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Renting and Leasing
Alternatives to Buying A Home
If you’re relocating to the San Antonio area, you may not be ready to purchase a home. In that case, renting or leasing may be the perfect solution. In the greater San Antonio area, there are more than 100,000 total apartment units with rents that are at least 20 percent less than the national average. An average apartment rental rate for a one-bedroom, one-bath apartment is $629 and for a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment, the average rate is $843 per month. Whether you’re looking for an apartment, a townhome, a mid-rise, a high-rise, condo or a single-family home, you’ll find a unit to suit your tastes and lifestyle.

As you drive through San Antonio neighborhoods and review listings online, you’ll soon discover how affordable buying a home can be; however, it still may not be the right decision for you at the current time. Here are a few considerations when determining if you should rent or own.

Reduced Flexibility – If your company relocates employees frequently, or you’re not interested in staying somewhere for more than a year or two, you may want to think twice about buying. The costs you incur to sell a home (realtor’s fees, closing costs, costs to market the property) may outpace any gains in the property’s value or selling price.

Not Ready to Commit – How likely is it that your life and your needs will change? Is your family growing, or do you have children who are getting ready to leave home or go to college? Is divorce or separation a possibility in your near future? Will there be other demands on your income or savings?

Return on Investment – Most people believe property always appreciates or gains value, but that’s not always the case. A change in the neighborhood or the economy can affect the value of your property, which is certainly an issue currently. Sometimes you’ll make money as a result, but you may lose money on your investment if you haven’t owned the property for long. You’ll also need to consider any additional money that you put into the property for improvements or upkeep while you live there.

Maintenance Responsibility – Home ownership requires being responsible for making the repairs or hiring others to make them, being available when repairs need to be made and paying for the repairs.

Lifestyle Factors – Is the neighborhood you’re interested in affordable with an adequate selection? Is it close to your work or school? Can you find rental housing where you would like to live, or is a home you buy the only option?

Tax Advantages – If you itemize your income tax, you can deduct interest you pay on a mortgage and property taxes that you pay. You can also deduct points paid to lenders in the year that you incur that cost. If you don’t itemize, you won’t get these deductions.

Peace of Mind – Ultimately, you need to decide if you’ll be more satisfied and comfortable in a home you own, or in a home you rent.

Getting Organized
Now that you’ve determined that renting is your best option at this time, it’s time to get organized. Are you prepared to submit a rental application? Review this list to help you prepare.

What’s Your Budget? – Establish a rental rate you can afford. Don’t forget that you may need to pay for utilities and other items not included in your rent. Many properties will not approve you as a resident if you’ll have to spend more than a third of your gross income on the rent.

How is your Credit? – Check out your credit record with a report from a consumer reporting agency and be sure to clear up any problems or mistakes on your record before you fill out a rental application.

Prepare paperwork – As you apply to various complexes or realty firms, have the following information readily available so the application process can go smoothly.
  • Current and former addresses.
  • Current and past employment with dates and contact phone numbers.
  • Credit references
  • Copy of your credit report (if available).
  • Bank information.
  • Bring your checkbook as you may be required to pay a security deposit of anywhere from $200 to $400.
  • If you have pets, expect to pay a pet deposit.

Stay Focused
Before you start looking and comparing properties, determine your needs. Do you need a place with lots of space, good closets, proximity to work or school, or near to shopping or public transportation? Are you looking for a neighborhood with a suburban feel or prefer being closer to higher density, urban areas?

Then, of course, determining how much space you need and whether you’ll need a storage space for extra furniture. Are you interested in a specific school district for your children? Is there a washer dryer in the rental? How is the traffic leaving your neighborhood in the morning and at night?

Types of Housing Available
The San Antonio region offers many lifestyle choices leaving you with the main task of determining where you want to live. Do you want to live close to your employment or is it more important that you live in a neighborhood close to a particular school district? You can expect to commute an average of 24 minutes getting around the city, which is way below the national average.

Houses – There are many homes for rent in the San Antonio area. While you’ll pay more, you will get more, including a fenced yard.

Apartments – There are thousands of apartment units in the greater San Antonio area with many choices of amenities and locations. These can include garden-style apartments with three levels or less and usually have staircase access. Mid-rise apartments are four-to-six levels and are more dominant in urban areas.

