This Company Wants to Get Rid of Your Rent Check

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If you’re still paying your rent by check, RentMoola is on a mission to make you stop. Credit.com decided to take a closer look at the Vancouver-based startup, which launched in April 2013, to find out more.

How it Works 

With a RentMoola account, users whose property managers also are enrolled in the program can pay rent via a proprietary platform on the company’s desktop or mobile site, said co-founder Philipp Postrehovsky. If their manager has yet to sign up, they can refer him to RentMoola. As of press time, he said the service is available in 400 cities across North America, mostly in the U.S., where it’s focused on growth.

RentMoola also allows tenants to pay with credit card or eCheck, a paperless form of checks known as ACH. In the U.S., cash payments can be made at participating 7-Eleven stores, Postrehovsky said. “You present a bar code on your phone that you access from your RentMoola account. That bar code is scanned by the teller, you hand over the cash and you’re done,” he explained.

For property managers, there is no cost for using the basic service, but “there are small monthly fees based on the number of bank accounts you have,” Postrehovsky said. Tenants should be aware there is a service fee applicable for credit card payments in Canada (1.75%) and the U.S. (2.99%). The eCheck option is always free.

As an aside, RentMoola also offers a program called Perks, which grants those who sign up free access to a range of discounts at a variety of retailers.

Things to Consider

Postrehovsky said RentMoola has fraud-detection practices in place and that the company encrypts its data. Also, all credit card information is tokenized. “We follow all the rules and regulations in the industry and are Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant.”

Bruce McClary, vice president of public relations for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, said prospective tenants signing up for the service should be careful, especially with their credit card, and not just because of additional fees. “With rent being an issue so many are struggling with already, adding an additional cost to that may not be the best way forward. The other danger is there’s the additional cost of interest if you carry the balance past the initial billing period, which adds to the cost of your rent.”

Consumers should also remember that any service that asks for your credit card information “is potentially at risk of being hacked or exposed,” said McClary. “They may have taken all the precautions in the world that any reasonable business would take. I would caution people there as well.”

With regard to security issues, he advised reading the company’s privacy statement to see what steps they take to keep your information secure. He also said to double-check your credit card statements or billing activity just to make sure everything is accurate.

If you’re concerned about fraud on your credit card or elsewhere, a great place to start your detective work is by pulling your credit score. Dips in your score, mysterious names, or accounts that you don’t recall opening could be signs identity theft has occurred. You can view two of your free scores, updated every two weeks, on Credit.com.

Image: RentMoola 

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What Can I Do If My Roommate Won’t Pay Rent?

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So your roommate did the unthinkable and stopped paying rent. You like the person, really, but just thinking about it turns your stomach, and you’re deeply concerned about what this could do to your finances.

For starters, your landlord could notify a consumer reporting company such as RentBureau, which is owned by the credit bureau Experian, about the missed payments. And if your landlord is really upset, they could skip that step altogether and contact the credit bureaus directly. Either way, this could appear as a negative mark on your credit report. Beyond that, there’s always the chance you’ll need to rent an apartment in the future, and you never know if the landlord there will want to check a version of your credit report before you apply. (You can request your free annual credit report when you visit AnnualCreditReport.com.)

The last thing you want is for your credit to suffer, especially because of someone else’s poor decisions. So what’s a dutiful tenant to do?

When Only Your Name Is on the Lease

How you handle this situation largely depends on the lease and who’s on it, Eric Kahan, an attorney with Sperber, Denenberg, & Kahan in New York, said. If you’re the only one on the lease, “you are sort of that roommate’s landlord,” he said, “[and] you could bring an eviction proceeding against that person to have them removed from the apartment if they’re not paying what they’re supposed to pay.”

In terms of the landlord, they “can only collect from the named lessee, unless the landlord’s agreement permits collection from the subtenant or additional occupant, or [if] there is a law that allows this to happen,” Steve Wagner, a real estate attorney with Wagner Berkow in New York, said in an email.

If you don’t currently have a lease (or never had one to begin with), it’s possible to go to small claims court or housing court to “bring a holdover proceeding, which is a process to get possession of the apartment,” Kahan added. You can do it yourself, but you may want to hire an attorney to help with the paperwork.

If You’re Both on the Lease 

If both parties are on the lease, you’re both liable to the landlord for the lease and the payments, Kahan said. “A lease would typically say that you’re jointly and severally liable,” which means the landlord can collect from either of you and/or keep your security deposits.

