Whether you are a college student looking for a place to live or just new to the area, finding an apartment can sometimes be difficult in today’s renters market. Better Business Bureau (BBB) receives thousands of complaints against apartment complexes every year, consistently placing the apartment industry on BBB’s top 10 list of most complained about industries. Last year BBB received over 9,000 complaints on apartments nationwide. So far this year, BBB has received over 5,000 complaints. Most complaints allege difficulties getting security deposits back, issues with the condition of the apartment or allegations that repairs were not handled in a timely manner.
When browsing for an apartment in classifieds, it’s important to be aware that some ads may not be legitimate. Scammers regularly advertise rentals that don’t exist or aren’t available in print and online. They also clone actual rental listings and then change the contact and email information, placing the altered ads in numerous newspapers or websites to trick as many people as they can out of money or personal information. If a potential landlord asks for a wire transfer or large lump sum before viewing the property, that’s a red flag.
To avoid getting scammed or ripped off, BBB recommends renters:
- Check out the apartment. Go to bbb.org to see the BBB Business Review of the apartment you are considering. You can view a company’s BBB rating, how they handle complaints, as well as complaint details and contact information.
- Visit the complex. Tour the facility and unit to be sure the community and living space will meet your needs. Websites often use pictures taken only from the best locations on the property, or of promotional units.
- Document the condition of your apartment. Upon move-in, make sure to note each and every flaw or defect in your apartment so that you are not held responsible for damages later. It's advisable to also take photos of your unit prior to move-in so that you have documentation available in case a dispute arises upon move-out.
- Keep a signed copy of the lease. Store it in a safe place in case you need to refer back to it.
- Consider renters insurance. Many apartment communities require tenants have a minimum amount of renter’s insurance before move in. If it’s not required, it’s still an option tenants should consider. Renter’s 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 your lease thoroughly. Before signing any lease, make sure you read the terms and conditions. Review the lease for the following information:
- Maintenance: Find out how all repair concerns are handled and within what timeframe.
- Deposits: Know what your security deposit covers and the conditions for deductions.
- Increases: Ask if your rent or other fees will be increased during your lease term.
- Subletting: See whether or not you are allowed to sublet your unit in an emergency.
- Rent: Get a schedule of when monthly payments are due and where you should make payment.
- Move out: See what specific move out instructions are required of the renter. These may include hiring a specific cleaning company or having the carpets professionally cleaned. Be sure you understand these requirements and are willing to comply.
- Coverage: Ask if insurance is required and what is covered.