From the Better Business Bureau of Central Virginia:
In the United States, according to the US Census Bureau, it is more important than ever for tenants to make informed decisions before choosing an apartment or other rental property.
In 2020, 7,593 complaints were filed via BBB against apartment complexes and real estate rentals, with the majority of issues relating to their services, billing and repairs to businesses. Before signing a lease or rental agreement, take the time to research the landlord or property management company to make sure they are trustworthy.
BBB offers the following tips for those looking for rental properties:
- Do your homework. To help you narrow down your search, have an idea of how much rent you can afford, where you want to be, and how many bedrooms before you search. Go to bbb.org to find out which apartment complexes and property managers you are considering. BBB Company Profiles feature a company’s rating, consumer reviews, a history of complaints, as well as an overview of the company’s track record.
- Get everything in writing. Before signing the lease, make sure you read and understand the rental conditions and your responsibilities as a tenant. Do not sign any contract that contains empty spaces. Keep a copy for your records.
- To ask questions. When is the rent due? Who pays for utilities? Are animals allowed? How accessible is the owner? Do they have an emergency or mobile number?
- Take a walk. Before moving in, personally examine the condition of the apartment and document all faults and defects in writing and with photos. Keep a copy for yourself.
- Who is responsible for maintenance? Find out how and when maintenance and repair issues are handled.
- Know your rights. Remember that you have certain rights when it comes to living space, such as heat, water, electricity, and a clean and safe environment. Visit the US Department of Housing and Urban Development at hud.gov for information on landlord-tenant rights.
BBB also warns potential tenants of the following:
- Never wire money and never use a prepaid debit card. If you are asked to pay a security deposit or the first month’s rent by prepaid debit card or wire transfer, it is most likely a scam. Remember that once the money is sent, there is no way to get it back.
- Never send money abroad. Keep in mind that scammers often pretend to be overseas and ask their targets to send money overseas.
- Look for duplicate ads. If you find the same ad listed in other cities – that’s a huge red flag – steer clear.
If the “deal” sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Beware of low rents and quality amenities that are not offered by similar properties.
For more tips on how to be an informed consumer, visit BBB.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please report it on BBB ScamTracker.
About BBB: BBB serving Central Virginia serves Richmond, the Tri-Cities, Charlottesville and Fredericksburg, as well as 42 surrounding counties from Fauquier to Mecklenburg and Northumberland to Amherst. The non-profit organization was established in 1954 to promote responsible, honest and ethical business practices and to promote customer confidence through business self-regulation. BBB’s primary services include Company Profiles, Dispute Resolution, Truth Publicity, Scam Warnings, Consumer and Business Education, and Charity Review.