Townhouses and condos – Ideally suited for busy professionals who require more amenities, including concierge services, maid service, shuttle services and valet parking.

Temporary/Corporate Housing – This option best suits people in these situations: homebuyers encountering various delays; homeowners who are renovating their homes; new residents or visitors searching for an apartment or house; tourists or business people on an extended stay; personnel who are relocating; visiting executives; or corporate clients.

All-inclusive short-term housing – Many newcomers opt to use “all inclusive” short-term rental properties that provide everything from furniture to dishes and linens to utilities and phone service. While these properties typically charge a higher rate, they can often be more flexible than individual landlords. With this approach you’re free to place the majority of your belongings in storage and keep only personal possessions with you at your rental.

Hotel/Motels – If you need housing for a relatively short period of time, staying in a local hotel or motel might fit the bill. Depending on your budget, you can check in to an extended-stay neighborhood property. Some properties offer special weekly rates for guests who are in need of short-term housing. Ask about fees, availability for the dates you anticipate needing and short-term storage options.

Amenities Galore
In addition to affordable rents in the area, amenities provided by many apartment complexes are considered luxuries in other U.S. cities. Expect to find features such as covered parking, microwaves and ice makers, fireplaces, community clubhouse, large kitchens with generous storage, sport court, children’s playground, lighted tennis court, private patios and walk-in-closets. You’ll also find apartments that accept small pets under 25 pounds. Be sure to ask about amenities that are important to you.

Renter Resources
Part of your rental-search tool kit should include helpful resources, online and printed. You’ll also want to cruise neighborhoods of interest to you and look for signs on front lawns. While you’re at it, stop by the local grocery store and peruse the free publication racks. There you’ll find any local resources that may include listings in a specific neighborhood. Ask if there is a regional newspaper as well. Your company’s relocation representative can also help you with availabilities in various San Antonio neighborhoods.
  • Real estate agents – You’ll want to use the services of a realtor who can help with your rental needs. Most national realtor firms offer rental assistance, especially those catering to the relocation market.
  • Relocating to San Antonio advertisers – The pages of this relocation guide contain helpful information on many reliable and quality resources for renting or leasing in the San Antonio region (www.relocatingtosanantonio.org).
  • The San Antonio Express News is the city’s main daily newspaper and one of the 10-largest newspapers in the nation (www.mysanantonio.com).
  • For the Hispanic market, there are several Spanish-language newspapers: El Continental (www.elcontinental.com), La Prensa (www.laprensasa.com) and Rumbo de San Antonio (www.impre.com/rumbo/san-antonio/home.php).
  • For Spanish-speaking families relocating to the area, online apartment resource www.ParaRentar.com offers a selection of apartment options.
  • Active adults over 55 can visit www.senioroutlook.com to find numerous apartment listings in San Antonio.
  • Craig’s List (www.craigslist.org) is free to landlords and apartment hunters.

Before Signing the Lease
You’ve made your selection and you’re ready to sign the lease. Are there any remaining issues to address? Review this summary checklist before you sign.
  • Be sure you’ve been given a tour of the exact home or apartment that you’re going to rent and not a model.
  • If there are any problems with the house or apartment you’ll be moving into, provide a detailed list and give it to the landlord or owner. Indicate you want these items repaired before you move in. If these items are not fixed by the time that you move in, document the things that need to be repaired or replaced in writing and with photographs. Send a copy to the landlord or owner and keep a copy for yourself. These things should include any chips in the walls, broken appliances and anything in the house that looks worn or deteriorated. In the event that a deposit is held for any of these items, you now have proof that they were in existence before you moved in.
  • It’s a good idea to request that the locks are changed before you move into your new place. Once new keys are made, ask the landlord or owner to tell you who has copies of the keys. Usually, the only other people that should have access to your home is the owner or landlord.
  • Consider renter’s insurance. It is not that expensive, and depending on the terms of the policy that you purchase, renter’s insurance will protect you from fire, break-ins or other disasters at a low cost.
  • Depending on your lease, the owner may or may not be responsible for minor problems like leaky faucets or problems with appliances.

