What Apartment Rental Fees Can My Landlord Legally Charge Me?

You’re accustomed to scratching your head when you hear the industry jargon that accompanies home ownership (don’t worry — you’re not alone), but you figured renting is a lot simpler to understand. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case, and every now and then you might come across a term you’ve never heard before and which — as your luck would have it — involves forking over some more of your hard-earned cash. But before you start writing checks willy-nilly, you might want to take a closer look at its legality. We’ll be the first to say that there are some awesome landlords out there, but there are also plenty who don’t exactly have your best interests at heart. Part of being a smart renter is never assuming your landlord knows best and doing your own research. While it’s your landlord’s job to collect certain apartment rental fees, it’s your right to know exactly what you’re paying for — especially because “typical” charges vary between rental markets. If you’re a new renter to Los Angeles, here’s a list of legal apartment rental fees your landlord may ask for.

What Are the Standard Apartment Rental Fees?

According to LA real estate broker Melanie McShane, landlords usually use rent payments to cover basic property expenses, including property taxes, insurance, and the mortgage — costs that are inherently built into the monthly rent. You can also expect to pay a nonrefundable application fee (used to run a background and credit check) and/or a security deposit in most cases. McShane says landlords may also charge a:

  1. Pet Deposit Fee: Landlords may charge a deposit per pet to cover pet-related home injuries and as an extra security deposit to cover any pet-related damages to the property.
  2. Pool Key Fee: A fee for the cost of making a pool key.
  3. Extra Key Fee: A fee for the cost of making an extra key.
  4. Storage Fee: In some cases, extra storage is offered to tenants for a fee.
  5. Maintenance Fee: A landlord may charge a monthly fee when landscaping, pool cleaning, or general upkeep are necessary.

What Are Lesser-Known Apartment Rental Fees?

Other, lesser-known fees may also be applicable, though some will be built into the rent and will not be visibly apparent. Tenants in rent-controlled units are also subject to fees that tenants in market rate apartments are not. If you’re not sure if this applies to you, ask your landlord to further explain.

  1. City Tax Portion: “There is a city tax in Los Angeles that apartment owners are charged, and a portion of that fee can be passed along to tenants,” says McShane. To be exact: business tax liability on income collected from rent in Los Angeles is $1.27 per thousand dollars if the unit isn’t exempt.
  2. Rent Registration Dues: If your building falls under rent control, your landlord is required to notify you. The Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Division allows owners to pass down half of the registration fees to tenants. However, landlords must give a 30-day notice before charging this annual fee, and may only collect in June (having notified tenants in May). Once these dues are paid, the landlord must then provide a copy of the certificate proving the building was officially registered as rent-stabilized.
  3. Systematic Code Enforcement Fees (SCEP): This is another fee that only owners of rent-controlled buildings pay. The fee covers building inspections so that each unit meets city codes. This fee can be passed on to the tenant, but only in 12-month installments (and it must be under $5 per month). As with the registration fee for rent control, this fee must only be collected with a 30-day notice.

And it’s not every day that landlords are required to pay their tenants a fee, but the sun shines on LA renters. According to city law, tenants in rent-controlled buildings are entitled to a few pennies back from their landlord in exchange for a security deposit.

“Tenants should also be aware that landlords in rent controlled buildings should pay interest on the deposits that are held,” says McShane. “It is a minimal amount, but they are entitled to it.”

If a fee shows up that you don’t recognize or doesn’t seem legitimate, don’t be afraid to question it. Ask your landlord for an itemized breakdown of your rent and any applicable fees, and if you are still unsatisfied (or find the landlord less than compliant), contact the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles or the Los Angeles Housing Community Investment Department. As with all financial transactions (including your rent), ask for a receipt!

The Eco-Life: Conserving Water and Cutting Energy Costs

Who doesn’t love a long, relaxing shower after a stressful day of school, work and household chores? Well, if you’re a California resident, you’re going to have to find another way to unwind. The Golden State has been in a record-breaking drought for the last four years, putting pressure on all Californians to scale back on their water use. That doesn’t mean you have to go without showering for days, but there are ways you can be more eco-friendly and cut energy costs even if you’re not in the middle of a drought. You’d be surprised how easy it is to save water, from your household cleaning to your hygiene routine. Trust us: You can do it, and you should — for yourself, your roommates, and the planet!

Start With the Basics

You use water every day for a million things, so where do you start to cut back? Dr. Chad Nelsen, CEO of the Surfrider Foundation in California and a passionate environmentalist, says the most basic tip is simply to turn it off when you’re not actually using it. You can save around two gallons of water a minute by doing so — and that’s just for the smaller tasks.

“Turn off the tap while you shave, brush your teeth or wash dishes,” he recommends. “Take a shorter shower, and fix any leaky pipes to save hundreds of gallons of water every month going to wastewater treatment plants and being discharged to the ocean.”

