Are you a first-time renter? Have no fear, Texas Apartment Locating is here! Here are 10 tips for first-time renters to help you understand what to expect.
Think about what is important in a location. Safety should be a top priority. You can look up crimes statistics online and a website we find helpful is www.spotcrime.com, you can put an apartment address in at the top of the website and it will show all recent criminal activity reported. Another thing to consider is how close the apartment is to places you frequent. Do you want to be close to work or school? Or do you prefer to be close to the nightlife? Do you need to have access to public transportation? Give this some thought because once you sign a lease you will be living there for likely 6 to 12 months.
2. How Much Can You Afford?
Know what you can afford to pay for rent before you start your search. Most communities require you to make at least 3 times the rent. You don't want to waste money on applications when the community is likely going to reject your application because you don't earn the required amount.
3. No Credit?
Poor or no credit can make renting an apartment a challenge, but it's not impossible. Some communities will let you lease with little credit - some may lease to you with a standard deposit, some may require a co-signer, and some may lease to you if you pay an additional security deposit or first time renter fee.
If you decide you want a roommate to help with finances or just to keep you company, just make sure everyone that will be living in the apartment is on the lease. Choose your roommate wisely, one that is known to be dependable and will likely fulfill their lease obligation.
5. How long do you want to lease?
New renters tend to want to sign shorter leases out of fear of commitment. Because you are committing to live there for the duration of your lease it may seem scary to sign a 12-month lease. Typically shorter leases are available at higher rental rates. You will almost always get a cheaper rate by signing a longer lease term. In fact, many communities offer free rent when you sign a 12+ month lease. Plus, moving is a hassle and often times people will sign a 6-month lease only to renew at a higher rate later. In Texas, rates are steadily increasing so if you are pretty secure with your job or school your best bet is to go ahead and sign a longer lease term.
Want to bring your furry friend with you to your new place? Make sure you talk to the apartment community about your pet – or pets – before you sign the lease or move in. The community might have pet restrictions about weight or breed. In addition, almost all pet-friendly apartments require you to pay a pet deposit and some even require you to pay pet rent. Never try to sneak a pet into your apartment you will almost certainly get caught. This will bring you unnecessary grief, cost you money, and may even get you evicted.
7. Know Your Rights as a Tenant
In Texas, you can find the tenant rights on the attorney general website www.texasattorneygeneral.gov. This will tell you what your rights are if your renting situation gets bad. This is especially important if you’re a first-time renter and don’t know the ins and outs of renting yet and how to hold your landlord accountable if something goes wrong.
8. Apartment Policies
Understand apartment communities have policies and it is rare that they will deviate from them. If you are late on your rent the community will likely not waive your late fee for any reason. The apartment staff hear sob stories so frequently about WHY a tenant can't pay the rent on time - they may sympathize with you - but more than likely you will still have to pay the late fees. They can't bend the rules for one if they are not prepared to bend them for everyone. This is a business they are running.
9. Lease Terms
A lease is often the first legal document a young adult will sign. Carefully read the entire document and ask the onsite leasing agent questions if you don't understand something. If you are uneasy about signing a lease for the first time then ask someone you trust to go with you when you go in to sign your lease. You should understand your lease completely before you put your John Hancock on the dotted line.
10. Moving Plans
Start packing at least two weeks before your move in date if possible. The most affordable option is if you have friends to help you move as friends can typically be paid in beer and pizza. If this isn't an option then try to hire a licensed moving company. The great thing about hiring licensed movers is they are insured and they are experienced so the move goes smoothly. Plus, at Texas Apartment Locating we can help pay for your move! Ask your locator for details.
Don't Break Your Lease or Get Evicted!
The worst mistake first time renters make is breaking a lease or getting evicted. Apartment communities almost always report these to the credit bureaus which will make it very difficult to rent an apartment in the future. It will also affect your credit rating. There are few justifiable reasons to break a lease such as being called to military duty, or something caused the apartment to be unlivable (storm damage, fire, etc) but many reason are not. For example, if you must break a lease due to a job transfer, divorce, loss of job, etc. - those are not considered justifiable reasons. If you MUST break your lease - study your lease for a reletting clause or early termination option. Also, try not to get evicted! The most common reason for evictions is not paying your rent so make sure you have a rainy day fund available in case of emergency.
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