Here is a dreaded question that makes just about every person in the property management world shake their head: “Is it a safe place to live?” It is a great question. It is a needed question. It is a question that professionals wish they could confidently and accurately address. However, it is a question that every person must answer for themselves because only you know when you feel safe. As you are considering a place to move into, whether you are renting or just squatting with a good friend, there are some steps you can take to reassure yourself you have chosen wisely.
- Call the police department and ask for a record of the activity in the area you are contemplating moving to. They will give you a lengthy report that you will need to assess for yourself. You may ask for another record for a neighborhood/area different from your first choice to give you a comparison. But here too, you will need to make your own determination.
- While you are talking to the police, ask them what type of patrol they routinely conduct in your area. While crime is a movable target and our servicemen have to drop regular beats to take care of emergencies, there is a planned schedule they work from in the quiet times.
- Visit the website Family Watchdog to see if there is a registered sex offender in the area. That may not be an issue for you, but you have the legal right to know.
- Ask, ask, ask the neighbors their opinion of what it is like living in that area! They know better than anyone!!
- Visit your place at night. What type of street lighting is available? What type of parking lot lighting? What type of neighborhood activity happens?
- Understand that steps of prevention do not guarantee safety. For example, gated communities may deter crime, they do not prevent crime. You may be careful to always close the gate behind you, but there may be another resident who is very comfortable leaving the gate propped open for their buddy to come in later that evening. Know that living in community brings the challenge of people’s differing interpretation of what is “right”.
- Check your own locks regularly for proper function-the locks on your doors and windows. Before you rent, check the locks that are available and be sure you think they seem secure. Consider where you feel the most vulnerable in your home and spend some time securing that area. You be in control of your feelings of safety. And as silly as this sounds, lock your doors! It’s a habit that you will be glad you formed.
- Establish your own routine for safety. The Crimson Choice program at the University of Alabama encourages students as well as townspeople to cultivate an awareness of their surroundings before they walk from their car to their home or store. Visit their website for some more of their suggestions.
- Consider joining or establishing a Neighborhood Watch Program. It’s a great way to know the people who live around you and be on the offense rather than the defense. If there is not a program already in place where you live, click here to get more information. Or call the Tuscaloosa Police Department at (205) 349-2121.
Feeling safe in our homes is important but only we can determine what that is like. With proactive steps we can make certain we have done what we know to ensure safety. It is a responsibility you should take because your Home Matters.
*This post is the first from guest columnist Mrs. Fleta Edwards, Vice-President and Realtor for H.A. Edwards. We are pleased that she will bringing her expertise to our rental blog.
Many of you are receiving renewal notices in the mail, and we here at the office understandably have been receiving your questions. Here are the answers for some of the more frequently asked questions.
- When is it due?
The renewal letter and addendum that you receive in the mail will have the date in large, bold letters. Please look carefully.
- Do I have to turn something in?
If you plan to leave at the end of your lease term, you must ABSOULTELY, POSITIVELY turn something in, or we will assume you are staying and automatically renew your lease for another year as stated in your lease. We understand that sometimes you make an error and miss that deadline, so if you come in and apologetically say that you missed the deadline, we are happy to work with you a week or so after the deadline.If you plan on staying, we like to have the addendum back as soon as possible so we can go ahead and update your account. You will be automatically renewed if we never hear back from you.
- Do I have to renew for a whole year?
All campus properties MUST renew for a full year lease term. The off-campus properties of Cedar Crest, Quail Valley, and Windsor Hill can be negotiated with our property managers.
- What if I live in a campus property, but will only stay for six months?
If that is the case, when you send in your renewal, indicate that you want to put your apartment up for re-let. (For more information, please visit our post on re-letting). We have a good number of students that come in January looking for campus properties, so the likelihood of getting your apartment re-let are good.
- Does my co-signer have to sign too?
It is preferable that all parties sign the addendum and return, but one signature is enough.
- What if I want to stay, but one or more of my roommates do not?
