1. What's the best place to rent in San Marcos? There are a wide variety of housing options available in San Marcos. The best location for one student may not be the best location for another. A student who cannot drive and does not own a car may enjoy living within walking distance of campus whereas an older student who works in Austin may wish to live closer to the highway so they can easily commute. Use a checklist or renter's app to help you compare different properties and their features. For an up-to-date list of local apartment complex Ally members that have pledged to treat students fairly and reasonably can be found on the Texas State Achieving Community Together website.
2. How do I start looking for an apartment? After you've made a checklist of Must Haves for an apartment, you can start to compare properties and narrow it down to a 2 or 3 choices. Most complexes maintain an online website with room layouts and pricing options. Use review sites like yelp.com and apartments.com to see tenant's compliments and complaints about the location. Ask friends and classmates about their living situations and if they like their current complex. Take a tour of each complex but, remember, the model apartment that you're shown does NOT have to look anything like the apartment you're given. Ask if you can see the exact apartment you'll be renting. Drive around the complex during the evening hours to see if parking at night is problematic or if there are lots of loud parties. Many complexes may look quiet and peaceful during the day while students are in school, but they can become loud and crowded after everyone comes home in the evening.
Wondering what the real word is on local apartment complexes? The following link has most of the major apartment complexes in San Marcos listed and what students had to say about them. Click first on the apartment complex name, and then click on the comments to see what you might be in for. Note that anyone can add to these, so they might not always be accurate, but with enough entries, you can often get a feel for what is happening there and what questions you should ask.
Investment Instruments Corporation is dedicated to creating transparency and automation in the residential rental marketplace. We currently provide two service.
3. How much will an apartment cost me? Prices vary from $400-$1000 for a single bedroom unit. In addition to the monthly living expense, you also need to budget money each month for utilities (electricity, water, gas, cable, phone, internet), renter's insurance, food costs, and parking. Also remember that financial aid awards only give you enough money to pay for two long semesters (i.e. 9 months) and your apartment lease will be for one year (i.e. 12 months). Be sure you can afford to pay the rent and bills during the summer BEFORE you sign the lease.
SimepleBills is the only roommate utility billing service specifically designed to help roommates get along. With SimpleBills all of your utility bills are combined into one per month and each roommate only has to pay their portion of the bills. This service is all online, and ONLY $4/month per person. Utility bills can be simple after all! Join the movement! Love your roommates again.
4. How do I find roommates? A good roommate is necessary to enjoying your apartment. Friends, classmates, online ads, and roommate matching programs are easy ways to help you keep down renting costs. Many apartment complexes will offer to match you with roommates but these "matching programs" are not scientific and you could easily be placed with someone you detest. To avoid the worst problems, ask any potential roommate a series of questions to determine if your lifestyles are compatible. Click HERE for examples of roommate horror stories.
5. Will I need a cosigner or guarantor? Probably. Almost all apartment complexes in San Marcos require you to provide a credit-worthy cosigner or guarantor before you can move in to the apartment. If you fail to find a qualified cosigner/guarantor, you will still owe rent but you cannot move in. This is not logical and confuses students all the time. If the lease says that you need to find a cosigner, you MUST find a cosigner.
6. Can I bring my pet? Maybe. Each apartment complex is different and you should contact the complex with pet questions BEFORE you sign the lease. The landlord is allowed to have weight/size restrictions, require a substantial pet deposit fee, and charge you for any damages caused by your pet after you leave. Even if the landlord does not ordinarily allow pets, Federal Fair Housing laws require landlords to make exceptions for service animals and mental health pets.
7. Am I allowed to use drugs in my bedroom? Illegal drugs are illegal. There is no safe zone in an apartment or house. If you wish to use illegal drugs in your bedroom, your roommates have the right and responsibility to notify the landlord and the police. You can be evicted and arrested for using or possessing illegal drugs in your apartment.
