 percent of the leasing traffic. At least half of those are employed, and the rest have been accommodated by flexible leasing policies, including allowing a renter to provide proof they can pay at least three to six months' rent.

"As many areas of the country continue to stumble out of the recession, Austin's thriving employment market will attract job seekers, providing a boon for local apartment owners," said the latest report by Marcus & Millichap.

Still, with parts of the country having seen substantial depreciation in home values and mounting foreclosures in recent years, "I think there's a lot more uncertainty regarding the purchase of a home as a safe investment," Heimsath said.

But Greg Willett, vice president of research for MPF Research, said he doesn't think there is a basic shift in the desire for homeownership. Rather, lending standards have reverted to historical norms, and only a small share of the population is in their 30s, the prime first-time buying age.

For some, the newer apartment communities can be an attractive alternative to single-family homes, Heimsath said. As rents continue to ratchet up, however, Heimsath expects demand for entry-level housing to accelerate.

Natalie Young, a real estate agent and manager with A+ Apartment Locating in Austin, said renters are seeking apartment-locating services more than ever .

"They are shocked at the increases for renewing their lease, which is causing many of them to move to new apartments and potentially downgrade in both size and quality," Young said.

Love, the Riata tenant, said he's used to seeing $25 or $30 a month increases over time as a renter, and never more than $100 a month. But he said that after the latest rent increases, "I have a feeling I'll be leaving this place one way or another."

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Directory of Accessible Housing

From the Fair Housing of Greater San Antonio website- a great resource for those of you living in or searching for an apartment.

The Fair Housing Council of Greater San Antonio (FHCOGSA), in partnership with Making Housing Accessible, a program of The Enterprise Foundation, has created The Directory of Accessible Housing. Funded through a grant from The Kronkosky Charitable Foundation, The Directory enables the elderly and people with disabilities to find suitable rental housing in San Antonio and/or Bexar County. The Directory provides information about accessible units, eligibility criteria, price ranges, amenities, school districts, nearby businesses, etc. for apartment complexes and/or housing facilities in San Antonio and Bexar County.

In determining an apartment complex and/or housing facility’s eligibility for inclusion in The Directory of Accessible Housing, the Fair Housing Council considered whether the complex/facility had wheelchair accessible dwelling units, whether the complex/facility provided housing targeted for the elderly and/or people with disabilities, and whether the complex/facility participated in any housing assistance programs funded by the local, state, or federal government.

Visit www.accessiblehousing.org to search for housing that meets your needs, to learn about laws dealing with accessibility in housing, or to add your apartment complex and/or housing facility to The Directory of Accessible Housing.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Hot Weather Pet Care



Getting through a hot summer is hard for people, but also for our pets! Below is an article from HealthyPet.com.

When the lazy days of barbecues and swimming pools roll around, you can make them even better by sharing them with your favorite pet. By following a few summer pet safety tips, you can keep your animal friends healthy and enjoy the months of sun and fun.