If you’re still wondering how big your impact can really be, take a look at our breakdown of exactly where you can conserve water and how much you can save.

Personal Hygiene:

  1. Baths: Take showers; bathtubs take about 70 gallons of water to fill.
  2. Shaving: Plug a bit of water in the sink to rinse razors and save hundreds of gallons a month.
  3. Leaks: Fix those leaks to save an average 10 gallons a day.
  4. Showers: You’re already saving water by showering (go you!). Challenge yourself further to spend the shortest amount of time in there (under five minutes). You can also get a low-flow showerhead and save another 12.5 gallons.
  5. Toilets: Throw trash away in the bin; don’t flush it. Toilets flush an average of 3.5 gallons every time.

    Household Tasks:

    1. Laundry: Adjust your washer settings according to the load size, and if you’re in the market, get a front-loading machine to save 20 gallons per load vs. top-loading machines
    2. Dishes: Here’s a great excuse to swear off handwashing dishes; dishwashers are more efficient with water (and better for communal cleanup with roommates).
    3. Garbage Disposal: Compost your scraps if you can to save a few gallons each time you would have used the disposal.
    4. Cooking and Drinking: Thaw food in the fridge instead of the sink, and use a water pitcher rather than using the tap to fill up your water glass.
    5. Lawn and Garden

      And finally, if you’re lucky enough to have a yard, Nelsen recommends letting nature help out.

      “Reuse your rainwater as an irrigation source for your plants or garden,” he says. “Use gutters and downspouts to direct rainwater into your garden instead of letting it flow into the street.”

      Almost 60 percent of water usage goes into the lawn for those that have them. As an individual, you can make a difference, but as an entire team, you can make a real impact. Find more information on Save Our Water’s interactive website, and continue to help California conserve in the midst of the drought.

5 Ways to Get Better Sleep in a Noisy City Apartment

Not getting enough sleep? You’re not alone.

According to a recent study, more than one-quarter of the U.S. population isn’t getting enough shut-eye. Couple that statistic with the fact that the windows in your new city digs are right above the noisy street corner, and you and your roommate are probably in for some long, sleepless nights.

The good news? It’s absolutely possible to take back your night by making a few tweaks to your sleep routine. Here’s what sleep experts had to say about getting more shut eye when you live in a loud city.

1. Invest in blackout curtains.

Dying for another excuse to redecorate? Now you have one. If you’re being kept awake by the tacky bright lights from the 24-hour diner across from your building, you’re in luck. Wellness coach Jamie Logie says blackout curtains not only block out super bright lights that interrupt your body’s ability to produce sleep hormones, but they also keep the city noise out.

“They’re dark and heavy enough to help block sound,” he says. “The darker the room, the more melatonin your body secretes naturally to improve your natural circadian rhythm and overall sleep quality.”

More on how redecorating can help you get better Zzzzs here.

2. Try white noise.

Replacing sound with sound might seem counterproductive, but behavioral sleep specialist Dr. Richard Shane has found that many of his city patients respond well to white noise machines.

“A white noise machine is a neutral background sound that masks other distracting sounds and makes sleep easier,” he explains.

No worries if this fancy gadget is out of your budget. Shane recommends downloading MyNoise, a free app that offers close to 100 sounds, including white noise and rain sounds to lull you to Dreamland.

3. Turn off your electronics.

The noise outside your building might be what wakes you up at 4 a.m., but according to board certified sleep physician Dr. Robert Rosenberg, having devices with bright lights in your bedroom are likely preventing you from falling back asleep easily. Get the blackout curtains, yes, but make sure you’re putting the lights out indoors too.

“Keeping your bedroom dark helps your body create melatonin,” he says. “That means you have to turn off the laptop, iPad and iPhone, and don’t fall asleep with your TV on.”

So you can Netflix and chill all you want — just make sure it’s not in your bedroom.

4. Get earplugs.

As much as you love the hustle and bustle of city life during the day, it’s totally okay to admit it’s a nuisance at night. You’ve probably found yourself putting your pillow over your ears in hopes of blocking out the street noise, but there’s a better way. Shane says that there are earplugs specifically designed to help with this issue.

“Earplugs are usually made out of foam rubber or silicone,” he says. “However, the foam rubber earplugs are usually cylindrical shaped, so they can poke into your ear if you lie on your side. Silicone earplugs are soft like putty, which shape to your ear like custom-fit earplugs.”

5. Set the right temperature.

You get it: It needs to be dark and quiet to get good sleep. But another simple modification you can make to your bedroom to help you stay asleep is to set your thermostat to an optimal temperature, suggests Rosenberg.

“A drop in body temperature is a major signal to the brain to enter sleep. Most studies have shown that a temperature between 62 and 70 degrees is best for sleep. If the room is too warm, our core body temperature will not drop.”