8. Which complex offers the best amenities (pools, gyms, computer rooms, tanning beds, furnishings)? Every year the complexes in San Marcos try to outdo each other with the latest and greatest in resort-style amenities. Bigger, better pools and brighter, cleaner tanning beds! The truth is that the apartment complex doesn't have to provide any amenities - EVER. If the day your lease begins, the pool has been emptied and filled with sand, the workout room is closed and the tanning beds are broken, you cannot break the lease. The lease only guarantees you a bedroom or apartment of a specific size for a specific price over a specific time (ex: 2 bedroom, 2 bath apartment for $800 per month for 12 months). The lease NEVER guarantees shuttle bus access, uninterrupted internet service, clean pools, or adequate parking. Do not rent an apartment just because it has the nicest pool and pretty entrance gates.
9. How do I break my lease? You don't. Once you've signed a lease in Texas, you're stuck with it. There are only two legal ways to break a lease without penalty; if you are a victim of domestic violence and have a protective order or if you are in the military and deployed for more than 90 consecutive days. If you are divorced, lose your job, get kicked out of school, or even DIE, the lease is still valid and you and your cosigner are still responsible. Do not sign the lease until you are 100% certain that you wish to live there. If you must break the lease after moving in, you may be able to sublet your apartment. MORE INFO ON SUBLEASES
10. What do I do if my apartment manager/landlord is mean to me? The law does not require that people always be nice. If you believe that you are being treated unfairly or unprofessionally, write a letter to the owner of the company and tell them exactly what happened. If you never complain about rude or inefficient staff, the owner may never find out there is a problem. If the apartment complex or landlord is a member of the Achieving Community Together (ACT) program, report the problem with Act On It!
A picture is worth a thousand words!
In order to avoid getting charged for preexisting damages or unnecessary cleaning fees, you need to prove how the apartment looked when you moved in and how it looked when you moved out. Your word is not good enough. You will need photographs and a written inventory form to prove that you are not responsible for the damages/fines/charges. Protect yourself and your cosigner/guarantor with a few quick, easy, FREE steps.
1. Take pictures in every room, all walls and floors, and inside each appliance.
2. Exchange pictures with your roommates via email. This way you have backup photos in case you lose your phone, have roommates move out, or leave early.
3. Write down all of the problems you discover using an Inventory Form (if the landlord gives you one) or a plain piece of notebook paper. Label each room and list out the problems with each (ex: Living Room - stained carpet, electrical outlet doesn't work, window screens missing, left side of couch has red stain.) Make a copy of the form and turn in the original to the landlord within 48 hours of moving in.
4. Repeat steps 1&2 the day you move out. Get the home addresses of your roommates in case a problem develops and you need to contact them later. Email addresses are not good enough because they can easily be changed and ignored - get their permanent mailing address.
Download a free phone app like Rent Rhino to help you take enough pictures and store backup copies in case you lose your phone and/or can't find the pictures later.
Texas law does not require the landlord to repair any and all problems in the apartment/house. The only things that the landlord MUST repair are items which have a serious effect on your physical health or safety. Conditions which are annoying, ugly, or inefficient do not count as a serious effect on your physical health or safety. Examples of health or safety problems may include clogged toilets, missing smoke detectors, broken door locks, and exposed electrical wires. Examples of ugly or annoying problems may include loud neighbors, missing carpet, broken dishwashers, and dirty bathrooms. It is always smart to report problems to the landlord and ask for repairs, even if the landlord does not have to fix the problem. A good landlord will probably fix most items because they want the tenant to be happy.
If there is something that you would like the landlord to fix/repair/update, you MUST write them a letter and mail it with a stamp. Emails, phone calls, online requests, hand delivered letters, text messages, in person meetings, etc. do NOT count as giving the landlord written notice. The landlord can ask you to use an online repair portal or to fill out a form in the office, but that is an ADDITIONAL requirement and does NOT satisfy the Texas law that requires you to tell them with a stamped letter. Students lose money and live in horrible conditions every year because they do not know that they have to mail a letter for everything. There are no exceptions to this law. The Attorney for Students Office cannot emphasize strongly enough the importance of mailing a stamped letter to the landlord and keeping a copy for your records.
Texas law provides the landlord with seven days to fix or begin repairing health or safety problems. If you mail a letter with a regular first-class stamp, you must allow 3 days for the letter to be delivered and 7 days for repairs to be made. If 10 days pass with no response, you must mail another letter and wait another 10 days before you can sue to have the problem fixed. Contact a lawyer before taking any legal actions. To shorten the waiting time, send your very first letter using Certified Mail and a Return Receipt. This will cost about $6 at the post office and can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars down the road. For $6 you can legally prove that you mailed a letter and that it was received by the landlord. If you mail the letter certified and get a return, the landlord only has 7 days to begin fixing the problem before you can sue or seek legal action. You do not have to send a second certified letter.
