real estate

Top Problems for Renters and How to Solve Them

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With rising rent and other problems sending people on the move across North Texas, renters might not realize the little things that can make moving even harder.

"Rental rates are a derivative of housing prices," said Marc Moffitt, a licensed realtor, broker and professor of real estate at the University of North Texas. “When demand exceeds supply, the sellers and the landlords are going to have the upper hand in that conversation."

Here are some of the top problems renters are facing and how they can resolve them:

#1: Availability

As renters deal with rising rent affecting the affordability of their home, availability is another problem being noted by real estate experts in North Texas.

"Right now there are a lot of apartment complexes that are 100% occupied. And as a result, if you walk in and you’re looking for a deal today, they might not have anything for you," said Moffitt.

Current occupancy levels are at an all-time high in DFW at 96%.

"So one of the suggestions we may recommend there is to start in advance. If your lease ends two or three months from now, go ahead and start the process of looking for your next deal and ask those complexes, do you have anything coming up in the next 60 to 90 days that we might be able to look at?" Moffitt said.

#2: Credit Concerns             

With all the competition, credit could be another problem facing some renters, especially if they have a bad score or a previous bankruptcy.

“At the end of the day, landlords are primarily focused on just a few things: Am I going to be paid on time? Is this person going to take care of the property? And what’s my relationship look like with this individual? Are they easy to work with or are they hard to work with?" said Moffitt.

As a sign of good faith, renters can offer to pay more in their deposit, write a letter of explanation, or bring a recommendation from a previous landlord or job.

Here's a sample letter to get you started.

"One of the things that prospective tenants can do when they’re dealing with the landlord is to talk about the issue openly,” said Moffitt. "Say, 'Look, I’ve had some challenges, I’m working on it and working through those things and I’m happy to pay an extra security deposit or maybe some rent.' A lot of landlords understand that life happens and are willing to work with folks.”

#3: Being Prepared

As you search, don't begin the process unprepared. You need to have all of your documentation ready to go.

"The thing to remember about this process is that every day in real estate is a year, so everything needs to happen in an instant," said Moffitt. "On the purchase side of things when houses are bought and sold with the agent, buyer and seller -- everything happens with a deal usually within a 24 hour period of time."

The same thing is true right now with landlord-tenant negotiations.

“A tenant who is prepared has all of their documentation in order, ready to go -- paycheck stubs, bank account records, applications filled out already. Everything. Landlords appreciate that they know they’re serious and now they want to move forward with something,” Moffitt said.

Here's a list of all the things you might be asked for:

  • Pay stubs
  • Bank statements
  • Proof of identification
  • Recommendations
  • Vehicle registration and proof of insurance
  • Social Security number
  • Rental history
  • References
  • Job history/resume
  • Pet information
  • Checkbook

#4: Pets

As people compete to snag available apartment units or rental homes, pets could be another problem.

Landlords have a list of what they consider to be aggressive breeds or other animals that could get prospective tenants turned down or charged more for fees.

“We always want to put our best foot forward and having a picture of the pet in a cute position or something like that can go a long way. Pictures are worth 1,000 words, sometimes $1,000,” said Moffitt.

Experts suggest putting together a ‘pet resume’ complete with information about the pet, health records, references and pictures.

“And sometimes you can offer to pay additional pet deposits or things like that or take a look at other maintenance clauses in the lease to be able to count for those,” Moffitt said. “Ultimately at the end of the day, the landlord just wants to make sure that the property is not going to be destroyed by the pet.”

#5: Reading the Lease

Once you land the unit or home you want to rent, it’s important to read the lease.

“Keep in mind that everything in that contract is negotiable,” Moffitt said. “So if there is a term or a clause in there that obligates the tenant to something they’re not comfortable with, have a conversation about that. Maybe you can get the landlord to remove it.”

You can also talk to the landlord about how long you want the lease to be.

"What I would suggest is when you’re having a conversation with a prospective landlord, talk about how long of a lease you can agree to," Moffitt said. “Can we agree to a longer-term lease, maybe a two-year lease? And potentially put in some options for renewal with pre-defined pricing. If you want to have a lease for a year, have a renewal option that’s already pre-defined and only adds a small bump.”

In reading the lease thoroughly, there could also be extra costs or problems you didn't know about.

Moffitt said to pay close attention to the sections pertaining to maintenance and move-out conditions.

"A lot of times, you have lawn care that needs to be taken care of and so who pays for that? Does the landlord pay for it or does the tenant take care of it? Are they required to contract out or do it themselves?" said Moffitt. "What are the move-out condition requirements? Are they required to a full professional cleaning? 

Many realtors and attorneys can also look over a lease for you.

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