If you’re stuck dealing with an overheating radiator in the winter or a lackluster A/C in the summer, crack open a window or invest in a fan to circulate the air. Falling asleep in a city that never sleeps doesn’t have to be a struggle. Use these tips to create the ideal sleep environment so that you and your roommate can get the sleep you need each night and worry about the real problems.

5 Real Roommate Problems and How to Resolve Them

From early morning bathroom run-ins (when you’re not even in the mood to face your cat) to tiffs over paying the shared bills (do you really need HBO when GoT isn’t playing new episodes?), you have to be prepared for the everyday hiccups that bubble up when you’re sharing space (at least with apps like Roomi, you’ll have the transparency you need to prepare for your roommate’s quirks). The good news is that even the most seemingly unsolvable squabbles can be squashed amicably. To help you and your roommates settle your differences and live harmoniously (because there will always be some bumps on the way to roommate bliss), we asked the experts on how to help solve these five co-living conundrums, brought to you by real roommates.

1. Flush Factor

The problem:

Sharing the bathroom is always challenging for a multitude of reasons, regardless of who you’re sharing with. But when the issue is more than someone hogging the shower, things can get real awkward — real fast. When Boston-based Erica Betcher moved in with her new roommate, she says everything was going great — until the bathroom “surprises” became a point of contention.

“I guess she was afraid of making the water too hot or cold or something, but my roommate would go to the bathroom, take a shower, and then leave for class with it sitting there all day,” Betcher says.

“And this wasn’t just your occasional morning pee — this was gross. I put up a note about flushing, which she saw, but I finally had to sit down and talk to her about it. It was kind of funny, but super awkward.”

The solution:

While it almost seems more polite not to confront your roommate about — shall we say — such a personal issue, it’s only a matter of time before your annoyance/resentment/disgust builds up and boils over. And even if you’re not the passive aggressive type, bottling up something that’s obviously affecting you can bring out this behavior in anyone, says John Kim, life coach, therapist and founder of The Angry Therapist.

“Ignoring something like this can create a lot of anxiety for you and actually lower your quality of life. So, like in any relationship, communication is the best way to go. And by communication, I mean discussing the issue with your roommate straight up.”

But be careful to avoid the blame game, which can aggravate the situation further and potentially cause new problems.

“Make the conversation light and funny, but also be sure to address what’s really bothering you. It may be tough, but know you’re also laying the tracks for a healthy co-living relationship,” Kim adds.

2. Privacy Predicament

The problem:

When you’re sharing an apartment with another individual, you’re sharing much more than that —the fridge, the couch, etc. And while Brendon Graffum from Ipswich, Massachusetts says he was totally cool with this part of co-living, he was not okay with his roommates treating his personal stuff as communal property.

“I started living with my two roommates because they were friends of friends, and everything was fine in the beginning. But then I started noticing small things like my sheets were all crumpled while I was away on a vacation, and my laptop all of a sudden had a virus due to certain applications I hadn’t downloaded,” Graffum says.

“I realized my roommates were using my room, bed and electronic devices. When I found out, I tried to react calmly by telling them my room was off-limits, but that only put a strain on our relationship. We didn’t talk for almost a year before we moved out.”

The solution:

The first thing to do in a situation like this is to put some security measures in place and learn to protect your electronically-saved sensitive info like a pro. But if there’s a serious boundary issue, you’re eventually going to have to put your foot down.

“This one is tough because we learn a lot about our friendships when we live with them,” says Nicole Zangara, a social worker from Scottsdale, Arizona and author of “Surviving Female Friendships: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly“.

“If you keep talking to your roommate and they continue this behavior, you have to decide whether it makes sense to continue living with them — and inevitably keeping them in your friends circle. Roommate tiffs come and go, but conscious disrespect for personal property is blatantly rude and something that just won’t change on the drop of a dime.”

If you can’t change them or their behaviors, you might have to be the one to make the change (i.e., move out!).

3. The Occupational Roommate

The problem:

It’s not always easy to find someone to take over a lease or sublease your room, especially when it’s last-minute or for a short amount of time. But while it’s tempting to jump the gun and choose the first interested applicant, it’s a decision you always want to make carefully. Yulia Vereshagina from New York City learned this lesson the hard way when she make a snap decision out of desperation.

“I found a random Craigslist roommate to replace my friend who moved to Texas. I thought she was super normal, but I also thought it was odd that she had no social media presence of any kind. Nonetheless, since I was desperate to fill the spot, I let her move in,” Vereshagina says.

“She paid rent on time but was never at the apartment. About two months after she moved in, I realized her room was completely empty —  she didn’t even have bedroom furniture. When I confronted her about it, she made up a weird story about having another apartment closer to work, even though she worked like a mile away. After a few more strange interactions, I found out that she was an escort and stripper. I felt betrayed and a little unsafe living in my apartment because I questioned everything else she might not have been telling me.”

