Are you having trouble renting an apartment? You are not alone. The apartment industry has changed tremendously as larger apartment complexes have automated their tenant screening, pricing, and monthly payment collection processes. Most large and medium apartment communities have cut back on staffing of resident managers and leasing agents and will not even show you an apartment unless you have a prescheduled appointment. These days, many apartments are owned by Hedge Funds and real estate investment trusts (REITs) which are located in New York or other major financial centers. There are very few locally owned apartment complexes left in Georgia and Tennessee. As landlord-tenant lawyers, we can attest that all of these features combined are making it harder and harder for regular people to find an apartment to rent.
Apartments are priced by computer software which keeps up with the availability of 1-, 2-, or 3-bedroom units in your area. If there is an excessive number of 2-bedroom apartments available in your area, then the prices will drop until they are leased. As the number of tenants increases, 2-bedroom prices are increased. The apartment owners turn to computer software subscriptions such as Yardi Matrix, which offers comprehensive rental pricing information on 15.2 million apartments over 124 metro areas, to optimize their profits by increasing rents.
Can I Afford to Sign a New Apartment Lease?
If you are wondering why your apartment lease has risen 10% or 20% or 30% recently it is because of apartment pricing software and, unfortunately, it does not take your real-world costs into consideration. While a new apartment lease may be set at a price that is too costly for you, it may be easier to afford than all of the expenses of moving and paying new utility deposits. Apartment owners know you can move but they also realize that most people will stay and pay the increased rent for one more lease term as they plan their next move. Most apartment communities only inform the tenant of a monthly rate increase within 30 days of your lease renewal so you don’t even have time to plan a move and have to make a quick decision about relocating. Unfortunately, the timing of the lease renewal is purposely designed to favor the apartment owner over the tenant.
How Can I Fight Back?
Can I use landlord-tenant law to sue my apartment complex for raising the rent? No, you can’t sue them for raising the rent unless you are in a protected class of tenants that is protected by the Fair Housing Act that prohibits discrimination in housing because of:
- National Origin
- Sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation)
- Familial Status
Additionally, it is illegal discrimination to take any of the following actions because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation), familial status, and disability:
- Refuse to rent
- Falsely deny that housing is available for inspection and rental
- Use different qualification criteria or applications, or rental standards or procedures such as income standards, application requirements, application fees, credit analyses, rental approval procedures, or other requirements.
Most apartment complexes are now requiring a credit score of 670 which eliminates about 35% of the adult population in the United States. Many young adults just starting out in life with their first jobs and little or no credit history will not be able to achieve this requirement, thus barring them from renting an apartment.
As attorneys who deal with landlord-tenant law, we have also discovered that many apartment complexes are requiring that your employer direct deposit your wages into your bank account, or the income will not be considered. This rule especially affects restaurant workers who are paid in shift cash-outs or tipped income and self-employed potential tenants who may have a fluctuating income.
What Can I Do?
If an apartment manager tries to discourage you from renting, demand to fill out an application so there is proof that you at least tried to rent. If you are turned down, the apartment should send you a letter in writing as to why they will not accept you as a tenant. If they just call, text, or email to say you didn’t qualify then call one of our landlord-tenant lawyers at Lober & Dobson, LLC. Do not forget to take screenshots of any texts you receive from the apartment manager, take a photo or save a copy of the application you submit, and save any emails between you and the apartment manager. We are very serious about holding these apartment owners accountable for violating landlord-tenant law and we will seek monetary damages to the maximum extent the law will provide.