If you do not mail a letter and report all problems to the landlord, you and your guarantor could be get stuck paying for expensive repair and replacement costs. The lease requires you to keep the apartment/house in good condition and to immediately notify the landlord of anything that may harm or damage the apartment/house, even if it doesn't bother you or affect your enjoyment of the apartment. If fail to write the landlord about the problem and it gets worse, you will be responsible for paying to fix everything.
Real World Example: A student who went class and worked during the day would return home to her apartment in the evening after the manager's office had closed. She noticed that the floor around the toilet was moist. She called the landlord's 24 hour emergency maintenance number provided in the lease and reported the problem. She came home the following evening and found a "Maintenance Was Here and Fixed Something" notice left in her bathroom. She was very happy that her apartment complex fixed the problem so quickly. A few days later, the problem returned. She called the 24 request line and reported the problem once more. Again, she came home and found a "Maintenance Was Here" form left the following day. The problem persisted and she continued to call and report it. After a few months, she received a call and letter from the landlord informing her the toilet had been leaking all those months and caused the ceiling to fall in on the apartment below hers. The landlord was charging her $4000 to fix the ceiling damage and told her that if she had written them a letter like the lease required her to do, the landlord would have known how bad the problem really was and fixed it properly the first time. It was her fault for not telling them in writing that it was leaking and, therefore, she had to pay for all of the damages caused by the leak. If the student had simply mailed a letter the day after her phone calls, she wouldn't have owed any money. Even worse, her parents had guaranteed the lease and were also sued for the $4000.
Protect Yourself & Your Guarantor in 4 easy steps:
TX Tenant's Rights Links to information provided by the Attorney General of Texas about the legal rights of tenant in Texas, including the procedure to follow when having problems with a landlord about repairs.
A security deposit is an amount of money given to the landlord before you move in to help protect the landlord from losing money if you do not move in or cause damages to the apartment while you live there. A deposit is refundable to you after you have finished the lease, moved out completely, and given the landlord a new address to reach you. The deposit also protects you from being charged unnecessary or excessive charges.
If you provide the landlord with written move out notice AND your new address, Texas law only gives the landlord 30 days to refund your money or send you a letter explaining why they are keeping it (ex: cleaning fees, late payment fees, damages). Section 92.109 of the Texas Property Code states that if the landlord keeps your money past 30 days and/or doesn't send you a letter explaining any deductions, you can sue for bad faith withholding and may be able to recover 3 times the withheld amount. However, the 30 day timeline doesn't start running until you have paid all rent due, returned the keys, and provided the landlord with your new address in writing. If you forget to tell the landlord where you are moving, the landlord cannot have acted in bad faith by failing to send it within 30 days.
If you have not received your deposit after 30 days, or disagree with deductions made, write the landlord a letter. Give them your name, the apartment address and unit number of where you lived, the date you moved out, and the amount of your deposit. Send the letter using certified mail and request a return receipt. Keep a copy of the letter. If you do not receive a response or refund within 15 days, call the Attorney for Students office at 512-245-2370 to schedule a free appointment to discuss your rights. For easy to use demand letter forms, click HERE.
Do not assume that parking is included with the rent! Ask lots of questions about the parking situation to make certain that you understand how much space is available, where you are allowed to park, who can be towed, and if there are guest/visitor spots available. Some apartment complexes in San Marcos do not offer parking automatically and require you to purchase a parking permit or reserve a parking space months in advance. EX: Parking is assigned on a first come basis and each parking spot requires a $150 deposit. If you sign up too late, you will not be able to park there. Not being able to park is NOT a valid reason for breaking the lease.