The solution:

So, your roommate is keeping secrets. You can’t force them to tell you the truth, but once trust it broken, it’s hard to rebuild. What now?

“First off, you need to be more cautious about who you live with,” advises Zangara. “Before letting this girl move in, you should have asked more questions so as to ensure that she couldn’t pose a threat of any kind to your living environment.”

With so many different means of finding a good roommate these days, take advantage of your options to get to know each other. Ask them important questions, grab a coffee before move-in day to feel them out, and sign a roommate contract. Don’t forget: You’re going to be living with this person every day — don’t take it lightly. And if you’re worried about getting too personal, remember that you aren’t the only one who needs to know.

“Landlords often ask to see pay stubs, so it’s not unusual to ask more personal questions about the person you plan to live with,” adds Zangara.

4. A Big Mouse-take

The problem:

To have a pet or to not have a pet has to be a unanimous decision among roommates. Unfortunately for Brooklyn roommate Emily Elveru, her roommate made the decision for the entire household when she brought home a pet rodent without warning, leaving no room for discussion.

“One night my roommate drunkenly asked me how I would feel if she got a pet hamster or rat. I told her no — for many reasons. They’re dirty, smelly, we have cats who kill rodents as a hobby, and keeping critters out of the house in the city is already a challenge. But apparently the next day she decided I would get over it and came home with a pet rat.”

The solution:

The key to making the decision about pets is giving each roommate the opportunity to have a say. Ultimately, though, you all have to agree on the same thing.

“It’s important to be firm with the ‘Can I have a pet?’ question, especially when you’re living with other people,” says Kim.

“Because — whether your roommate intends this to happen or not — everyone in the home winds up caring for the animal in some way, shape or form. Think of a shared apartment as a voting democracy. If not everyone is in agreement about a decision of that grandeur, it should be vetoed.”

5. The Passive Poster

The problem:

They say communication is key in relationships. Roommates have to be able to have all sorts of conversations — from whose turn it is to buy toilet paper to whether it’s okay to have overnight guests and everything in between. For Boston roommate Nicole Niss, the key to conversation was via Post-Its.

“My roommate apparently had an issue with the level of cleanliness in our apartment, which I could have understood. But instead of actually talking to me about it, she decided to leave sticky notes around the place on objects she thought were ‘gross.’ One time I even caught her leaving one on two empty, rinsed-out bowls left next to the sink for less than a day. They were clean, too!”

The solution:

It’s safe to say that everyone has their own idea of what “clean” or “dirty” is, but even if your beliefs don’t align with your roommate’s, it’s not the end of the world. All clichés aside, just remember that two wrongs never make a right — so don’t fight fire with fire.

“It seems like this roommate was also obsessive compulsive on top of being passive aggressive,” says Kim. “The best way to handle this is to be direct and consistent. Every time she does something of this nature, address it immediately in a kind, direct way. Eventually, she will dread the communication so much, given her natural demeanor, that she will stop leaving the sticky notes.”

5 Myths You Probably Believe About Living in Texas

Texas has a reputation for many things: namely for being big, cheap and friendly. In fact, these widely-held beliefs are, in part, the reason why Texas’s major metros are the fastest growing cities in the U.S. The Lone Star State is one of the few places where the financial crisis of 2008 seemed to graze over, so it’s hardly surprising that young professionals are flocking south. Not to mention the cost of living in a Texan city like Dallas puts other major cities to shame. (Have you seen the gorgeous townhomes for rent in Dallas and their insanely low rents?) But is Texas currently flooding with young families, as the Internet would have us believe? And precisely how cheap is “cheap”? The answers might surprise you. Here are five myths about living in Texas you probably believe.

Myth #1: Texas is cheap.

This one is a bit of a double-edged sword because while true in many senses, it’s Texas’s famed “more bang for your buck” lifestyle that could ultimately be driving up prices. Let’s walk through the specifics.

Cost of Living

To put this into perspective, the cost of living in Austin is 51 percent cheaper than in San Francisco, and 40 percent cheaper than in New York City, aka the country’s two most expensive housing markets. And while dinner won’t cost you an arm and a leg, residents say other areas are taking a hit.

“Anecdotal experience and cost of living data will show that this price increase is almost exclusively in rent,” says Luke Orlando, a lifelong Texan, and a senior at The University of Texas at Austin majoring in finance and government.

Taxes

You might start packing your bags immediately after you hear this: Texas is one of seven states that don’t charge an income tax. Depending on where you stand in your tax brackets, it could be putting a lot of extra pennies in your pocket. Sounds amazing, right? Well, not so fast. It turns out that Texas’s property taxes are pretty hefty. In fact, Texas comes in sixth place for the highest property tax in the country. For renters (a growing population, according to a recent report), who often shoulder their landlord’s burdens, this means higher rent. Which brings us to the main point:

Rising Rents

Wondering just how fast rents are rising in Texas? Enough to land both Austin and Houston on the list of top 10 metropolitan areas that had the highest rent increases last year. Not too far down the list of cities with rising rents: San Antonio and Dallas-Fort Worth. And at least for the capital city, experts suspect residents will suffer through another spike in 2016, by as much as 5 to 6 percent. It’s unsurprisingly unsettling for both new and current residents.

