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Houston Area - What to expect when renting
Topics covered in this section include: Townhomes, Apartments, Washers/Dryers, Window Coverings, Security, Swimming Pools/Spas/Fitness Facilities, Social Functions, Tenants' Rights, Signing a Lease, Pets, Utilities and Maintenance, Breaking a Lease
Despite proximity to the nation's fourth largest city, area residents are accustomed to the "small town" atmosphere prevalent in all neighborhoods. Your Clear Lake area neighbors are likely to be friendly and helpful.
For newcomers planning to rent, as a professional apartment locator service, we help you sort through choices. Once you have specified a part of town and price range, our licensed real estate agents will give you specific information about available units. We can arrange an appointment between you and the apartment manager to see the proposed unit and can even escort you to the property to view.
We maintain a computer database that stores information about area complexes. Tell us where you want to live, what you want to pay, your lifestyle and how large an apartment you need, and we will give you a list of available properties that match your requirements.
These services are provided at no charge to the prospective renter.
The apartment and townhome rental market thrives with occupancy rates consistently in the 95-percent range. We can assist in finding the perfect match in housing. Rents average more than 75 cents per square foot.
Townhomes generally are two-story, with each home enjoying an unobstructed front and back but sharing a wall with another townhome. Townhomes offer large floor plans, low-maintenance yards and convenience to offices and other commercial enterprises.
Apartments come in many sizes, from efficiencies to multiple bedrooms. Apartment communities are characterized by balconies and patios, central courtyards, swimming pools, attractive landscaping, clubhouses and laundry rooms.
If you own your washer and dryer, be sure apartment complexes that interest you provide washer/dryer connections. Often, only larger apartments within a complex will feature washer/ dryer connections.
Most apartment complexes are prepared for tenants who do not own their washers and dryers. Washers and dryers are available to residents at laundry-room facilities located within the complex.
Many newer apartment complexes in the region offer connections as well as washers and dryers. A tenant may be asked to pay extra to have a washer and dryer connected.
All apartments in the region have window coverings, either mini-blinds, shades or curtains. You should check with your manager or management company if you want to change or add to the window coverings provided.
Apartment management companies provide safe, secure environments for residents. Often, apartment communities in the Clear Lake Area employ security guards. Many apartment communities are "gated."
Newer apartment complexes feature "buzzer" or keypad entrances that allow visitors to call residents to enter the complex. As an added service, some complexes offer monitored security systems for every apartment unit. Such services usually cost extra. Smoke detectors and locks are required by law in all apartment units in Texas.
Swimming Pools/Spas/Fitness Facilities
Most apartment complexes in the region offer one or more swimming pools for tenant use. While a few apartment complex pools are heated and open year-round, most are best used from May through September. Many complexes maintain hot tubs and Jacuzzis.
Many newer apartment complexes (less than 15 years old) maintain fitness centers. Some complexes offer jogging tracks as well as aerobics and fitness classes. Many complexes in the region offer tennis courts. Often, complexes with tennis courts will offer tennis lessons and organize tennis leagues.
Many apartment communities employ social directors who establish and maintain functions. Such functions may include happy hours and parties, as well as festivals and day or weekend outings.
Rental property-including apartments, townhomes and single-family homes - are available throughout the area. Generally, rates are determined by location, square footage and amenities.
What may be considered luxury amenities in many cities are standard fare in Clear Lake Area apartments. Many complexes offer fireplaces, ceiling fans, microwave ovens, washer/dryer connections, on-site recreational facilities and covered parking. Most require a security deposit that ranges from $150 to $500. Leases range from six months to one year. Month-to-month leases are available but usually command premium prices.
Similar to an apartment, but usually offering more amenities, condos and townhomes also are leasable properties. Often, apartment locator services handle condominium and apartment leasing. Some condominium complexes are managed by property management companies. Frequently, individual owners handle their leasing.
Quality single-family rental properties may be difficult to find. Owners often require a one-year lease. Large, elaborate homes are also available for lease, and often command steep rates. Security deposits on single-family homes frequently equal the monthly rental. Renters should always sign a lease on any home they intend to rent.
Renters' rights have been a top priority of the Texas Legislature. Laws are notably fair, protecting both resident and owner. If a resident fulfills lease terms, an owner must refund the security deposit. The resident must receive a refund or written explanation of the damage deposit within 30 days after move-out if a forwarding address is given.
If the owner does not comply, the resident can sue for three times the amount illegally held, plus attorney's fees and a fine. Residents also can file a complaint with the Houston Apartment Association's Resident Relations department. There is no charge for this service.
Texas has several other laws designed to protect residents. Apartment owners are required to provide residents with smoke detectors and furnish a lock on every door and a latch on every window. The federal Fair Housing Act requires that all apartment complexes are open to families with children. Area school districts cater to apartment residents, and in some areas, public school bus stops are just steps away.
Signing a Lease
Newcomers should expect to sign a lease on any rental property. Many apartment complexes use standard leases endorsed by the Texas Apartment Association (TAA) and Houston Apartment Association. According to the TAA, renters should read leases for the following information:
Check to see how much advance noticeyou must give before moving. (Thirty days written notice is standard when rent is paid monthly)
Look for security deposit refund restrictions.
Look for your apartment owner's obligation to make needed repairs. (A requirement for "reasonable promptness" is common.)
Be sure to read the clean-up requirements. (Cleaning costs usually can be deducted from your security deposit if you fail to follow instructions.)
Check on prohibitions against subletting or keeping pets. (Written permission usually is required.)
Ask the manager to write and initial any oral agreements or changes in the lease.
After signing a lease, you should:
Keep a signed copy. The lease is the most important set of rules if you have a disagreement.
Make a checklist of conditions of the apartment and furniture when you move in. Sign it, have the manager sign it and keep a dated copy. This will be your best defense in any dispute over deductions for repairs when you move out.
Keep your rent payment current as required by lease. You should not withhold rent, since that could make you subject to eviction and liability for payment of the remaining rent.
Most apartment complexes and management companies will require that prospective residents submit an application for approval. While you cannot be denied on the basis of race, religion or sex, you can be denied for other reasons.
Typically, applications involve a credit check, as well as a check on your reputation as a renter. You will need to provide names and addresses of previous residences, name and address of your employer and credit information.
Pets are a part of the family. Each community has different restrictions. Some apartment complexes prohibit all pets. Fortunately, we maintain a database of pet friendly communities, pet deposits and will work to find you the best place available for you and your friend. Remember to never ignore the rules. If an owner finds out you have a pet on the property when not allowed you can be evicted and loose your deposit.
Utilities and Maintenance
Be sure to check your lease to ascertain who pays for electricity, gas, water, sewage, garbage and cable television.
Apartment complexes usually employ on-site maintenance crews. In the case of a single-family home, often the landlord will send out a repair service. Sometimes the renter will agree to repair a specific problem and be reimbursed by the landlord. However, a renter should not make unalterable changes to a property without the landlord's written consent.
Breaking a Lease
Often a renter must move before the lease expires. In this case, the tenant should notify the manager and offer to help find a new resident.
Normally, tenants are liable for rent, even if they've quit school, changed jobs, lost a roommate, or found another house. Some apartment complexes will require you to forfeit the security deposit.
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