Ten Things You Probably Did Not Know About Renting an Apartment

1. Fair Housing Rules: are established by HUD (the Housing of Urban Development). They forbid an apartment to discriminate against a possible renter based on the following categories: color or race, nation origin, religion, sex, family status (including children under the age of 18 living with parents or legal custodians, pregnant women, and people securing custody of children under the age of 18), and disability.

2. Pets: If you have an aquarium, many apartments restrict the size that they will allow (the number of gallons), and sometimes they will restrict what floor you are allowed to live on (typically you must be on the ground floor). Regarding dogs or cats, most apartments only allow up to 2 pets. Many of them have weight limits on those 2 pets that can range anywhere from 20 to 30 pounds for each pet, or up to 50 pounds per pet. Other apartments have NO weight limits and will accept dogs of ANY weight.

Also, most apartments do not allow what they consider “aggressive” dog breeds. These breeds typically include: Chows, Pit Bulls, Dobermans, German Shepherds, and Rottweilers. Some apartments also include Great Danes, Mastiffs, Boxers and Huskies. Each apartment can vary slightly, but the first 5 breeds mentioned are almost always included. TIPS: Your Apartment Locator will know which apartments are more likely to be flexible and work with you if you have more than 2 pets, if you have a large dog over 50 pounds, or if you have a dog that is typically restricted.

Some of the apartments that are more flexible than others may be individually owned and possess more freedom when it comes to making exceptions. Usually apartments that are part of a large group (chain) of a family of properties have iron clad rules set by the management company that cannot be overturned. Many times it is their insurance company that dictates those restrictions. But again, private individually owned properties are sometimes more flexible.

Also, if the dog is not a PURE bred, and is only half German Shepherd or half Doberman, or half Pit Bull, etc, and the dog does not look primarily like the restricted breed, then when you fill out the Application and it asks what type of dog you have, instead of saying you have a Doberman mix, emphasize the OTHER half of the breed. If it is a Doberman mixed with a Collie, for example, then just say you have a Collie mix. If your dog, however, LOOKS primarily like Doberman, then you may need to get a letter from your Vet that states that your dog is over 50% Collie (in this example). The letter just needs to confirm that your dog is over 50% another type of breed that is not restricted. Sometimes this will suffice for the Apartment Management. Some apartments require a “Pet Interview” to determine the friendliness of your pet.

If your pet is 100% pure, or looks 100% pure, and is one of the main 5 restricted breeds, your Apartment Locator will save you a lot of time letting you know whether there is a property in the city that may work with you, or whether your best bet is to find a privately owned house or condo to rent. This way, you will not waste your time getting turned away at every apartment you visit.

3. Number of Occupants: Most apartments only allow up to two (2) occupants per room. If you have a family of five, for example, then you will have to get a 3 bedroom. They will not let you put 3 people in one bedroom or one person on the couch in the living room. And you cannot just hide one of the occupants from the knowledge of the Leasing Office (See number 4 below). Exceptions: for babies or children 2 years old or less, most apartments will not count them as an occupant. So, you could have 2 adults and one baby in a one bedroom, typically. However, the apartments will require you to upgrade soon to a larger apartment as soon as the baby becomes older. Each apartment may have a slightly different age limit when they begin counting the young child as an occupant. Some do not consider the child as an occupant until it is 4 years old, and some begin counting at an earlier age. Check with the apartment you are considering.

4. Age of Occupants: Most apartments require ALL occupants who are over the age of eighteen (18) years to be included on the Lease. This age may vary according to city and state. But for Dallas, Texas for example, the age requirement is 18. This means that your 18 year old son or daughter will have to be added to the Lease. The criminal background check will be conducted on him or her as well. By having ALL adults added to the lease, it helps to prevent your next door neighbor from hiding the fact that they have an occupant who is a convicted felon with a history of violence or even possibly a sex offender. Of course, your neighbor could still be harboring such an individual and just try to hide this person from the knowledge of the Leasing Office by leaving them off of the Rental Application. However, a person can only hide for so long before the Apartments discover there is someone else living there with them who they have no knowledge of. This can be grounds for eviction and the apartments will require an immediate background check on that new individual.

Be sure to let the office of your Apartment Complex know if you suddenly start seeing a new person coming and going all the time from your neighbor's apartment. Maybe the new person just recently moved in with your neighbor. If this is the case, those renters are suppose to immediately let the office know, and add the new occupant to their Lease so that the criminal background check can be conducted.

There is an advantage to having your 18 year old son or daughter added to the Lease. Besides complying with the rules of the apartment and avoiding possible problems later when the apartments realize you did not add them from the beginning, you are also helping your son or daughter to grow their positive credit profile. By being on the Lease, this will help their credit, and later when they go to get an apartment of their own, they will already have a positive rental history.