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Never leave your pet in the car. Though it may seem cool outside, the sun can raise the temperature inside your car to 120 degrees Fahrenheit in a matter of minutes, even with the windows rolled down. If you need to run some errands, leave the furry ones at home.
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As you’re outside enjoying the warm weather, keep your pet leashed. It will keep her from getting lost, fighting other animals, and eating and drinking things that could make her sick. This tip isn’t just for dogs--even cats can learn to walk on a leash if you train them. (See How can I teach my cat to walk on a leash?)
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Water, water everywhere. Whether you’re indoors or out, both you and your pet need access to lots of fresh water during the summer, so check her water bowl several times a day to be sure it’s full. If you and your furry friend venture forth for the afternoon, bring plenty of water for both of you.
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Pets need sunscreen too. Though all that fur helps protect her, your pet can get sunburned, particularly if she has light skin and hair. Sunburn in animals can cause problems similar to those it can cause in people, including pain, peeling, and skin cancer. So keep your pet out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and when you do go out, rub a bit of sunblock on unprotected areas like the tips of her ears, the skin around her lips, and the tip of her nose.
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Say no to tangles. Keeping your pet well groomed will help her hair do what it was designed to do: protect her from the sun and insulate her from the heat. If she has extremely thick hair or a lot of mats and tangles, her fur may trap too much heat, so you may want to clip her. (See Should I shave my thick-furred dog in the summer?)
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Watch out for antifreeze. Hot weather may tempt your pet to drink from puddles in the street, which can contain antifreeze and other chemicals. Antifreeze has a sweet taste that animals like, but it’s extremely toxic. When you’re walking your pet, make sure she doesn’t sneak a drink from the street.
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Be cautious on humid days. Humidity interferes with animals’ ability to rid themselves of excess body heat. When we overheat we sweat, and when the sweat dries it takes excess heat with it. Our four-legged friends only perspire around their paws, which is not enough to cool the body. To rid themselves of excess heat, animals pant. Air moves through the nasal passages, which picks up excess heat from the body. As it is expelled through the mouth, the extra heat leaves along with it. Although this is a very efficient way to control body heat, it is severely limited in areas of high humidity or when the animal is in close quarters.
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Make sure your pet doesn’t overexert herself. Though exercise is an important part of keeping your dog or cat at a healthy weight, which helps her body stay cool, overdoing it can cause her to overheat. Keep the walks to a gentle pace and make sure she has plenty of water. If she’s panting a lot or seems exhausted, it’s time to stop.
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Take it easy on pets that can’t deal with the heat. Elderly, very young, and ill animals have a hard time regulating their body temperature, so make sure they stay cool and out of the sun on steamy summer days. Dogs with snub noses, such as Pekingese, pugs, and bulldogs, have a hard time staying cool because they can’t pant efficiently, so they also need to stay out of the heat. Overweight dogs are also more prone to overheating, because their extra layers of fat act as insulation, which traps heat in their bodies and restricts their breathing capabilities.
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Bring them inside. Animals shouldn’t be left outside unsupervised on long, hot days, even in the shade. Shade can move throughout the afternoon, and pets can become ill quickly if they overheat, so keep them inside as much as possible. If you must leave your pet in the backyard, keep a close eye on her and bring her in when you can.
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Keep an eye out for heatstroke. Heatstroke is a medical emergency. If you suspect your pet has heatstroke (see "Signs of Heatstroke,"below), you must act quickly and calmly. Have someone call a veterinarian immediately. In the meantime, lower the animal’s body temperature by applying towels soaked in cool water to the hairless areas of the body. Often the pet will respond after only a few minutes of cooling, only to falter again with his temperature soaring back up or falling to well below what is normal. With this in mind, remember that it is imperative to get the animal to a veterinarian immediately. Once your pet is in the veterinarian’s care, treatment may include further cooling techniques, intravenous fluid therapy to counter shock, or medication to prevent or reverse brain damage.

Even with emergency treatment, heatstroke can be fatal. The best cure is prevention, and Fido and Fluffy are relying on you to keep them out of harm’s way. Summer does not have to be fraught with peril--with ample precaution, both you and your furry friends can enjoy those long, hot dog-days of summer.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Wondering what your rights are as a tenant of an apartment? The Texas Attorney General has published this useful sheet.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Sure Deposits: What is a Standard Deposit vs. a Sure Deposit Fee?



Everyone seems to know that a deposit for an apartment is a sum of money that you have to put down before moving in. Generally it covers any damages that may occur to the property during the term of your lease. Depending on the number of bedrooms, the type of apartment, current specials, etc. the cash amount of the deposit can vary greatly.

More and more communities are now giving you a choice in the type of deposit you supply: A standard deposit or a Sure Deposit. A Sure Deposit can purchase allows you to purchase a bond that can potentially cover any damage in your apartment for a much lower fee than would be required for a standard deposit. It is a service provided by Sure Deposit Incorporated. For example, a standard deposit would go something like “$250 for a 1 bedroom” vs. a Sure Deposit “fee” (non-refundable) of $87.50 that allows you to purchase a $500 bond for your apartment. You pay this fee directly to Sure Deposit Incorporated.

To be clear, if you have damages in the apartment, the bond does not cover those damages over the amount of the bond. In the example above, Sure Deposit would pay the apartment community, the full amount of damages up to $500, however they WILL also come after you for the FULL amount they pay the apartment.

They system is designed to allow renters not to have to come up with so much upfront cash. You as a renter know how you live and need to decide what suits you. If you have more questions about how Sure Deposit works or you want to know which Austin apartments are going in this direction, give us a call!

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Texas Attorney General provides great information about your rights as a tenant. Check out this excerpt from their website about the relationship between the apartment and tenant.


The relationship between Texas landlords and their tenants is governed by several statutes, particularly Chapter 92 of the Texas Property Code, and by various court rulings. However, the most important source of information about your relationship with your landlord is your rental agreement, whether it is written or oral.

Some landlords prefer oral agreements, but it is more common for them to require your signature on a written lease. Be sure to read the lease carefully before you sign it.

If you want to change a part of the lease, discuss it with the landlord. If the landlord agrees, the two of you should decide how you want to word the change, and then write it into the agreement. Both you and the landlord should then initial the change. For example, many standard leases prohibit pets, but your landlord may be willing to accept a pet if you put down extra money as security.