“Relative to the rest of the U.S., Texas is still fairly cheap to live in,” says longtime Texan and Austinite Emily Ergas. “But rent in Austin is rising significantly every year, and many of my friends have had to move once their leases were up due to a rise in prices. And gentrification is clearly happening in parts of town [contributing to the higher cost of living].”

In summary: Texas is “cheap” comparatively, but the recent influx of newcomers is creating a demand for more housing. Still, there’s one thing that Texas offers many young professionals that cities like NYC and SF simply don’t, points out Orlando.

“People moving here have driven up the cost of rent, making it comparable to other large cities, but the opportunities for savings absolutely still exist in Texas metros and will for the foreseeable future.”

Myth #2: It’s a place to “settle down.”

Texas is currently leading the nation in population growth, so it’s clear those looking for greener pastures (maybe literally) are headed down south. And while the big open spaces slower paced lifestyles are a draw for families and baby boomers, they’re not the only ones with the Texas Bug. San Antonio saw the largest growth in millennial population among America’s largest metros, with a 9.2 increase between 2010 and 2013. Houston’s millennial population grew by 6.2 percent during this time; Dallas-Fort Worth’s by 4.7 percent; and Austin’s by 4.2 percent. All four metros were in the top 25 of the list. Texas, you could say, is very much “in.”

“The mild winters and robust job markets are huge draws for Austin,” says Orlando. “I love our lack of congestion, incredible food options, and the palpable sense of Texan exceptionalism.”

Myth #3: Texas is old-fashioned and politically monochromatic.

There’s a reason why some are calling Austin the new San Francisco. The recent swell of tech startups in Texas’s capital have contributed immensely to the city’s well known love for diversity. (Are you really surprised when the city’s motto is “Keep Austin Weird”?) It’s particularly the mix of old and new, Texans say, that make life here so great.

“You’re just as likely to find a chic new coffee shop or tech startup as you are a taco truck or panaderia even in lower-income areas in east Austin,” says Orlando.

And the Southern stereotypes don’t fit every Texan any more than they fit every Southerner. So while it may be a largely red state, not every Texan is made the same.

“I lived abroad in Chile and Spain for two years, and the most common questions were: ‘Do you ride a horse to school? Do you own a gun? Do you love George Bush?’ No on all accounts actually,” says Ergas, exasperated.

And the newcomers can be just as bad, she adds.

“They expect Southern accents, guns, cowboys and Republicans, so people are generally surprised when they don’t find that. People eventually realize that the major cities in Texas are fairly liberal, and that accents and cowboys aren’t the norm.”

Myth #4: Texas is big.

Alright, so this isn’t a myth, but “big” doesn’t cut it, so it bears explaining. Texas is massive. Like, huge. Big enough to have once been a country (something Texans still celebrate today, by the way).

“People from other states and countries always underestimate the size of Texas,” Ergos says. “It still shocks people that I attended a university in-state, but it was a five-hour drive home.”

Why is this important for renters? There’s plenty of room to grow for everyone flocking here, of course. According to Orlando, the urban sprawl is one of the things newcomers have to get used to.

“Chicago is about 234 sq. miles and has several hundred thousand more people than Houston, which is 600 sq. miles,” he points out.

Very recently there has been some controversy on this subject, as residents chafe about the recent increase in housing development and the push to build on smaller lots.

Myth #5: Texans ride a horse to school.

No. Just….no. Please, for the sake of every Texan out there, don’t ask anyone if this is true! It’s not.

So get while the gettin’s good.

There you have it. While rent might be increasing in Texas, the cost certainly beats out many other major cities; there’s plenty of room to spread out, and with the boom in jobs in the state, it’s the perfect place for young professionals to start their careers. So what are you waiting for?

Among Texas Millennials, Homeownership is Out, Renting is In

Renting is the new black, says a recent study published by Trulia. The report from February highlights the nationwide increase in renting and the subsequent decline of homeownership across multiple age groups in the last decade. Notably, older Millennials are waiting longer than ever to take the leap into homeownership, choosing rents over mortgages, unlike their parents’ generation. And while many American cities have seen impressive increases in renting in recent years (Las Vegas, for instance, is almost 50 percent renters), San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, and Austin are among the top cities whose residents are saying bye-bye to homeownership.

What’s Happening?

