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Better Business Bureau: Apartment rental tips

By By Tracy Bracy
Aug. 10, 2013 at 3:10 a.m.


It's August, and that means college classes are just around the corner. Whether you are a college student looking for a place to live or just a new resident to the area, searching for an apartment can be a daunting task. Better Business Bureau receives thousands of complaints against apartment complexes every year, consistently placing the apartment industry on Better Business Bureau's top 20 list of most complained about industries.

So far in 2013, Better Business Bureau has received around 5,500 complaints on apartments nationwide. Most complaints allege difficulties getting security deposits back, while other complaints allege repairs were not handled in a timely manner.

Before signing any lease, make sure you read the terms and conditions carefully and understand your responsibilities as an apartment tenant. Make sure the following information is included in your lease:

Maintenance. Find out how all repair concerns are handled and within what time frame.

Deposits. Know what your security deposit covers and the conditions for deductions.

Increases. Ask if your rent or other fees will be increased during your lease term.

Subletting. See whether or not you are allowed to sublet your unit in an emergency.

Rent. Get a schedule of when monthly payments are due and where rent can be paid.

Coverage. Ask if insurance is required and what is covered.

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 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 upon move-out.

Better Business Bureau also suggests renters:

Check out the apartment. Go to bbb.org to see the Better Business Bureau Business Review of the apartment you are considering. This will show its Better Business Bureau rating, any history of complaints, as well as the complaint details and any contact information.

Visit the complex. Tour the facility and unit to be sure the community and living space will meet your needs. Websites often use pictures taken only from the best locations on the property or of promotional units.

Keep a signed copy of the lease. Store it in a safe place in case you need to refer back to it.

Consider renters insurance. Many apartment communities require tenants have a minimum amount of renter's insurance before move in.

If it's not required, it's still an option tenants should consider. Renter's 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.

Tracy Bracy is the regional director of the Better Business Bureau for Corpus Christi/Victoria. Contact her by email at tbracy@corpuschristi.bbb.org.

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