If you have a family member who has a criminal background, rather than trying to hide that family member and risk getting in trouble with the apartments later when they find out, ask a reputable apartment locator to assist you. Depending on what the conviction was for, some apartments may be able to work with you. If not, then it is better to rent a house that is privately owned. They typically do not have the resources to do background checks.

5. Income Requirements: Apartments typically require that you earn an income equal to 3 times whatever the rent amount is, as a minimum. If the rent is $1000, they will require proof that you earn $3000 a month or more. Some apartments require 3.5 times, but most only require that you earn 3 times the rent amount. The proof can be presented in the form of paycheck stubs.

If you are starting a new job and have not received any paycheck stubs yet, then that's okay. You will just present a letter from your new employer showing your hire date, and what your pay will be (this is typically called an “Offer Letter” or “Hire Letter”).

If you are retired or living on disability and you do not have a job, then this is okay also. As a retired person, you can just present bank statements to show the reserves that you are living on, as well as copies of Social Security checks, pension checks or any investments that you receive regular proceeds from. If a family member helps you ever month by sending you money, then that family member can provide a notarized letter stating how much money they give you monthly. Also, your bank statements should reflect those deposits. If you are living off of disability income, then you can provide a copy of the letter stating how much disability money you receive each period. And again, if a family member is assisting you, then you can provide a notarized letter stating how much money they give you monthly and your bank statements should show deposits as well. There are some apartments that are more lenient than others when it comes to income requirements. Perhaps they only require that you earn 2.5 times the rent amount instead of the typical 3 times. Your Apartment Locator will best know where to guide you if income is an issue.

If you are self employed, then you will likely present to the apartments bank statements as well as the most recent years tax return, showing your income.

6. What is the Difference between a Townhome, Condo and Apartment: There is sometimes some confusion as to what the difference is between a townhome, a condo, or an apartment. It is odd that we call apartments by that name, since it consists of a bunch of homes stuck together. They are not “apart”.

A townhome is simply an apartment that is 2 stories inside. They are also called split level apartments. They have an upstairs and a downstairs. Sometimes there are even three stories inside. The townhome can be in a community just like an apartment community, with a leasing office that manages each unit and rents them out. Sometimes these townhomes have tiny little fenced backyards or courtyards. Other times they are exactly like an apartment, with just a small patio or balcony. Just like an apartment community, they usually have a swimming pool and some other amenities. If you need something fixed, you simply call the leasing office and they send out the maintenance man on staff. Townhomes are different than a loft in that a loft typically is OPEN to the bottom floor. You can look down from the top level to the bottom story.

Some townhomes are not rentals, however. Some of them are sold as individual homes and they are not managed. If any of those are ever rented, it would be just like any other house that is for rent. The individual owner would be responsible for putting the sign in the yard, or retaining a Real Estate Agent to rent out the unit for them. If you decide to look for one of these individually owned townhomes to rent, just beware: The rent may be higher because the owner typically has to pay for their mortgage as well as very high HOA dues (homeowners association dues). To offset these expenses and just break even, they will have to charge a higher amount in rent. Also, if something is wrong with your unit, you must contact the owner and work out the solution. There is no management office that you can walk over to or call up to request the maintenance service.

A condo is just like a regular apartment, except it is individually owned. Many condos start off as apartment complexes and, at some point, the owner of the property decides to sell each apartment unit one by one as condos. Once they are sold, the individual owner of that unit is responsible for everything. They must pay very high Homeowners Association dues also, and they typically only own the “air” inside the condo. Therefore, the HOA still takes care of the outside of the property (roof, fence, paint, landscaping), and the owner takes care of everything inside. They have the freedom to remodel and design the unit however they please, which they could not do with an apartment. But they are responsible for all repairs and service and maintenance on the inside of the condo. The property value of a condo is typically slower to rise, unless you happen to get an unusually good deal. Since most condos were originally apartments, they do not usually have anything more than a typical small patio or balcony on the outside. If a condo is ever available for rent, it would be for rent by the individual owner. There would not be a Leasing Office to call for maintenance requests. You would have to work out all such requests with the owner.

7. Credit: Perhaps you are not sure what will show up on your credit that may or may not prevent you from being approved to rent an apartment. If this is the case, Apartment Locators are not able to pull and check your credit. However, you can check your own credit by going to FreeCreditReport.com or AnnualCreditReport.com. The FreeCreditReport.com website may require that you enter a credit card number in order to view your free report. AnnualCreditReport.com does not require a credit card number in order to access your credit.

If such things as a foreclosure, bankruptcy, or money owed to a past apartment community show up on your credit, take note as to WHEN the credit shows these items occurred, and whether or not they are accurate in the first place. If they are not accurate, then do these 2 things: 1. Dispute the inaccurate item. For instance, if it shows that you owe a past apartment complex money, and you do not owe them because you paid off the debt, then dispute this claim on your credit as inaccurate. 2. At the same time, contact the apartments that it shows you owe past money to (in this example) and get a receipt or letter from them showing that you paid your balance in full. You will need this documentation to show the new apartment community when they process your Application and see this negative mark on your credit.