Other complexes offer free parking but do not have enough spaces available for everyone. EX: The complex has 1000 apartments with 2-4 students living in each apartment. There are only 500 parking spaces for 2000-4000 students to park. A shortage of parking will give you headaches and hassle every time you come home. If parking is a necessity for you, be sure to read online reviews about the apartment complex and drive around it in the evening hours to see if there are ample spaces available or if every single space is filled. When you take a leasing tour in the middle of the afternoon on a week day, the parking lot may look huge and empty because all of the tenants are at work or school, but after 7pm people start coming home and the parking lot starts filling up.
If guest parking is not available, you CANNOT let your guests park there. There is at least one complex in San Marcos that has no visitor parking whatsoever. Other complexes may have limited guest/visitor parking and only offer 5 guest spots for a complex with 4000 tenants.
Finding good roommates is essential to enjoying your living situation. Begin your search by talking with friends, asking around the residence halls, and looking at online sites. It's important to remember that any roommate, be it a friend or a stranger, needs to be someone that you can trust and get along with reasonably well. Common disputes arise when roommates disagree on payments, lifestyle choices, and social activities. A renting together agreement is a simple form that you and your roommates can fill out together when you first arrive to help you avoid some of the problems listed below. Click HERE for a sample form everyone can use.
Payment Problem Example: You rented an apartment with a friend and agreed to split the $1000 monthly rent in half. You give your $500 to the roommate so they can write a single check to the landlord, but they write the check late and you both get stuck paying $50 late fees. You want to avoid that happening again, so you write the rent check for the next month and ask the roomie to pay you back. Your roommate never gives you their $500 and drops of out of school unexpectedly. You cannot break the lease and are now stuck paying $1000 each month or risk having your credit ruined and being evicted.
Payment Problem Example #2: You want to avoid getting stuck paying your roommate's share of the rent so you rent from a complex offering individual leases. You rent bedroom A and your roommate rents bedroom B. Your roommate pays their rent late the first month but you don't care because you aren't responsible for their late fees. However, the cable and internet bills were put in your roommate's name and he forgets to pay the bill. Your cable and internet are disconnected for 2 days while he hurries to find the money to have them reconnected.
Lifestyle Problems Example: You do not use drugs and you specify on your roommate matching form that you do not want any smokers. You are matched with a chain smoker who stinks like an ashtray, leaves illegal items sitting out in the living room, and has private parties in their bedroom that leave the entire apartment with a distinctive odor. You complain to the landlord and are told that you can move bedrooms next month, but ONLY IF you pay a $300 moving fee.
Lifestyle Problem Example #2: You move into Bedroom C in a three bedroom apartment. Bedrooms A&B are already being lived in and both roommates are nice. Roommate A gets a cat after the first month and all three of you enjoy playing with the cat while home. Roommate A is a nice person and keeps the cat in her bedroom most of the time and regularly changes the kitty litter pan. You all live happily together for one year. After moving out, you get a bill for $300 for having an illegal pet in the apartment. You are shocked to learn that the lease required you to notify the landlord immediately once the cat arrived. Because you did not tell the landlord about it in writing (email doesn't count), you and your two roommates are all stuck paying the illegal pet fee.
Social Problems Example: You are only able to afford college because you receive an academic scholarship and must maintian a 3.0 GPA. To avoid getting loud or partying roommates, you rent an apartment with two people in your study group. The lease mentioned that there was a chance you would be given different roommates, but the leasing agent reassured you that it was just legal language and you would get put with your friends. Instead, you are assigned to an apartment with two deadbeats who never go to class and are just in college for the parties. They stay up late drinking every night and have friends coming and going at all hours which is very loud and distracting to you. You complain to the landlord and are told that there are no other vacancies except in a smaller apartment that costs more money.
Social Problems Example #2: You made friends in your residence hall and sign a lease to live with two of them. The three of you move in and the apartment is great. After a few weekends, however, you begin to notice that one roommate is very social and always makes a new friend in the bar on Friday night. This new friend always seems to be in the apartment on Saturday morning when you wake up. You grow uncomfortable about having a stranger in your apartment every single weekend. You mention it to your roommate who gets angry and slams the door in your face. The landlord is unable to help you and suggests that you and your roommates create a renting together agreement to avoid future problems.
