Are you looking for a new apartment for rent? Learn more about how to find a rental property and what to do if tenant-landlord conflicts arise!
"Landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed" (Karl Marx)
According to the Apartment List National Rent Report, more and more people choose to rent than to buy their own homes. The Americans have the following reasons for this: real estate prices have risen dramatically while incomes have stagnated in the recent years. And they prefer to invest money in education, business development, equities or other assets. Moreover, mortgages can be very risky. If you miss a few mortgage payments because of any unpredictable expenses, you can have your house just taken away. Things happen. So, an issue of property rental is evermore crucial in the United States. Let’s consider the matter in full detail.
How to find a rental house?
As a rule, it is not very easy to find a place that is within your budget and at the same time close enough to work. Some tips on renting a house can help you to make the whole process as stress-free as possible.
- Plan ahead! Remember that a process of rental property search is long lasting. So, do not wait until the last minute to look for a new apartment. If you are in a hurry, you will possibly have to accept an offer you don’t really want. You’d rather start your search early in the month. The second and the third weeks of the month are considered the busiest. So, early in the month the best properties will be still available and the competition will be less fierce. Moreover, it is better to lease an apartment in November, December or January when rent prices are the lowest.
- Begin online! Today the World Wide Web is the best way to find a rental house and to become familiar with useful apartment renting tips. You can get a sense of pricing and apartment amenities.
- Post an ad on Facebook or other social media platform. Let people know that you are looking for a new place to live.
- Ask your friends or relatives whether they have a suitable solution.
- Use the following web resources for rentals:
- ForRent (a web-based search engine for rental housing. There you can search for apartments and rental houses nationwide. Moreover, you can become familiar with useful tips on renting a house);
- Apartment List (an online rental marketplace where you can hunt for apartments in all 50 states);
- HotPads (an original map-based apartment and rental search website. It focuses on urban areas across the United States of America);
- Naked Apartments (apartments for rent only in New York City);
- Street Easy (a real estate search engine in Manhattan and New York City).
Actually, there are many online resources designed to help renters find their new homes and provide them with renting a house tips. Just be aware of online scams. For example, you can come across ads where your credit card number is required to pay a deposit fee. Do not be fooled by scammers. No one requires a deposit to show apartments.
- Hire a real estate broker. He or she knows how to find a rental home according to your requirements. Use a professional. Find a broker who specializes in properties for rent not for sale. Moreover, it should be a person you can trust. Do not forget that you will be sharing your private financial information with him or her. Next, check for a proven track record. You can ask your broker about contacts of his/her previous clients. It is important to hire a person who communicates clearly and answers all questions in a timely way. A reputable firm he or she works for is also an advantage. You’d rather talk to several brokers before committing to a particular one. Different agents have different relations with different buildings. In urban areas with tight competition this issue is especially important. And the last but not least is certification. There is no “standard” real estate broker license in the United States. Each state has specific requirements regarding real estate education and testing. Be sure you know what your state offers before hiring a particular person.
What common problems can you come across while renting apartments?
Disputes between tenants and landlords are by no means uncommon. They refer to:
- Maintenance Problems. Long-standing maintenance requests can serve a sound basis for property manager complaints. If you feel ignored because your requests are being passed from one person to another or if you are tired of empty promises and feeble excuses, it’s high time to take action. A lot of maintenance and upgrade requests are rejected for no good reason. It’s clear that any lease should include a number of guidelines. For example, how to handle maintenance requests or what’s the expected time of response. Property management companies often disregard this issue that leads to unpleasant consequences.
- Lack of Proper Dialogue. Poor communication is a serious problem in the field of property management. It goes without saying that property managers take hundreds of phone calls a day. And we can wait! But how long? Is there any deadline? Nobody likes dealing with a constantly unavailable landlord, who never replies on e-mails. All tenant issues should be responded on time. Lack of response means only unwillingness to discuss your problems. Also landlords and property managers should abide by a code of professional ethics. You don’t have to carry on a dialogue with a rude and condescending person.
- Run Down Dwelling. This point includes everything starting from pest invasion through water spots and ending with safety hazards. Currently, a lot of landlords are doing their business remotely. However, the interior of any apartment should be inspected regularly. Nobody wants their home invaded by rodents, for instance, or to listen to a dripping tap through the night. Such problems should be resolved very quickly, since they can spread over and get worse. Preventive measures and/or prompt responses are required. Unfortunately, frequently apartment managers disregard repair requests, like in the Waypoint Homes online review below:
"We have had more than 8 repairs on our roof and it still leaks.Finally a real roofer instead of a handymen looked at it and said it is rotten and at least half the roof needs replacing...No one at waypoint will call me or talk to me about fixing this problem..."
- Failure to Return the Security Deposit. All cases concerning unreturned security deposit (all or even a portion) can be handled through the legal system. In case, landlords refuse to return your money, do not hesitate to appeal to the court. The following review is posted on Pissed Consumer. Equity Residential reviewer seeks assistance in getting his security deposit:
"I was a resident for Veridian Apartment for a year...My lease was up on July 29th. It is now August 30 and my roommate and I still have not received our security deposit...I have tried to speak with Andrew the community manager and he keeps saying that he has not received a response from corporate/payroll. I tried calling corporate and they stated that I could only send an email or contact customer relations and that they don't deal with my issues. I should not have to go around in circles to get my security deposit back..."
