How Renting Works in Austin
Finding a place to rent close to school and work that’s within your budget isn’t always easy. Often getting an apartment with others makes it more affordable. You also have to follow careful procedures to ensure that your apartment management doesn’t charge you for cleaning or damage that isn’t your fault.
Finding an affordable place to rent close to school and work isn’t always easy. Often times, renting with roommates can make living in Austin more affordable. Your academic department and international student organizations representing your region of the world are all good places to find people who are looking for roommates. You can also reference billboards around campus, Craigslist, and the Austin-American Statesman. When you find a prospective roommate, you may want to discuss the following:
- How you will handle paying rent, utilities and cable?
- Who will furnish the apartment?
- Whose job is it to clean shared spaces (i.e. bathroom, kitchen, living and dining areas)?
- How will you handle shopping for groceries and buying things for the apartment?
- What are the rules of the house?
- How do you feel about privacy?
- Study or quiet times?
- Parties or overnight guests?
- Smoking in the apartment?
- Find an apartment/home that suits your budget and your needs.
- Read your housing application and leasing contract carefully.
- If you plan to live with roommates in an apartment, verify that the number of roommates with whom you plan to live is within the legal occupancy limit for the apartment.
- Complete the housing application for your prospective apartment/home and pay the application fee. Be sure to ask whether the housing application is binding. If the application is binding and its approved, you have committed to signing a lease.
- When your application is approved, you will be asked to pay a security deposit and the first month's rental fee. If you are successful in maintaining your apartment or rental home, your security deposit will be returned to you when you move out as outlined in your lease.
- Sign leasing contract with all your roommates.
- Inspect the apartment, take photographs, and make a checklist of anything that is broken, dirty, or non-operational when you move-in. Have all roommates sign and date the checklist. Your landlord/apartment manager may require you to submit this checklist within 24 or 48 hours. If you do this, you should not be charged for those repairs upon moving out.
- Apply for electric, cable, internet, and telephone service.
- Update your local address with the Office of the Registrar.
- Ask your landlord or apartment manager to help you with any appliances unfamiliar to you.
- Request maintenance and repairs in writing to your landlord or apartment manager. Keep a copy of your requests.
- Pay your rent before the late penalty period each month.
- Notify your landlord or apartment manager in writing before the renewal/termination date on your lease. Most apartments require you to notify them 60 days before you move out.
- Decide how you and your roommates are going to pay final bills.
- Request the check-out procedure in writing from your landlord/apartment manager.
- Clean the apartment thoroughly. It must be as clean as the check-out instructions from your landlord/apartment manager to receive your security deposit.
- Compare your original damage checklist with the current condition of the apartment and ask your landlord/apartment manager to inspect the apartment with you.
- You should receive an itemized bill for final charges with the balance of your security deposit within a month of your departure.
If you feel you are being charged unfairly for housing damages, use your damage checklist, photographs, repair requests and rental payment receipts to support your claim. Make copies and include a letter to your landlord/apartment manager explaining why you disagree with the damage assessment.
A charge to check your credit and rental history. Once you submit your application fee, your housing application may be binding! That is, once you have applied, you have committed yourself to rent an apartment, if your application is approved.
The evidence of income (usually, three times the price of the rent) to qualify housing applicants. A copy of the financial information used to obtain your student or exchange visitor visa may be used as proof of income. If the financial information is that of a family member, your relative’s signature may be required as a guarantor of the lease. If you receive income from a graduate assistantship, fellowship or another sponsor, the assistantship offer letter or a letter from your sponsor verifying the income you receive should be presented. The I-20 and DS-2019 is not a financial guarantee and should not be presented to landlords and apartment managers.
Money that is held by housing management to guarantee occupancy of a room or apartment, payment of rent, repair of damages, and professional cleaning after you move out. If terms of a signed contract are met, the deposit is either refunded in full or reduced to pay for unusual wear and tear or damage to the apartment. Within thirty days of you returning the apartment key, the manager must bill you for any remaining charges and refund the remainder of your security deposit. Should the landlord/apartment manager fail to meet this deadline, he/she forfeits their right to the deposit and must return it in full to the renter.
A legal contract signed by both the manager and the renter. Violation of the lease agreement can result in a severe financial penalty. Residents should understand the conditions of the lease prior to signing. Any negotiated variation should be set out in writing, initialed, and dated by both the tenant and the manager as an amendment to the lease.
Payment made for living accommodations. Since the rental rate and the payment due date are part of the signed contract, failing to make this payment for ANY reason may result in expensive penalties and legal actions. Legal advice is recommended for any tenant who experiences difficulties with a landlord.
Commonly used abbreviations in rental housing advertisements:
- A/C or AIR - Air-conditioning
- ABP - All bills paid. Your utilities (water, electricity, gas, sewage, garbage collection) have been included in your rent. You only have to arrange for telephone service.
- ASAP - As soon as possible
- BR or BDRM - Bedroom
- C-FAN - Ceiling fan
- EFF - An efficiency apartment: one room for living, eating, and sleeping. The bathroom is separate
- FP - Fireplace
- 4-Plex - A rental unit comprised of two ground floor or "garden" apartments and two second floor apartments
- IMMED - Ready for immediate occupancy
- INCL - Included in the rent
- MO - Month
- 2/2 or 3/2 - The first number indicates the number of bedrooms in the apartment. The second number indicates the number of bathrooms. Bathroom facilities include bathtub and/or shower, toilet (WC), and wash basin.
- W/D - A washer and dryer machine for clothing is provided.
- W/D CONN - Washer and clothes dryer connections are available for your own machines.