Tips for consumers looking for an apartment to rent
Whether you are a student looking for a place to live or your job has transplanted you somewhere new, searching for an apartment can be a daunting task. Better Business Bureau receives hundreds of complaints against apartment complexes every year, consistently placing the apartment industry on BBB’s top 25 list of most complained about industries.
Of the hundreds of complaints received last year, most allege consumers were billed incorrectly, had difficulty getting their security deposits back or getting repairs handled in a timely manner.
Before signing any lease, make sure you read through the terms carefully and understand your responsibilities as an apartment tenant. Make sure the following information is included in your lease:
- specifics on how all maintenance and repair concerns are handled and within what timeframe. For example, some communities include light bulb replacement as the landlord’s responsibility.
- information about what your security deposit covers and the conditions for deductions.
- the conditions under which your rent or other fees can be increased during your lease term.
- information about whether you are allowed to sublet your unit.
- when monthly payments are due and where rent can be paid.
- what insurance coverage, if any, is included.
Upon move-in, do not forget to document the condition of your apartment. Make sure to include each and every flaw or defect in your apartment so that you are not held responsible for those damages later. It’s advisable to also take photos of your unit prior to move-in so that you have documentation available in case a dispute arises after move-out.
- Visit each complex in person before putting down a deposit. Tour all amenities to be sure they meet your needs (swimming pool, work out center, parking, etc.). Websites often use pictures taken only from the best locations on the property or of promotional units.
- Keep a signed copy of the lease. Keep your lease in a safe place in case you need to refer back to it.
- Know your rights as a renter. Check with your local regulatory agency to see what the renter laws are that apply to your area. Housing codes, which govern apartment rentals, are set by local authority — city, county or state.
- Consider renters insurance. When a tenant’s belongings are damaged or stolen, the apartment complex is very rarely held liable. Renters insurance would cover your losses in the event of fire, burglary or other damage. Pay attention to deductibles and coverage limits when choosing a policy.