If the negative marks on your credit ARE accurate, there is nothing you can do to remove the bankruptcy or foreclosure. But if the debt is with a past apartment community, is it possible to contact that previous property and work out an arrangement to pay them back? If so, be sure to get a letter or receipt once your debt is paid in full, so you can show this to future apartments. If it isn't possible to pay back the debt, then talk to your Apartment Locator about the possible obstacle, and be sure to tell them WHEN these occurrences happened on your credit. The longer ago it was, the better. There are apartments that can work with past bankruptcies, foreclosures and even broken leases as long as they were not recent.

8. Washer and Dryer: Do you want your new apartment to come with a washer and dryer? That is understandable, but if you tell your Apartment Locator that you ONLY want information on the best apartments in Dallas that come furnished with a washer/dryer, you will be greatly limiting your search results to very few options. This is not necessary. Almost all newer apartments come with washer/dryer connections. Either the apartment community's leasing office or your Apartment Locator will give you the number of one of the several companies who LEASE you a washer/dryer. They will bring the unit out to your new apartment and hook it up for you. When you are moving out, they will come and take the washer/dryer away. You simply pay a small monthly fee, usually in the ballpark of $25-$30 a month for the pair. By taking advantage of these services, you will be free to consider ANY of the best apartments in Dallas that your Locator finds for you!

9. Apartment Review and Apartment Rating Websites: Are you concerned because an apartment complex that you were considering looks like it has bad reviews on one of those apartment rating websites? Well, don't be. Those websites are notorious for being unreliable. Why? Because the vast majority of any negative comments that are left about a particular property are left by the staff who work at the COMPETING apartment community that is nearby! Likewise, the vast majority of any positive comments attached to any given community will be left by members of the leasing office who work at that particular apartment complex.

It is amazing some of the creative stories that these writers can come up with. Many of them sound so believable as they go and on about the bad parking and the poor office management and the roaches that are crawling all over the place. They may even make up a story about a violent incident that occurred and how the police had to get involved. No doubt the apartment's competition who are writing these comments are laughing while they do it.

Really, there is no way to ever know for sure who is pretending. Your best bet, if you want to avoid apartment communities with bad reputations and look for the best apartments in Dallas, is to go to a trusted and experienced Apartment Locator who has lived in the Dallas area for many years and is familiar with all the properties. Another great step to take, if safety is your concern, is to call the local police station that is closest to the apartments you are considering, and just ask them if the property is known to have unusual high crime rates. Remember, whenever you combine 200 to 300 families into one property, you will always have some issues from time to time. But, ask the officers if there is a higher than average crime rate for the area.

10. What Do I Need to Take With Me When I Go To Look At Apartments? Most apartment properties will not show you an apartment to tour unless you have your driver's license with you, or some other picture I.D.

Also, remember to bring the name of your Apartment Locator and the name of the Company they work for. You will need to tell every apartment you visit up front that you are working with an Apartment Locator. The apartments will want to notate on your Guest Card which Locating Company you are using. Tell them “Amy from J.Ellis”.

You will likely want to bring with you the list of apartments that your Apartment Locator sent you. The information should include apartment names, addresses and maps of each property, as well as phone numbers in case you get lost. Most importantly, it will contain the floorplans and the approximate prices for each unit. If your Locator has called ahead of time to inquire about specials, it will also include notes on each property as to what special (advertised or unadvertised) each property said they would offer. You need this information to refer to when visiting the apartments. The leasing agent may forget to tell you about one of the specials, or she may not offer it unless you inquire.

It's also a good idea to carry your Apartment Locator's phone number with you in case you pass by a property that isn't on the list. Before you waste your time stopping at every place you see, check to make sure this isn't a community with a bad reputation, and that it is in your price range and has openings.

If you want to avoid filling out a Guest Card at every single apartment complex, this website has a tab “Bring This With You When You Look at Apts”, where you can print off a Guest Card ahead of time, fill it in, and just make copies to hand out to each apartment community.

When you find the apartment that you want to go with, you will fill out the Application (and you must again write the name of your Locator on the Application “Amy from J. Ellis”. For more information, see the tab “How Does it Work”). At the same time that you hand the Application in, you will need to give them an Application Fee. Some apartments will take this fee in the form of a personal check, but others require a money order. Very few will accept cash. So, you may want to bring your check book with you as well.

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BestApartmentsDFW.com is a website operated by Licensed Real Estate Agent Amy Williams, brokered by J. Ellis Apartment Locators. Agent #: 488955. Broker #: 503345