Tips to Help Apartment Hunters Choose a Comfortable New Place to Live

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An apartment balcony near the University of California's Berkeley campus collapsed early Tuesday, June 16, 2015, killing five of the 13 people who fell from the fourth-floor structure, the city's police said. Those who fell from the balcony at the Library Gardens Apartments were all Irish citizens and "for the most part students," gathered to celebrate someone's 21st birthday, Irish Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan said Tuesday.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala.- Many young adults and families move to North Alabama each year in search of opportunity and a place to live. For those currently undergoing the task, searching for an apartment can be a daunting process.

According to the Alabama Tenants Handbook, more than a half million Alabama households are set up in rental properties. Your BBB would like to offer these consumer tips in an effort to help you make more informed decisions while involved in the process of leasing a new place to live.

There are many things to consider when you are apartment hunting. Before you begin your search, here
are a couple of things to consider.

1. Rent – Determine how much can you afford and still live comfortably taking all of your expenses into consideration. One rule of thumb suggests dividing your income by four. Your rent should not exceed more than 25% of your monthly income.

2. Space – How many people will be living in the unit? 100-400 square feet per person is considered practical.

3. Location – How important is it for you to be near your place of work, school, shopping, medical facilities etc.?

Before signing any lease you should always make sure to read the terms and conditions carefully and understand your rights and responsibilities as a tenant. Keep in mind that The Alabama Landlord Tenant Law ensures that everyone who lives in rental housing has a decent place to live.

The Alabama Tenants Handbook, a handy resource guide, is published by the Low Income Housing Coalition of Alabama and is available online at arisecitizens.org.

Make sure the following information is included in your lease:
Maintenance – Find out how all repair concerns are handled such as how to submit a repair request. Ask how quickly tenants can expect maintenance personnel to respond to a request once it has been turned in.
Deposits – You should know what your security deposit covers and the conditions which might cause a tenant to experience deductions.
Increases –   Ask if your rent or other fees will be increased during your lease term.
Subletting – Find out whether or not you are allowed to sublet your unit to another party in case of an emergency.
Rent –  Get a schedule of when monthly payments are due and where rent can be paid.
Upon move-in, do not forget to document the condition of your apartment. Make sure that your list includes each and every flaw or defect in your apartment so that you are not held responsible for damages later. It’s advisable to also take photos or a video of your unit prior to move-in so that you have documentation available in case a dispute arises when you get ready to move-out.
More to Consider:
Check out reviews of the apartment complex. Go to bbb.org to see the BBB Business Review of the apartments you are considering. This will show its BBB rating, any history of complaints, as well as the complaint details and any contact information.
Visit the complex personally. Tour the facility and the visit the specific unit you’ll be renting.
Make sure that the community is safe and that the living space will meet your needs.

Does it appear the way it was described? Websites often use pictures taken only from the best vantage points on the property or may be of a promotional unit.

Keep a signed copy of the lease. Store it in a safe place so it is readily available in the event you ever need to refer back to it.
Consider renters insurance. Many apartment communities require tenants have a minimum amount of renter’s insurance before move in. If it’s not required, it’s still an option tenants should consider. Renter’s insurance would cover your losses in the event of fire, burglary or other damage.

Pay attention to deductibles and coverage limits when choosing a policy.
To check the reliability of a company and find trustworthy businesses, visit bbb.org