You and your roommate may have verbally agreed to split the monthly rent, but that is not binding, so you can’t really bring an eviction proceeding. What you can do, however, is bring a civil procedure to sue for your share of the money. That won’t get the roommate out of the apartment, Kahan said, but it’s a start.

Avoiding Rental Headaches

“Just as good fences make good neighbors, a good roommate agreement makes good roommates and can save friendships,” Wagner said.

To that end, all roommate agreements should address the essentials. This means explaining who has exclusive use of which areas and/or rooms; when rent is due and how much it costs; how utilities like cable and electricity are handled; how issues like guests, drugs, parties, pets and smoking will breach the contract and prompt termination; and who’s responsible for paying the landlord.

Other things to consider, Wagner added, are what happens if one person wants to leave before the lease expires, how the security deposit will be returned and how the apartment should be left upon leaving.

If you’re ready to move, or just fantasizing about your own place, it’s important to know about your credit, and how it can affect your daily life, including your ability to secure an apartment. (You can view two of your credit scores for free, updated each month on Credit.com.)

[Offer: If you’re trying to rent an apartment, and don’t want to go it alone, you can hire firms like Lexington Law to help you manage the credit repair process. Learn more about them here or call them at (844) 346-3296 for a free consultation.]

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Why You Can’t Afford All the Cool, New Rental Properties

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More and more apartment buildings are popping up in cities around the country, but that doesn’t mean they’re getting more affordable. A large number of these developments are very upscale, aimed at people who can afford some serious luxury.

That’s the finding of a recent study conducted by RENTCafé, a nationwide apartment search website.

The study found that 3-in-4 new apartment developments built in 2015 were high-end rentals, and that luxury construction was up 63% overall from 2012. In absolute numbers, that translates to 896 luxury multi-family projects of 50+ units (out of a total of 1,188 total projects) completed in 2015, according to RENTCafé, compared to 382 luxury multi-family projects of 50+ units completed three years prior.

Early 2016 data shows no slowdown in luxury apartment development, with 79% of all apartment buildings finalized in the first quarter of 2016 being categorized as luxury.

Renting: The New American Dream?

A 2015 report by the Urban Institute projected that even after the housing crash and the Great Recession are a distant memory, homeownership rates in America will continue to decline.

The report estimated that between 2010 and 2030, the majority (59%) of the 22 million new households that will form will rent, while just 41% will buy their homes.

The homeownership rate has been falling since 2006, when the housing bubble began pricing out many would-be homeowners — and the recession furthered that trend. In 2006, the homeownership rate was 67.3%; it now sits at 63.6%, even lower than it was in 1990, according the U.S. Census’ most recent American Community Survey.

Where Luxury Grows Fastest

Given those statistics, it’s no wonder developers are focusing on rentals with amenities that typically far surpass those available in starter homes. The highest percentages of high-end rentals were registered in the Southwest and the Mid-Atlantic (88% of the total number of large rental developments), and in the South and Southeast (78%), the study showed. The lowest numbers were registered in the Pacific Northwest (61%), in California (65%) and in the Northeast (65%), where the leading metro markets are more mature.

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Luxury apartment construction is on the uptick in all regions in recent years, however. The most significant increase from 2012 to 2015 in the ratio of high-end to total new apartments was in the Southeast, up by 119%. Over the same period of time, in the Pacific Northwest the numbers went up 90%, and in California 82%, the study showed. The lowest increase in luxury construction was registered in the Northeast – only 23% up from 2012, and in the Mid-Atlantic – 26% up from 2012.

Even with the spike in luxury apartment development, there are still cities where renting is becoming more affordable. Check out our roundup of 9 cities where rent is getting cheaper this year. Six metro areas that aren’t on that list, however, really stood out when it comes to luxury developments:

  • San Antonio, Texas, where 17 out of 17 properties that completed construction in 2015 were luxury.
  • Kansas City, Missouri, where 14 out of 14 properties completed were luxury, with an average monthly rent of $1,055, versus the metro average of $850.
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where 10 out of 10 large properties opened in 2015 were all classified as high-end with the average rental rate of $1,367 per month.
  • Midland-Odessa, Texas, where 9 high-end properties were completed, charging an average monthly rent of $1,501, which is $402 more than the overall average rent.
  • Jacksonville, Florida, with 7 of 7 properties completed were high-end, with average rents of $1,055.
  • Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, also with 7 out of 7 properties completed in 2015 being high-end rentals with average rents of $1,090.

