Rental Brokers: What They Can Do For You

Over the last decade, the most common ways for renters to find apartments was browsing classified ads in a local paper or online and by word-of-mouth. Once the real estate market plunge thinned out the rental market considerably, renters found themselves turning to rental brokers. A rental broker advertises, screens tenants and manages rental property on behalf of the landlord. A broker also helps a tenant find the apartment she is looking for with the features she wants in the neighborhood she wishes to live in.

Types of Brokers

A tenant may encounter two different types of rental brokers: the “fee” broker and the “no-fee” broker. A no-fee broker is paid by the property owner, so his services to the tenant are free. A fee broker is paid by the tenant. Fee broker rates vary and may be anywhere from the amount of the first month’s rent to a percentage of the rent due for the entire first year of the lease.

Broker’s Fees

Even though the broker’s fee may be paid by the landlord, he’s legally obligated to represent the tenant as well. Rental brokers must follow federal and local laws when dealing with tenants. If the tenant has a problem with the rental or the landlord, she can contact her rental broker for help and advice. Rental brokers often have established relationships with area repair services, such as plumbing businesses, and can handle repairs quickly. A broker holds a tenant’s security deposit in a trust account, protecting the money if the landlord files for bankruptcy or loses the property in foreclosure. Some landlords, especially those in low-vacancy areas such as New York City, only make listings available to brokers and not the general public. Using a broker may allow the tenant to see more rental units than she would on her own.

Tips on Broker Agreements

Before a tenant commits to a rental broker, she must confirm the broker is licensed in her area and will put the broker agreement in writing. The agreement should cover everything from security deposit holding practices to the broker’s fees. An oral agreement with a rental broker is not legally binding, so a renter without an agreement in writing may face unexpected problems later. Any tenant considering a rental broker should check with professional associations, including The National Association of Residential Property Managers, for a list of members in her area. Rental brokers who belong to a professional association are bound to a code of ethics beyond the law.

Visit the California Apartments Blog for additional apartment broker tips and apartment community reviews such as such as these Rancho Santa Margarita rentals or these Pleasanton, CA apartments.

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