Texas Apartment Association (TAA) Answers Frequently Asked Questions
  1. Can the manager enter my apartment when I’m not at home?
ANSWER: There are a number of reasons why property managers or maintenance staff may need to enter your apartment, and it could be very inconvenient for you if you always had to be home and available when these circumstances arose. If you signed a TAA Lease Contract, you’ve given permission to the apartment management and/or maintenance personnel to enter your apartment when you are not there for:
  • Responding to your request.
  • Making repairs or replacements.
  • Estimating repair or refurbishing costs.
  • Performing pest control or doing preventive maintenance.
  • Changing filters.
  • Testing or replacing smoke detector batteries.
  • Retrieving unreturned tools, equipment, or appliances.
  • Preventing waste of utilities.
  • Exercising a contractual lien (removing your non-exempt belongings if you haven’t paid the rent).
  • Leaving notices.
  • Delivering, installing, reconnecting, or replacing appliances, furniture, equipment, or security devices.
  • Removing or rekeying unauthorized security devices.
  • Removing unauthorized window coverings.
  • Stopping excessive noise.
  • Removing health or safety hazards (including hazardous materials), or items prohibited under our rules.
  • Removing perishable foodstuffs if your electricity is disconnected.
  • Removing unauthorized animals.
  • Cutting off electricity according to statute.
  • Retrieving property owned or leased by former residents.
  • Inspecting when immediate danger to person or property is reasonably suspected.
  • Allowing persons to enter as you authorized in your rental application (if you die, are incarcerated, etc.).
  • Allowing entry by a law officer with a search or arrest warrant, or in hot pursuit.
  • Showing apartment to prospective residents (after move-out or vacate notice has been given).
  • Showing apartment to government inspectors, fire marshals, lenders, appraisers, contractors, prospective buyers, or insurance agents.

Under the TAA lease, the management must leave notice of entry inside your apartment indicating that a management representative entered the apartment, and why he or she was there.

If you are at home when the management wishes to enter the apartment for any reasonable reason, the management must ask to enter peacefully and at reasonable times.
          
       2.  How much notice must I give to move out?
ANSWER: Your lease will tell you how much notice you must give if you are moving out at the end (or before the end) of the lease t      
term. Moving out before the end of the lease term will violate the terms of the lease, and you’ll be responsible for any charges outlined in
the lease for being in default.

       3.  Who covers the cost of damages to my property if I’m robbed, or there is a
fire or other accident?
ANSWER: If you have renters insurance, your insurance should cover your losses, minus any deductible. If you don’t have insurance,  you’ll be responsible for replacing or repairing your property. The property owner’s insurance does not cover property belonging to residents; it only covers the property owner’s belongings, buildings, etc. If the property owner or his employees negligently caused the accident, you may have grounds to recover damages from the owner, but you’ll need to have legal advice.
 
       4.  What happens if I don’t pay the rent?
             ANSWER: A number of things can happen if you don’t pay your rent.
  • You may incur late charges, which must be paid in addition to the rent.
  • If your lease includes the appropriate provision, the owner can enter your apartment and remove items like TVs, stereos, sports equipment, etc. and keep it until you pay your rent. This provision must be underlined or in bold print in your lease. The owner cannot remove items that are listed as “exempt” in Section 54.041 of the Texas Property Code. Seized items may be sold if the owner gives you the proper notice under the statute.
  • If the property owner gives you the proper notice under Section 92.0081 of the Texas Property Code, you may be locked out of your apartment or rental home; you will then have to contact the property owner or manager to get back into your apartment.
  • If electricity is connected in the property’s name and paid for by the property, the owner may cut off service to your apartment after giving you the proper notice.
  • The owner may also file to evict you from the property, and report your non-payment to consumer reporting agencies, rental history tracking companies, properties you may try to rent from in the future.
  • If your lease includes a water allocation or submetering provision and you pay your water bill to the property, the property owner may charge a fee of up to 5 percent of the amount due when your payment is late.

        5.  Can I be locked out of my apartment for non-payment of rent?
ANSWER: Yes. Section 92.0081 of the Texas Property Code allows owners to change the door locks on an apartment unit if the rent is delinquent. However, the owner must first notify you at least three days before the locks are to be changed. After the lockout, the owner must leave a notice telling you where the key can be obtained 24 hours a day. You must contact the owner or the owner’s agent to gain access to your apartment or rental home, but the owner cannot refuse to allow you back in, even if you have not yet paid your rent. If you haven’t paid your rent, though, you’ll still be subject to any of the owner’s remedies against you for non-payment, including another lockout.