While the shift to renting became a nationwide trend following the financial crisis, cities with the most foreclosures turned many homeowners into renters. And with services like Roomi, which offer a much safer and easier way to find rooms and roommates, renting has never been easier. Las Vegas saw the biggest shift, with a 10 percent increase in renters between 2006 and 2014. However, in the case of many Texas cities, which fared reasonably well post-crisis, the bustling economy has contributed to the population explosion among Millennials, leading to rent inflation. San Antonio tops the list of Texas cities with a 5.3 percent increase in renters since 2006.

This is pretty average compared to the other American metros (whose renter population ranges from 0.2 percent to 9.9 percent), but when compared to historically renter-heavy cities like New York City  and San Francisco, which saw a 3.7 percent and 3.3 percent increase, respectively, it puts the trend into perspective. Pair that with the fact that Texas property taxes are among the highest in the country, the decline in homeownership isn’t as surprising.

What Are Texans Saying?

So how much does an average 4.4 percent increase in renters affect the state on the ground level? According to the report, the increase in renters has spiked median rent prices by a steep 29.2 percent in San Antonio. Even worse, Austin’s 3.3 percent rise in renters has partially contributed to its whopping 31.8 percent increase in median rent prices.

Not everyone has felt the impact yet, however. San Antonio realtor John Giacobbe says in light of the city’s population growth, sales have been steady. He notes that while rentals appear to be in high demand, so are homes for sale.

“I think there are a lot of folks who are unable to qualify to purchase a home due to issues with their credit and down payment requirements,” says Giacobbe.

“This is driving the demand for rental properties because it is the only option for many families to secure housing. I think the main issue behind not qualifying is that they’re not saving and over-spending their money. The credit issues have continued the need for rentals, so there is still just as much of a demand in this market for rental properties as there are homes for residents to buy.”

Giacobbe is not wrong about that. Trulia’s report points out that lower-income residents have been affected the most by the loss of “the American dream”, and they are still largely renters.

But fellow Texan realtor and president of the Renters Warehouse in Dallas, Michael Park, argues that, at least in Texas, renting is a positive side effect of the state’s healthy economy.

“Despite all of the new construction going on around town, apartment builders simply can’t keep up with the demand in our area caused by our strong job growth and our increasing population,” Park says. “As such, we’re seeing a rental boom in the DFW area — and many of the renters are Millennials.”

Park explains that renting is an ideal option for residents who are recent graduates or young professionals beginning their careers, offering a low-risk, short-term commitment.

“Millennials saw what the Baby Boomer generation went through during the recession and housing crisis, and they’re leery of getting tied-up with a mortgage. They want the convenience of knowing they can move easily and quickly, if needed. The renting stigma has also changed. In the past, if you rented, it was likely you couldn’t afford to buy. But many of today’s renters, or ‘lifestyle’ renters, can afford to own a home, but they choose not to, giving them the option to pay off debt or travel. In essence, you can’t put a price on convenience nor the appeal of having an apartment or home that’s maintenance-free.
adds Park.

Phil Mackie, 29, a digital analyst sporting a three-year renting record in the state can vouch for Park’s theory. Though he admits his income would support a mortgage and he understands that buying a house is more of an investment, Mackie says “it’s not enough to sway me!”

“I don’t want to be tied down to a piece of property. If I wanted to up and move to Alaska or anywhere for that matter, I simply would as I am now,” he says.

It’s a mindset common to those in his age group, he argues. Homeownership also signals a loss of freedom to a generation whose independence to do whatever they want, whenever they want, is of the utmost importance.

“If a career opportunity sprung up out of nowhere, or we are struck by an adventurous sense of exploring, we want to be able to pursue it. If you ask what my homeowner friends and family members are doing on their weekends off, they will often tell me that they are fixing all the things that have either deteriorated or broken in the last week,” Mackie continues. “I can think of 1,000 things I’d rather do that reinstall cruddy plumbing on my Saturday morning.”

So, what of the rising rent prices? Mackie, at least, remains optimistic for the opportunities renting still offers.

“Me personally, I’m excited about my next move into yet another rental property. I may even consider a roommate…or a dog. That’d be a commitment!” he jokes.

How Securing Startup Funding In India Differs From The U.S.

FROM FORBES:  As the startup ecosystem in India continues to take off, it’s interesting to note the unique way Indian entrepreneurs go about their fundraising efforts. Certain patterns are universal in the lifecycle of a typical startup, and specific traits differ based on cultural and local norms. India and the US, two leading nations in tech innovation, are excellent subjects for examining universal elements of international startups, as well as differences. Continue reading.

The Eco-Life: How to Minimize Expenses While on Vacation

Your passports are renewed, you got the time off work approved, and your big roommate vacation is all set. Your bags are packed and you can’t get out of town fast enough. You and your roommate have gone over how to prevent burglary in the most common sense ways, and you’ll be sure to practice your everyday safety measures, too. You’ve set your vacation budget and you’ll be ready to take on your expenses when you return without being that roommate who bails on rent. Though you decided not to sublet your apartment while away, you’re still wary of the expenses you’re incurring. But there are also a few ways to save money, so you can spend the savings somewhere well-deserved. Here’s what you can do to minimize your utility expenses while away from home.