Finding a home or apartment to rent can sometimes be complicated, especially if you have no credit or a bad credit history. Before you start searching for a new place, get an idea of where you stand — you can get a free credit report summary every 30 days on Credit.com — and consider trying to improve your credit before you look for a new home. If that’s not an option, you may be able to find a broker or apartment-finding agency that can help you find landlords willing to work with bad-credit applicants.

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10 Jobs That Make it Hard to Cover Your Rent

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10 Ways to Save Big on Renting Your Next Home

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It’s no secret that rents are high in many areas of the country due in part to millennials’ affinity for renting combined with the impact of Great Recession foreclosures that sent some homeowners looking for leases. Boomers, for a variety of reasons, have also become more likely to rent.

The bottom line is that high demand for rentals has driven up the costs. Even so, it doesn’t mean that you can’t get a good deal, or at least avoid paying more than you should.

Consider these tips for tracking down an affordable rental:

1. Avoid the giant, corporate complexes

Instead, look for apartments where you will deal directly with the owner or a manager. Those landlords generally place more value on long-term, reliable renters than those who work at corporate complexes, reports The Fiscal Times. They are also less likely to raise rent quickly.

2. Know the neighborhood

Even in a seller’s market, landlords are anxious to rent their properties to qualified tenants as quickly as possible. Use that to your advantage by scouring the neighborhood and targeting the properties for rent. Consider looking for housing that’s a bit older, and you may have a solid shot at negotiating rent, reported DailyFinance.com.

3. Show them your ‘perfect tenant’ persona

It’s easy to forget that in many ways landlords are entrusting their valuable property to your care. That’s why they look for those with good credit scores, stable employment and solid past rental histories. Sure, it’s tempting to wear sweats and sneakers when apartment hunting, but remember — leasing is a business transaction. You needn’t dress as if you stepped out of a corporate boardroom, but having a clean, professional appearance is a good idea. Landlords also want you to look good on paper — meaning a good credit score, a stable job history and stable rental history. If one of these things is going to set off alarms, be prepared to address it. For instance, a landlord I know was willing to rent to a couple even though the husband had a marginal credit score, because they were recently married and the wife was now in charge of finances for herself and her (admittedly) disorganized spouse. They were prepared for questions and got the rental.

4. Prepare to negotiate for savings

Renters are often surprised at how easily they can reap significant savings by negotiating. Be prepared to ask for one month free, or for a lower monthly rate in exchange for a longer lease. Ask for a two-bedroom apartment for a one-bedroom price. Ask for free fitness membership or a break on utilities or parking. You might even ask if there’s some service you could perform – lawn mowing, snow shoveling or even general maintenance on your own unit – for a reduction in rent. The time to speak up is, of course, before you sign or renew a lease.

5. Weigh everything that is covered by your rent

Is it vital that you live in an apartment with the “right” address? Consider that at a slightly less prestigious location your rent might also cover the costs of parking, a doorman, on-site fitness facilities, utilities and more.

6. Shop at off-peak times

Landlords are especially anxious to rent between October and February. You’ll find more specials and choices when you shop for a rental at a nonpeak time, reports The Washington Post.

7. Read the lease first, then sign

Sure, that sounds like a no-brainer, but in the frenetic, time-consuming rush to rent an apartment many of us sign first and ask questions later. Check the lease, and read all fine print. Do you pay extra for utilities? Is water included? Are there parking restrictions? Can you sublet? And even if everything looks OK but you have misgivings, don’t sign, recommends The Fiscal Times.

8. Ask about referral bonuses

It’s sometimes difficult to find qualified renters for properties, which is why apartment managers often value referrals. Ask if the apartment complex has a referral program or if they would consider paying a “finder’s fee” if you refer a prospective tenant who becomes an actual resident. I’ve heard of referrals ranging from $50 to $250, depending on time of year, location and other variables.

9. Don’t forget about pro-rated rents

If you rent an apartment but don’t plan to move in on the first of the month, find out if the landlord will pro-rate your rent – just allow you to pay for the weeks you are there. Although some property managers of highly desirable units might insist on the full first month’s rent, many will likely be more than willing to discount.

10. Consider your gut reaction to the property

Rental notices can be misleading, and rental layouts can make a big difference. A 750-square-foot apartment that includes a long hallway might feel smaller than a 600-square-foot apartment with a more open layout. A cheaper apartment in a neighborhood where parking is scarce and tickets are commonplace might end up costing you more than a more expensive place where parking is plentiful, or included in the cost of renting. An awesome deal in a crime-infested area might not feel so awesome when you’re trying to catch a taxi late at night. Be realistic about your budget and your lifestyle.

This post first appeared in Money Talks News.

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