BBB is advising consumers to be aware of their rights and responsibilities before signing an apartment lease. Apartment complexes are consistently on BBB’s top 25 list of most complained about industries.
Nationally, BBB received more than 8,000 complaints about apartments in 2012. Most allege consumers were billed incorrectly, had difficulty getting their security deposits back or did not get repairs handled in a timely manner.
“According to the Texas Attorney General’s office, tenants have a number of rights under Texas law, including peace, quiet, health, safety and security”, said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas. “Should the landlord not fulfill his or her obligations, tenants may end the lease, repair the problem themselves and deduct the cost from their rent or get a court order to force the landlord to make the repairs.”
In addition, the Attorney General reminds tenants that they have certain responsibilities under the law as well, including paying rent in full and on time, proper upkeep of the property, giving notice before moving out, and supplying a forwarding address after a move.
BBB provides renters with the following suggestions
- 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.
- 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.
- Read the lease thoroughly. Check what normal maintenance you’re responsible for, what your security deposit covers, when payments are due and what fees are assessed if you’re late.
- Document your unit’s condition. Most apartment complexes provide a move-in checklist to document any damage. Walk through the entire apartment and write down every flaw or defect.
- Ask for repairs in writing. If you have trouble with maintenance requests, send the landlord a dated letter via certified mail. Keep a copy for your records. If the landlord does not address the issue in a reasonable amount of time (usually seven days), consult with an attorney. You maybe entitled to terminate the lease, repair the problem and deduct the cost from your rent, or get a court to order that the repairs be made.
Continue paying rent. Do not stop paying your rent in order to force your landlord to make repairs. You could face eviction and the nonpayment may affect your credit report.
For more information on how to be a savvy consumer, go to www.bbb.org. To report a fraud or scam, call the BBB Hotline: (903)581-8373.