Address Your Biggest Energy Uses

Long before you lived the fabulous life of roommates, your parents were constantly reminding you to turn the off the lights behind you. At some point, you’ve heard the spiel about unplugging the TV or your cell phone charger when they’re not in use. But you’re probably thinking — how much is this really going to save, right? Writer and website publisher Michael Bluejay, also known as “Mr. Electricity“, says that obsessing over the small things is a waste of time and will ultimately cause you to miss the point.

“Such trivia won’t make a dime’s worth of difference in your electric bill. It’s the bigger things that matter. With that in mind, you’ll first want to address the big energy users in your home first.”

For the budget- and environmentally-conscious roommates,  Bluejay suggests focusing on the following when you’re away:

Heating and Air Conditioning

This one is pretty obvious but so easy to overlook when you’re preparing to go away. But if you’re not going to be home, there’s no need to run your heater or air conditioner all day even if you need them on for some of the time during an extended time away. You can find a happy medium, says Tom Price from Bostwick Energy Partners.

“Setting a timer is the best solution for this. You only need to run your heat an hour during the day and an hour at night to keep your pipes from freezing.”

In those hot summer months, monitoring your A/C is equally important. Tom explains that maintaining a minimum of 68 degrees is your best bet for saving on energy costs.

“Every degree below 68 uses an increasing amount of energy. If your home is insulated properly with a working A/C, 68° F will keep you cool,” Price adds.

Refrigerator

The refrigerator is the second-largest user of electricity in most homes (13.7 percent), right after the air conditioner (14.1 percent), according to The U.S. Energy Information Administration. While some appliances we can use less to save energy, we don’t have that option here. (Especially when your roommate won’t even clean the fridge.) If you’re going away for just a few days, or even up to 10, it’s not worth unplugging your fridge or doing a mass cleanout. The savings won’t add up (and you might waste more throwing stuff away). But if you’re going to be away for a month or more, consider cleaning out and unplugging the fridge.

Lighting

Mr. Electricity stresses that you don’t need to worry yourself sick about wearing out your light faster just because you forget to turn them off here and there (although, there’s no reason to be reckless about it!). You can, however, replace older light bulbs with LED lights to save tons of energy. More on that here.

Washer/Dryer

Here’s a fun fact: Washing laundry in cold water versus warm or hot can help you save up to $152 a year, and that’s with no upfront cost. So if you’re one of the lucky ones with in-unit washer/dryer, this is a no-brainer to saving money (because you know that vacation laundry is no joke). And the efficient way to save energy on drying? Skip it all together whenever you can. Invest in a drying rack or simply hang up in your place to dry.

Modern Technology

As technology continues to distract us from work and invite us to zone out during social settings, it’s still putting its fair share of good in the world and helping us to live better. Smart devices like the Nest Learning Thermostat 3rd Generation are perfect for renters and homeowners alike when away on vacation. This device optimizes itself for unique preferences and schedules. Not only will it know what to do when you’re away, it saves an average of 10-12 percent on heating bills and 15 percent on cooling bills. This is great if you’re renting a place for a few years and want to invest. It’s also portable to your next rental.

Why A Young CEO Should Hire Industry Veterans

FROM FORBES:  With the abundance of talented young founders in global startup scenes, the idea of a budding CEO hiring a seasoned industry veteran has been poked fun at in movies and even the media. The truth is, however, that key senior hires can bring efficiency and wisdom to an often energetic chaos for which early-stage startups are notorious. Those with specialized training and previous experience can save a business precious time, costly mistakes and missed opportunities.  Continue reading here.

Renting Homes in Austin: 4 Key Points to Check on Your Lease

Rental leases can often be long and hard to understand. And while they’re partly designed to protect the tenant, they’re written by the landlords and property owners. With that in mind, be mindful of how they can lean in their favor. Here’s what you should be checking when you’re signing a lease for a rental home in Austin, Texas.

Rental Homes in Austin

When it comes to rental homes in Austin, the lease is the law more often than not. Some laws — like whether or not your landlord can enter the property without telling you — aren’t officially in place. So in a court of law, a judge must rely on the lease to clarify when and under what circumstances a landlord can enter. Other scenarios like lockouts are illegal in Texas as they are in most other states unless there’s a clause in the lease that clearly states the landlord may do this. If such a clause (and many others) slipped past you when you signed your lease, you may have given your landlord more rights than you intended. So before you seal the deal with a binding signature, check your lease for these important points.

1. Landlord Entry

There’s no law in Texas that regulates landlord entry. And though most legal cases lean in favor of the lessee to give permission first, a simple clause can trump that.