Most students assume that the lease requires you to pay a monthly rent for a specific number of months. Ex: $500 per month for 12 months, beginning Aug. 15 and ending July 31. $250 prorated rent is due Aug. 15 at move in. However, many leases offered to college students, especially leases for an individual bedroom, are written as yearly contracts payable in equal installments. Ex: $6000 for one year, payable as $500 per month, beginning Aug. 15 and ending July 31. $500 is due Aug. 1, two weeks before your move in date. The biggest difference between monthly rent and an annual installment lease is that you cannot get a pro-rated monthly amount for an installment plan and your first payment may be due months or weeks before you get to move in.
Pay close attention to the due date of your first month's rent and remember that the apartment complex does not have to wait for you to get a financial aid check before you pay them. If rent is due August 1 and you won't get your loans until September, you could be evicted, lose your apartment, and hurt your credit for seven years.
It is also quicker and easier to report debts on an installment contract than it is for monthly rental contracts. An installment contract is for a specific amount of money (Ex: $6000) that is due immediately. The landlord agrees to let you pay off the $6000 in 12 equal installments of $500. If you miss even one monthly installment, the landlord can accelerate the contract and ask for the entire balance to be paid in full immediately. Ex: You missed the second month's rent, now the entire balance of $5500 is due and payable or you will be evicted.
Purchasing a renter's insurance policy may be the best decision you make all year. Renter's insurance can protect you from financial losses due to natural disasters, negligence, or theft. This means that if you are out of luck if you get robbed, a fire destroys the apartment, or your roommate's friend accidentally puts a hole in the wall. Unless you have renter's insurance, you will have to pay to replace all of your lost or stolen items and may have to pay the landlord to fix the damages caused by a guest. A renter's insurance policy can typically be purchased for less than $200 for an entire year's worth of coverage: for less than $15 per month, you can be certain that you're fully protected in case of disaster. If your parent or guardian owns a home, you may also be able to get coverage under their homeowner's policy. Check with their insurance agent to see if your apartment is covered.
You can purchased renter's insurance from almost any insurance company. If you have car insurance and are happy with the provider, check to see if they also offer renter's policies and if you would get a discount for being a loyal customer. Here are some links to help you find more information and research policies:
Texas Department of Insurance - Links to agency web page with information about shopping for insurance, insurance fraud and rates.
USAA Renters Insurance - Insurance company offering discount rates for veterans and their family members. If your parent served in the Armed Forces, you may be eligible for USAA coverage.
Austin Tenant's Council - Link to landlord-tenant information brochures, and forms.
Apartment complexes offer so many great perks that many of them are like vacation resorts. Unfortunately, just like a dream vacation can turn out bad, the amenities offered do not have to match up with your expectations. The legal reality is that Texas law doesn't require the landlord to provide you with any amenities ever. The pools, gyms, computer rooms, shuttle busses, etc. are perks that can be given and taken away freely by the landlord, and the lease isn't affected at all. The only thing guaranteed by a lease is the apartment itself. The only way to be certain that the apartment is furnished, has a working washer or dryer, a fully functioning pool and gym, etc. is to pay extra money each month for those services. Unless you pay an extra fee for that service, it is considered a luxury amenity that isn't necessary for the apartment to be habitable.
Moral of the story: Don't lease somewhere just because they have the nicest pool.
99.9% of the leases in San Marcos require you to have a cosigner or guarantor. It is your responsibility to read the lease and find out if you MUST provide a guarantor. If you are required to have one and you cannot or do not locate a credit worthy cosigner, you will still have to pay rent but you cannot move in until you find one. This is very confusing to students and causes lots of problems every year. The safest thing to do is assume that you MUST have a guarantor and do not sign the lease UNTIL your cosigner/guarantor has been approved. If you sign the lease and then find out afterward that your cosigner was denied, you cannot break the lease. Instead, you have to find a new guarantor before you can move in. If you don't find a replacement, you will still have to pay rent but you cannot move in.
Must Ask Questions (PDF, 227.5 KB) - List of important questions to ask the landlord/apartment complex BEFORE you sign the lease.
Moving In & Out Inventory Form (PDF, 156.9 KB) - A downloadable form that may be used (if such forms are not provided by your management) within 48 hours of move-in and upon move-out.
There's not enough time or space to list the myriad of ways a student can lose money and have a horrible experience renting. Here are a few examples to help encourage you to read the advice on this page.