- Rent Increases and Lease Violations. You can come across sudden, sharp or frequent rent increases. Property managers do not have the right to increase fees when they like. It also refers to unfair enforcement of lease violations.
- Noise. As the majority of people live not in private houses but in apartment buildings, it’s quite predictable that problems with troublesome neighbors is a common affair. Each of us has our own private life, various hobbies and habits. Somebody has a newly born constantly crying baby, someone walks too loud or drags furniture. Disturbing tenants sometimes do not allow to concentrate while you are studying or make you interrupted from reading a magazine or watching your favorite TV-show. Unstoppable crying or loud annoying music coming through the wall can make you mad and even unorganized. An author of the following Lennar review complains about noise and non-provision of truthful information:
"...Well I work at night and I used to live in an apartment i had issues with the neightbors about noise...I understood that it wasn't my home and in needed to buy my own so I wouldn't have to hear the neightbors anymore, guess what??? The xxxxing seeler told me the townhomes we're soundproof and the only way that I would hear the neightbors is if they blast the speakers up....I was sold a lie...I can sleep during the day or night, during the day I can hear the kid and baby with the mother in the master room and at night I hear someone snoring, I can actually hear my neightbors talk,,, no xxxxing privacy in your own home, I'm really stress because I was sold a lie and there's no return back..."
How to deal with loud neighbors?
Before writing any apartment noise complaint letters, first of all try to resolve the problem peacefully. How is it possible? Here are simple tips which will help you.
- Get acquainted with your neighbor (if you have not been acquainted yet);
- Arrange a meeting suitable for both – you and your neighbor;
- Explain your problem quietly and calmly why neighbor’s noise causes a problem to you and try to listen to his/her point of view;
- Try to resolve the problem together, be confident and demand respect to your private life even if you feel not comfortable during the conversation;
- Send apartment noise complaint letter. It’s quite a good idea to explain the problem to your neighbor directly through mailing. This method often helps and is perfect for those people who are afraid or avoid arguing with the neighbor privately.
Who to contact about apartment noise complaints?
It’s a usual problem that people sometimes do not know what institution solves the problem of noise in apartments and where to complain about neighbors.
Apartment noise complaints are usually managed by residential landlords. These are the people who are obliged to ensure tenants’ safety and comfort. Sometimes complaints about noise are also controlled by police.
How to file an apartment noise complaint?
Remember that noise in apartments is forbidden and you have the right to live peacefully at home. If neighbors are loud it’s necessary to write a noise complaint letter to landlord. Before composing any apartment noise complaint letter, get prepared and do your best to form a good sufficient claim.
Here are some useful tips on how to file an apartment noise complaint efficiently:
- Address your complaint to a responsible person, first check the name of your landlord and how to contact him;
- Write in details, giving examples such as exact date or time when noise disturbed you;
- Explain how neighbor’s noise affects you;
- Offer some kind of problem resolution suggestions;
- Ask for response.
It’s important to know that you have the right to file a noise complaint anonymously.
If your issue is not solved yet, you should know how to file an apartment noise complaint with non-emergency police department. When contacting the police to complain, give an officer your exact address and a brief description of the problem. From now on, the officers are supposed to settle the problem.
Legal resolution of the problem is the most complicated and must be the last approach to resolve complaint about noise. If you decided to sue your neighbor, be prepared for a long and stressful lawsuit. It’s quite difficult to prove your neighbor’s noise was illegal or caused problem to you. In court, you will have to demonstrate evidences proving that you attempted to solve the problem yourself or with the help of police intervention.
How to complain to your property management company?
Landlords and tenants agree to take on a number of responsibilities. Failure to comply with them may cause serious residential tenancy problems as mentioned above. So, property management complaints are not rare. If any problem arises, the first step is to communicate about it and to try to develop a solution suitable for both parties. You can talk to a landlord in person or call him/her. Describe the problem and your requirements clearly. Stay calm and polite. Be realistic and offer only constructive ideas to resolve the issue. If you come to an agreement, keep a record of it. You may require it for further actions. If an agreement is not reached, start with a complaint letter to property management. Actually, tenants can resolve a lot of problems individually and avoid conflict escalation to higher authorities. Again, you’d better keep all communications with property management in writing.
- All rules of any homeowners association are stated in the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions also known as СС&Rs. Everything what you need to know about residence in a planned community is described there. Before completing a formal complaint letter to property management, examine the СС&Rs carefully. You should have a clear idea of your rights and obligations. If you do not have the CC&R, take a copy from your HOA.
- Draft a formal business complaint letter. Do not use any emotional terms, since they have no place here. Do not be rude or personal. Express your dissatisfaction in a polite manner.
- Explain the problem. You should point out the problem you have with the property management company explicitly. This part must be described in full detail. If you have any proofs, for example, pictures or expert’s findings, use them.