“The TAA lease, which is widely used in Texas, states the landlord can enter for reasons ranging from removing unauthorized pets to showing the unit to prospective buyers to stopping excessive noise,” says the Austin Tenants’ Council’s website.

Even if the landlord of your Austin rental home issues a different type of lease, be aware that precedents set by other cases can be strongly influential, says Austin real estate agent and owner of Sweet ATX Pads, Frank Salas.

“If a different lease format is used, one that does not mention landlord entry, previous cases hold that landlords can enter for repairs, emergencies, or to post notices. Ensure that the contract states what the time frame is for your landlord to give you notice before entering your premises. Note that this would not apply in an emergency situation,” Salas recommends.

In Other Cities

The rules are similar in cities like New York City and San Francisco, but there are laws in place. In NYC, for instance, a landlord may only enter for repairs and inspections and must give the tenant 24 hours notice (unless it’s for emergency repairs). In SF a landlord may enter for repairs, to show the property to prospective tenants and contractors, or with a court order, and all with a 24-hour notice. Again, if there is an emergency, the landlord may enter immediately. The takeaway is that there may or may not be laws to protect you from landlord entry, so check your local laws first, then your lease.

2. Maintenance

Sometimes, tenants can negotiate aspects of the lease. Maintenance procedure is another point lessees should check before signing. Especially with rental homes in Austin, the maintenance process is lengthy.

“Pay attention to turnaround time on maintenance issues,” says Salas. “Ensure that most of them can be addressed within 24 hours, especially the ones that are important to everyday life. There are laws in Austin that pertain to turnaround time on maintenance for things like air conditioning that can actually result in you getting free rent.”

Without a clear indication on maintenance timelines (and the know-how on the tenant’s part), it can take days, if not weeks, for even an emergency repair.

In Other Cities

For some renters around the country, the city government has taken necessary steps to introduce a protocol for emergency repairs. In Los Angeles, the Urgent Repair Program demands that landlords repair dangerous situations in as little as 48 hours. In NYC, a tenant can report the issue to the City’s hotline and has the right to withhold rent until repairs are made, or hire a repairman and deduct the cost of the repairs from their rent.

3. Lockouts

Here’s an Austin exclusive: Landlords can lock you out. Again, this is only if the lease you signed specifically gives the landlord the right to change the locks in the event that rent is not paid. That being said, it is not legal to lock out a tenant permanently — meaning a short-term eviction is not legal.

If the lease states the landlord may lock the tenant out in an attempt to further draw attention to a failed rent payment, the landlord must provide a written notice in advance and may not charge the tenant for the new key; the landlord must give the tenant a key within two hours of the tenant’s request.

“The intention of the lockout law is to force a tenant who is delinquent in rent to have contact with the landlord to discuss the problem or to arrange payment,” says the Austin Tenants’ Council’s website. “Landlords must follow a strict procedure when changing the door locks of a tenant, and the tenant must be given a new key whether or not any delinquent rent is paid. A landlord cannot legally, permanently lock a tenant out without going through the eviction process.”

In Other Cities

Typically the term “lockout” implies a short-term eviction, which is why the Austin Tenants’ Council’s website is so adamant about repeating that their lockouts are not evictions. More often than not, it’s safe to assume that short-term evictions are illegal. In New York City, the landlord needs require a court order to lock a tenant out or begin a full eviction process. In San Francisco, it’s considered harassment for the landlord to change the locks without the tenant’s permission.

4. Eviction Time-Frames

Evictions are still a legal process, but they’re a bit expedited for rental homes in Austin — or they can be. You likely won’t find anything in your lease about it, but if you don’t want to go through the eviction process, you’ll want to read your lease carefully so you know what terms you’re complying with.

In Austin, the landlord first has to tell the tenant to leave with a written notice, or a Notice to Vacate. Note that you do not have to leave just because you receive this notice. If your landlord wants to evict you, they must provide a proper notice and follow the official steps in the judicial process. There are strict guidelines by which a landlord must deliver a Notice to Vacate also, so keep in mind that it can’t just be a text message or email. If the tenant doesn’t leave by the deadline given on the notice (likely a short deadline), the landlord must file an eviction suit. The tenant may go to the hearing date scheduled afterward, and if the tenant is found to lose the suit, they have five days to vacate. If the tenant doesn’t comply, the eviction process can be as short as two weeks.

In Other Cities

In San Francisco, the eviction process takes one to two months minimum, and that’s if the tenant is compliant (which they don’t have to be). In NYC, the landlord must first prove in court that you’ve violated the terms of the lease, and then still has to give you 30 days to relocate, after all the legal stuff.

Moral of the story: Read your lease carefully, renters, regardless of where you live. What might seem common sense in other renting markets (or even the local laws) can be turned on its head with a simple clause in a lease.