        6.  Can the rent be increased during my lease?
ANSWER: No, unless your lease has a provision that allows increases during the term. Under the TAA Lease Contract, the rent cannot be increased during the initial lease term unless a “special provision” is inserted or an addendum to that effect is attached. To increase the rent (or any other amount noted on page 1 of the lease) at the end of the initial lease term, the owner must give you the same amount of notice that you are required to give if you plan to move out at the end of the term, plus five days.

        7.  Is there any limit on rent increases?
ANSWER: Texas does not have any rent control laws. Rents are determined by property owners and are typically market-driven.

        8.  How do I complain about the property management or owner?
ANSWER: You have a number of options. You should first discuss your situation with the onsite management, and try to resolve any issues. If that fails, you may want to contact the management company office or the property owner to complain. You can also contact the TAA affiliated local association in the area where the property is located, for more information or referrals to other sources of assistance.

        9.  How do I find out who owns or manages the property?
ANSWER: Request it in writing from the onsite manager. Under state law, if you make a written request to the managing agent of the owner, you are entitled to be given the name and mailing address of the owner and/or the name and street address of the property management company. This information is also available to government officials acting in an official capacity.

If you cannot get this information and if you follow statutory notice procedures, you may be able to terminate your lease or sue for your cost of getting the information, one month’s rent plus $100, court costs and attorney’s fees.

      10.  Can I stop paying rent until a repair is made?
ANSWER: No. Texas law prohibits “rent strikes” or withholding rent in order to force repairs. There are other remedies in the law to encourage property owners to make repairs.

      11.  What can I do if the dwelling owner will not make a repair?
ANSWER: If the lease requires the management to make repairs, inform the manager in writing and keep a dated copy. The law requires in nearly every instance that the owner must repair:
  • Security devices.
  • Conditions that materially affect the health and safety of the ordinary resident.

Problems that cause discomfort or inconvenience are not covered by the statute.
  • Give the manager written notice of the needed repairs and keep a dated copy.
  • If you don’t receive a response within a reasonable time, renotify the manager orally and in writing.
  • If you still don’t get a response, you may have legal grounds to exercise statutory rights of lease termination, compulsory repairs, damages, penalties, third-party repair and deduct attorney’s fees.
  • Instead of giving two separate written notices, you can give a single notice by certified mail, return receipt requested.
You must follow specific procedures to exercise your statutory remedies and disregarding those procedures can expose you to a civil damages suit against you by the owner. You may want to seek legal advice to exercise your statutory remedies (lease cancellation and compulsory repairs).

You may want to contact your city building inspector’s office or county health department if you feel the condition violates state statutes or local housing codes regarding safety and sanitation.

     12.  How can I get my security deposit refund?
ANSWER: First, give whatever written notice your lease requires. (Most leases require at least a 30-day written notice). Your security deposit cannot be kept for failure to give such notice unless the provision requiring it is underlined or in bold type in the lease.
To best assure refund of your security deposit:
  • You must stay for the full term of your lease.
  • You must give written notice of your forwarding address.
  • You must not be delinquent in your rent or other sums owed when you move out.
  • You must leave the premises in a clean condition and follow any other lease provisions regarding your security deposit refund.
  • You cannot deduct the amount of the security deposit from your last month’s rent. If you do so, you can be sued for three times the amount of the deposit plus attorney’s fees.
  • Go through your apartment or other rental property with the manager to check its condition against your “move-in” inventory checklist.

      13.  When should I receive my security deposit refund?
ANSWER: Within 30 days of your move-out, your security deposit or an itemized description of deductions must be mailed to you. If you don’t receive a refund or explanation postmarked within the 30-day period, you may sue for three times the amount illegally held, plus attorney’s fees and a $100 statutory penalty.

      14.  What can be deducted from my security deposit?
ANSWER:
  • Any charge specified in the lease or any charge resulting from your breaking the lease.
  • Charges for damages, wear and tear resulting from negligence, carelessness, accident or abuse on your part. “Normal wear and tear” items cannot be deducted.
  • Unpaid rent and other unpaid charges listed in your lease, such as those for late rent payment, returned checks, animal violation charges, missing furniture or fixtures and keys you don’t return to the management.
  • The reasonable cost of cleaning if you fail to properly clean before you leave. Many rental properties have written cleaning instructions for you to follow.