- Send a complaint letter to property management. When sending property management complaints, do not use fax or e-mail, because privacy cannot be guaranteed, and you can be ignored. You should send the complaint letter by certified mail. Keep a copy and a receipt for your records. If you fail to resolve a problem with a landlord, find below how to file a complaint against a property management company with a federal agency.
Where you can file property management complaints?
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (also known as HUD) is a federal agency responsible for controlling various types of rental activity. Topic areas are: housing discrimination, housing choice voucher program, fair lending and rental assistance. It observes fair housing laws including the following:
- Fair Housing Act;
- Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964;
- Age Discrimination Act of 1975;
- Architectural Barriers Act of 1968, and more.
Why you can file tenant complaints with HUD
The list of common tenant complaints to HUD includes, but is not limited to:
- poor apartment maintenance;
- housing discrimination;
- bad apartment management;
- any dangers and/or hazards to health and safety of inhabitants; and
Who can complain with HUD?
Any resident of the United States can file a tenant complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. But, people who live in federally assisted housing are entitled to file a tenant complaint with HUD on a free of charge basis.
How to file a complaint against a property management company with HUD?
There are several possible methods to file tenant complaints:
- Contact 800 685 8470. It is the Multifamily Housing Complaint Line. The service is provided by HUD’s Multifamily Housing Clearinghouse. Here you can obtain comprehensive information on how to file a complaint against a property management company. Based on the provided circumstances, the customer service representative will tell you who can be of any assistance or how you can find your local agency, if required.
- Use the HUD’s online form. You have 45 minutes to complete HUD form 903 online complaint and submit it. If you fail to keep the deadline, your form won’t be processed at all. Your task is to state minimal data concerning your complaint. All required information will be collected by the investigator a bit later.
- In person. You can find your local office following the link https://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/field_policy_mgt/localoffices. Here you can find addresses, e-mails and phone numbers.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development observes the right to fair housing. The Fair Housing Act protects all current or prospective tenants from any form of discrimination based on race, sex, presence of children, color of skin, gender, sexual orientation and disability. If you think your rights have been violated, you can fill in the Housing Discrimination Complaint Form (https://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/topics/housing_discrimination), file a complaint by phone (800 669 9777), or mail a formal complaint letter to the program office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (451 7th Street S.W., Washington, DC 20410).
Are there any other resources to comply with?
Of course! There are many websites where you can give positive or negative feedback about a property management company, for example, Pissed Consumer, Yelp, Better Business Bureau, etc. There you can check a landlord not to be trapped by your lease, find apartment renting tips, compare property management companies or even make a direct call to them.
The relationship between landlords and tenants can get very sticky when things go awry. However, a lot of disputes can be prevented or resolved through communication. Here are some tips on renting an apartment you need to know to be equipped for dealing with any challenges that may arise:
- As a tenant of a private rental property it is very important to know all your rights as well as responsibilities. You are expected to follow all housing and health codes, clean and sanitize your living space, maintain occupancy without disturbing other tenants, keep your premises free from damages, inform your landlords of pets, etc. Tenant rights vary from state to state. But there is a list of standard requirements every landlord virtually must meet in the United States. They include (but not limited to) running hot and cold water, heat (not air conditioning), locks/keys, clean and safe common areas, and smoke detectors.
- Be aware of all terms, conditions and provisions of your lease agreement. If there are things you don’t understand, ask the landlord to explain them until they are completely clear. Pay special attention to the following areas: who is responsible for paying bills (water, gas and electricity), who is responsible for repairs and maintenance, clauses regarding the right to increase rent, are there any breach clauses, the landlord’s right of entry, etc.
- Adhere to your lease agreement. Pay your rent on time. If you can’t pay your rent on time, talk to your landlord. A one-time late payment will not disrupt most landlords. Explain the situation and what you are going to do to fix the problem. Try to negotiate a partial or delayed rent payment. If you are considered a good tenant (even being temporarily short of funds), a landlord will not want to lose you.
- Check working plumbing, electricity and heating. Check that all the outlets function. Test out the shower. Look inside all of the cabinets, closets and cupboards. Make pictures of all defects (you may require them in the future).
- Make sure your furniture will fit the apartment. Measure furniture. You will be upset if your perfect couch doesn’t fit through the door.
- Check your cell phone as well as Wi-Fi reception in all the rooms.
- Visit a place you are going to rent after hours to find out whether it is loud or not, to check parking situation, etc.
- If you are going to share an apartment, you’d better make sure you know who your roommates are. Check your neighborhood.
- Drop by the building on a rainy day to check if there are any leaks.
- Read reviews about your apartment company. Visit popular consumer feedback platforms like Pissed Consumer, Yelp and Better Business Bureau. Here you can find information about scams, hidden stones and possible tricks.
- Do not be in a hurry. Become familiar with all renting a house tips and tricks if you do not want to get trapped into something you will regret later.
Apartment renting tips will help you make a well-informed decision of what will suit you most, what you should pay attention to or where to go in case rental problems arise. A home is a special place where sometimes you have to fight for your comfort.
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- property management complaints
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- waypoint homes review
While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal, medical, accounting, investment, or any other professional advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.