First, the addendum needs to be brought into the office, and both roommates need to sign and indicate who is staying and who is leaving. Then you have one of three options.
a) If no other roommate will be added, no further action will be required.
b) If another roommate will be added to the lease, the new roommate needs to come into the office with an application, co-signer application if applicable, and the $35.00 application fee. When the new roommate is approved, the lease will be re-drawn, and all parties involved will re-sign.
c) If the remaining tenant and co-signer agree, the new roommate can be added to the account but not sign a new lease. If you choose that option, the new roommate will not be financially or legally obligated to the unit should any problem arise.
More importantly, the two original tenants need to decide what to do with the original deposit. The outgoing tenant can leave the deposit with written instructions signed by both parties stating what to do with the deposit at the end of the lease. The other option would be for us to refund the deposit to the outgoing roommate, and the incoming roommate would be responsible for paying that half and bringing the account back to balance.
Hope this answers your questions and helps you make an informed decision about renewing your lease with us.
Sometimes an occasion arises where you need to move out of a rental property before the end of your lease term. Unfortunately, we cannot let you cancel a legally binding contract, but we have procedures in place that let you re-let the property and turn over your lease to another tenant.
First, you need to decide when you will be leaving the apartment. Once that decision has been determined, come to our office and fill out a re-let form. A re-let form states your intention to vacate the apartment at a certain date and put your apartment back on the rental market. The re-let form also lets you offer any incentive (like transferring your deposit ) that you think will make your apartment more marketable. Putting your apartment up for re-let requires a $50.00 administrative fee so make sure to bring cash, check, or money order.
Once you have declared your intention to put your apartment back on the market, you have three options for finding a new tenant.
- You can find a tenant yourself. If this is your preferred option, then you need to have the new tenant come in and go through the application process. If they are approved, we will draw up a lease and you are officially out of your obligation to us.
- You can let us find a tenant for you. We will advertise and show your apartment, plus handle the administrative processes. If you choose this option, you will owe us a commission equal to one month’s rent.
- You can do both. While we are showing your unit, you can also search for a potential tenant. If you end up finding the new tenant, you will owe us a commission of half a month’s rent. However, if we find the tenant, you are still responsible for a commission equal to a full month’s rent.
There are pros and cons to each method, and I encourage you to think them through fully before making your final decision.
Most importantly, you are still responsible for your lease until a new tenant has signed a new lease and paid the new account balance. We at the office will make every reasonable attempt to help you secure a new tenant, but sometimes depending on the time of year or location of the property, it takes time or doesn’t happen at all. Just keep this fact in mind.
Hope this helped clear up one of our most frequently asked questions!
Renting a new home can be confusing and overwhelming, especially if it is your first time to do so. There are a lot of things to take into consideration, and this is a big decision. It is beneficial to know what you are looking for before you begin to look.
With that said, there are some preliminary things you can do to make communication easier between you and the leasing agent. There is nothing more disappointing on both ends than when you aren’t looking at the right apartments for what you want. Make a list of things you need in an apartment and things you want in an apartment. Consider things like price range, location (walking distance to class, etc.), and what appliances are important for you to have in your home (such as dishwasher and washer and dryer). If there is a possibility that you will have a pet in that home, let the agent know that as well. Also, think about what you will live without in order to have something else. Having all of these ideas in your head beforehand will definitely make the showing and choosing process easier.
After your initial conversation with the leasing agent in which you briefly discuss your needs and wants, he or she will have narrowed down which apartments are best suited for you, and probably will have scheduled an appointment for viewings. During this appointment, there is more in depth information that will be helpful for you to know about each property. If you have never rented before you may not know what to ask, so here are some questions I feel everyone should ask, and that may help get you started on a more personalized list:
- When is rent due, and when is it late?
- What utilities are required for this property?
- Who is responsible for maintenance on the apartment or house? What will you (the company) take care of and what will I? This is especially important, because for example, you may be responsible for mowing the grass at a house, and you should be prepared to do so.
- Who is responsible for pest control?
- What is the pet policy?
- Can I paint or make minor alterations to the unit?
I hope this helps you focus and prepare before you set out to find a rental property, and you should ask these questions of any company, not just us. Renting and living on your own is fun and exciting, and hopefully we can help you make the process easy too!