How to Get an Apartment in Austin
Know What You Need to Qualify
Realize first that most apartment complexes will accept an application all day everyday just to say they have "traffic". This doesn't help you or them in the long run and yet they still do it, making it a very expensive process for you.
Some complexes charge app fees PLUS admin fee PLUS deposits and only deposits are refundable if you are denied. Keep this in mind when submitting an application to any apartment complex. You'll spend a lot of money submitting applications all over town so by knowing what they are looking for up front will save you big bucks.
Don't waste time, or money, applying to different apartment complexes hoping that someone will approve you. You'll also save the headache of being denied if you know what apartment complexes are looking at when running your application.
In Texas, there are standard qualifications, though properties do have a right to adjust those to suit their needs. So just because you see the rental qualifications for the state on one site doesn't mean it will apply to all complexes in the state.
The following information is to show you the reports an apartment complex will run in an effort to get you approved. If you understand what they are looking for then maybe you won't have to waste your time if you know something is on one of your reports that will get you denied.
I recommend being straightforward with any potential complex. Let them know of any issues you are concerned will get you denied. It is their job to tell you if they think you would qualify based on that information. If you have a leasing agent tell you "well let's just run it and see what comes up" then walk away and go to the next one that will be able to answer your questions.
Yes, your credit report is run as a part of the application processing. First, because Federal law requires a person's identification be verified which includes your social security number and driver’s license number. Second, your credit report holds valuable information for management. Your report will show previous addresses, debt owed to other properties as well as your other debts.
The main things an apartment complex looks for is money owed to previous rental addresses, money owed to utility providers (including electric and cell) and will also show if you owe Student Loans. All of these are things that can hurt you in getting approved.
Medical bills will also show up on your report but for the most part won't be held against you.
Know what's on your credit report prior to giving anyone permission to run it. This will save you time and money, not to mention the headaches. You'll be able to see judgments against you from previous addresses, etc. and that will better equip you to know where you should and should not apply.
Federal law allows you to get a copy of your credit report at no charge annually; take advantage of that and access your report yearly.
Stable Employment History
The next thing a rental property will verify is your employment history. Believe it or not, employment history will show you are stable, so if you are changing jobs every few months, you may have a harder time of finding a place to call your own.
For example, most properties require that you be on your job for a minimum of 12 months. It is not uncommon for some properties to require that you have at least one to two years employment.
The purpose of this verification is to make sure you aren't likely to up and break your lease in the future. Obviously the longer you have been at your job, the better.
The Ability to Pay Rent
Employment history runs hand in hand with your ability to pay rent. Typically an apartment complex will require that you be able to show that you make 2-3 times the rent to ensure you can afford the rent amount.
For example, if a complex requires that you make three times the rent and the rent is $800 then to qualify you should make $2400 per month. (Before taxes)
If you are self employed, it may be a little harder to verify income but not impossible. Tax returns are often approved documentation for verifying your income.
The good thing is, once your income is verified you don't have to keep verifying it. One common misconception is the income must be verified at every lease renewal. This typically is not the case.
One more tip concerning the ability to pay rent; if you lose your job during your lease, communicate with the property. They may or may not be able to assist you until you find another job but it's better than just skipping on the lease. I was fortunate enough to have the flexibility to work with residents in between jobs but I don't want to lead you to believe they all do that. It's pretty much a property by property basis.
Good Rental History
A previous address is something most people don’t think will show up on their report if they don’t list it on their application. This is not true.
Believe it or not, most apartment complexes talk with one another and have a process of verifying information even if you haven’t written it down. The address will show up on your credit report and provides contact information for the previous landlord.
It is never a good idea to try to hide previous addresses. It will show up sooner or later.
When a property is verifying your rental history they are typically looking to see if you owe the property money, if you broke a lease or if there were any damages left to the property after you moved out.
Don't think your previous landlord has decided to forget that you owe them money; it just takes a little bit to get it added to your credit report. In the meantime, they are more than willing to let a potentially new landlord know about their rental experience with you.
Criminal Background Check
Most properties will also run a criminal background, and while not all records will get you denied, you are looking at a harder time of getting approved if you have a felony, just to be honest.
You have a better chance of being approved if you don’t neglect to disclose the background. It’ll still come out with your credit report so better to tell them up front instead of wasting money with an application fee.
FYI: Traffic tickets aren't typically held against you.
Use an Apartment Locator
What most people don't realize is, an apartment locator is a FREE service to YOU. They are paid by the apartment complex for new leases. Apartment Locators are equipped to help you in locating the terms you need, move in specials, and go above and beyond helping you find the perfect rental. Why waste time driving around or searching the online ads?
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To File a Complaint
If you ever feel you have been discriminated against you can go to The U.S. Department of Housing to file a complaint. There are also local divisions of Housing Authority that can help you. For instance, the Austin Tenant's Council will handle complaints against apartment complexes in the Greater Austin Area. In other words, if you have a problem with your landlord, repair issues or feel you have been discriminated against they are the ones to call first.
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