Here are answers to some of the most common questions asked by apartment residents in the greater houston area.  

  1. How do I find an apartment?  
  2. What will I have to do to qualify to rent an apartment?  
  3. How do I apply?  
  4. If I don't rent, can I get my application deposit back?  
  5. If I want to find out about crime in a particular neighborhood, whom should I ask?  
  6. Should I consult an attorney before signing an application or lease?  
  7. Is the application or lease document negotiable?  
  8. Can I review the application and lease before signing?  
  9. What type of notice do I have to give to terminate my lease?  
  10. I don't give proper notice, how much will I have to pay?  
  11. What amounts are deducted from a security deposit?  
  12. Is my owner responsible for protecting me from the criminal acts of others?
     

How do I find an apartment?

There are a number of apartment communities and apartment providers in Houston. Many communities offer a variety of amenities such as swimming pools, business centers with Internet access, cable TV and other things to make your stay as enjoyable as possible. Many apartment companies have Web sites that will allow you to find out more about the company, a particular community, amenities, unit size and availability.

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What will I have to do to qualify to rent an apartment?

Apartment communities will have a set of rental criteria that states the guidelines for acceptance. The rental criteria may ask for your credit history, employment history, rental history and criminal history. You should review the rental criteria before applying to rent. This will give you an idea of whether you will qualify. Keep in mind that many apartment communities restrict rental to persons who have not been convicted of certain types of crime and who have an acceptable rental history

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How do I apply?

Most apartment communities will require that you sign a rental application providing certain information. The questions asked will be used to determine whether you are eligible for rental. Remember that the rental application is a contract between you and the owner of the property. The application contract will tell you what fees and deposits must be paid and whether or not they will be refundable. Many owners require that you pay a nonrefundable application fee, a nonrefundable administrative fee and an application deposit that may or may not be refundable. Read your application closely so that you will know what fees and deposits must be paid and whether you can get them back if you change your mind and decide not to rent.Back to Top 

If I don't rent, can I get my application deposit back?

It depends on what your application says. Many communities use an application under which the application deposit may or may not be refundable depending upon certain conditions. The application deposit is not a security deposit; however, it may be used as a security deposit once the lease is signed. Typically the application deposit will not be refundable if: (i) you withdraw your application; or (ii) you fail to answer questions or give false information on the application. Often if you are declined, the application deposit will be refundable as long as you didn't withdraw your application before being declined or give incomplete or false answers on the application.

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If I want to find out about crime in a particular neighborhood, whom should I ask?

Many prospective residents make the mistake of asking the manager or leasing agent about crime in the neighborhood. While the manager or leasing agent may know about crimes that have occurred, they are not the best source of this type of information. Call the local storefront of the Houston Police Department for crime statistics. The officers at the local storefront should be able to give you the most accurate crime statistics available.

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Should I consult an attorney before signing an application or lease?

Both the application and lease are legal documents that will govern your application and occupancy, respectively. Whether you get an attorney is up to you; however, you should read these legal documents before signing. If you are unsure of what you are signing, it is a good idea to consult an attorney.

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Is the application or lease document negotiable?

Parties to a contract can negotiate the provisions of a contract in any way that is mutually acceptable. However, most apartment community owners and leasing personnel are reluctant to negotiate the documents they use for all residents. There are legal requirements to treat all residents equally; changing provisions on a case-by-base basis may create differences between residents, and it may be difficult for owners to keep up with different provisions for different residents.

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Can I review the application and lease before signing?

Yes. These are legal documents that will govern your rights and responsibilities during the application process and during and after the time that you live at the property. You should be fully aware of the rent, fees and deposits you will be required to pay, what fees are nonrefundable and what conditions there will be on any refundable fees and deposits. If an application or lease is not clear with respect to these issues, you and the apartment owner should make them clear on the documents you sign.

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What type of notice do I have to give to terminate my lease?

Your lease contract should identify what notice you have to give to terminate the lease. Many apartment owners use a lease requiring that at least 30 days' notice must be given and that the lease can only be terminated at the end of the lease term or at the end of any month-to-month renewal term. Some owners require more than 30 days' notice. The amount of notice that has to be given should be clearly stated in your lease.Back to Top 

If I don't give proper notice, how much will I have to pay?

If you do not give the notice required by the lease and vacate your unit without paying rent for the full remaining term (or month-to-month renewal term), you will be in default of your obligations. If you are in default, e various types of damages can be assessed against you. Many leases provide for a reletting charge to compensate the owner for the time, effort and expense in finding and processing a replacement resident. The reletting charge is most often assessed if you:
(i) fail to move out or fail to give proper written move out notice,
(ii) move out without paying rent in full for the entire lease term or renewal period,
(iii) move out after receiving a notice to vacate, or
(iv) are judicially evicted.
In addition to the reletting charge, many leases allow the landlord to assess accelerated rent against the resident. Accelerated rent is all monthly rent for the rest of the lease term or renewal period, which is automatically accelerated without notice or demand if you:
(i) move out,
(ii) remove property in preparing to move out or
(iii) give oral or written notice of intent to move out before the lease contract term or renewal period ends.
There may also be additional damages provided for in the lease, such as court costs, expenses, late charges and collection agency fees.Back to Top 

What amounts are deducted from a security deposit?

Your security deposit can be applied against any amounts you owe under the lease to the landlord. These can include unpaid rent, unpaid utilities, unreimbursed service charges, repairs or damages to the unit including marks from stickers, scratches, tears, burns, stains or holes. Because issues relating to the deposit are somewhat subjective, it's a good idea to try to walk the unit with the manager after you have vacated to determine what deductions may be appropriate. This will avoid unnecessary surprises when only a portion, or none, of your security deposit is returned.

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Is my owner responsible for protecting me from the criminal acts of others?

No. Most owners and management personnel have no more experience, training or ability to prevent criminal acts than you do. You should never rely upon the owner or management personnel to secure you from the criminal acts of third parties. If you are in need of security services, call the police. In the event of an emergency, call 911. If you have questions regarding security issues in your neighborhood, contact the local HPD storefront and discuss your concerns with the officers patrolling the neighborhood. 

More safety tips are available on www.safeinmyplace.org.

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