Any deduction must be listed in a written description and itemization mailed to you on or before 30 days after you leave. However, there is no obligation that you be furnished this information if you have not paid all of your rent or if you have not given your forwarding address in writing.

      15.  Can I deduct my security deposit from my last month’s rent?
ANSWER: No. You cannot deduct the amount of the security deposit from your last month’s rent. Your security deposit is not part of your rent payment. It is money paid in advance to offset any damages you cause or other non-rent amounts you owe to the property while you live there. If you deduct your security deposit from your last month’s rent, you can be sued for three times the amount of the deposit plus attorney’s fees. You may also be responsible for a reletting charge and unpaid rent.

      16.  What should I do if I disagree with deductions made from my security deposit?
ANSWER: You have a number of options. You should first discuss your situation with the onsite management and try to resolve any issues. If that fails, you may want to contact the management company office or the property owner to complain. You can also contact the TAA affiliated local association in the area where the property is located, for more information or referrals to other sources of assistance. You can also sue the owner for what was wrongfully withheld plus statutory penalties and attorney’s fees.

      17.  I’m buying a house. Can I get out of my lease?
ANSWER: There seems to be a common misperception that buying a home allows you to break your lease; that’s not true. Unless you and the property owner agreed to some special provision when the lease was signed, you will still be responsible for any charges noted in your lease if you move out early to purchase a home. Such charges may include a “reletting fee” (to cover the property’s cost of getting the apartment leased again) and the remainder of the rent through the end of your lease term, less rent received from a subsequent resident.

     18.  My company is transferring me to another city. Can I get out of my lease?
ANSWER: Unless you have a transfer clause in your lease that was agreed to by all parties when the lease was signed, you’ll still be responsible for any charges noted in your lease if you move early because of a job change or move. Such charges may include a “reletting fee” (to cover the property’s cost of getting the apartment leased again) and the remainder of the rent through the end of your lease term, less rent received from a subsequent resident. You may want to discuss this with your employer when you are negotiating the transfer.

     19.  I don’t think the property is maintained well. Can I get out of my lease?
ANSWER: Maybe, but that decision will likely be made in court. If repairs are not being made to conditions that materially affect the health and safety of the ordinary resident, and you follow the appropriate notice provisions outlined in state law, you may exercise statutory remedies that can include terminating your lease. However, you must follow the notice procedures carefully. You may want to get legal advice before trying to use these provisions in the law.

      20.  I’m in the military, and I’m being transferred or deployed. Can I get
out of my lease?
ANSWER: Under paragraph 23 of the TAA Lease Contract, the owner is required to allow you to move out early under certain circumstances. You may terminate your lease contract if you enlist or are drafted or commissioned into active service in the U.S. Armed Forces or are a member of the Armed Forces or reserves called to active duty AND are either:
  • given change-of-station orders to permanently depart the local area;
  • deployed with a military unit or as an individual in support of a military unit for 90 days or more; or
  • relieved or released from active duty.

When a member of the Armed Forces terminates a lease under paragraph 23, the termination automatically terminates the lease for any spouse or dependent who may have signed it. If, at the time of signing a lease, you already knew about the change of duty station or retirement or knew that your term of enlistment would expire prior to the end of your lease term and if you failed to inform the owner of such facts prior to signing, you are liable to the owner for liquidated damages in the amount of all rent losses that the owner may incur during the remainder of the original lease term, even though you have terminated the lease under paragraph 23.

      21. How much notice must I receive to be evicted?
ANSWER: Unless your written lease states otherwise, you must be given three days’ notice of an eviction. TAA Lease Contracts allow 24 hours’ notice for eviction.

     22.  What happens if I get an eviction notice?
ANSWER: These are the major steps in the eviction process:
  • You’ll receive a written notice to vacate from the property management. If your lease is in writing, it may allow this notice to be given just one day before you’re asked to move out. If you don’t have a written lease or your written lease does not state otherwise, you must be given at least three days notice.
  • The property owner files an eviction lawsuit in justice of the peace court
  • A constable will serve you with lawsuit papers
  • A hearing is held in JP court (shortly after you receive a copy of the lawsuit)
  • If the property owner wins, the constable will evict you, and may peacefully remove your property from your apartment. n
Source: Texas Apartment Association
 
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