With the median price at $956 for a one-bedroom apartment, according to the Texas Comptroller, it’s more important than ever for renters to make educated decisions before choosing an apartment or other rental property.
In 2018, the Better Business Bureau received 201,378 inquiries on apartment complexes and real estate rentals. Additionally, 1,791 complaints were filed against apartment complexes and real estate rentals. That’s a decrease of 78% over 2017 data. While most of the issues were related to incorrect billing, trouble getting security deposits returned or having repairs performed in a timely manner, in some cases a bogus landlord disappeared with the deposit for a nonexistent rental property.
Those looking for rental property expect to go through a rigid screening before being approved to rent a new apartment. Renters should likewise take the time to research the landlord or property management company to ensure they are trustworthy.
The BBB offers the following tips for those who are looking for rental properties:
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 Profiles show a company’s rating, consumer reviews, a history of complaints, as well as an overview 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. Keep a copy for yourself.
Who is responsible for upkeep? Find out how maintenance and repair concerns are handled and within what time frame.
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.
The BBB also has some warnings for potential renters:
Never wire money or use a prepaid debit card. If you are asked to pay a security deposit or first month's rent by prepaid debit card or wire transfer, it is very likely a scam. Remember, once the money has been sent, there is no way to get it back.
Never send money overseas. Keep in mind, scammers often claim to be out of the country and instruct targets to send money overseas.
Search for duplicate listings. If you find the same ad listed in other cities — that's a huge red flag — steer clear.
If the “deal” sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Watch out for low rent and great amenities that are not being offered by similar properties.
For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer, go to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call the BBB at 903-581-5704 or use BBB ScamTracker.