As of 2011, no U.S. federal consumer protection law specifically addresses rent-to-own transactions, but through litigation, efforts have been made in attempt to bring rent-to-own agreements under the definition of “credit sale” in the Truth in Lending Act. However, courts have not, as of 2011, ruled in favor of making this change at a federal level.[25][26][27] In 2006, the United States Department of Defense labeled rent-to-own a predatory lending practice, defining it as an “unfair or abusive loan or credit sale transaction or collection practice,” along with payday loans, title loans, refund anticipation loans and other similar practices.[28] In 2007, the United States Government Accountability Office raised concerns with the methodology and structure of this research.[29] Later in the same year, the Department of Defense ultimately concluded that rent-to-own was not a form of credit and excluded it from its regulation on predatory lending practices.[30]
This will ensure that you are not getting into a contract to purchase a home that you can’t afford. It’s important to give yourself a decent head start on the mortgage loan application process to see where you stand, as well as give yourself time to repair and/or fix any credit-related issues that might prevent you from obtaining a home loan. That’s because you need to be ready with an approved mortgage loan on the date specified in the rent-to-own contract.

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Let's say you're living in the home for 3 years before deciding to purchase it. The purchase price is $300,000. Your monthly rent is $1,650, and $300 of that goes toward the down payment. By the time the lease expires and you're prepared to purchase the house, you've already given a $10,800 down payment over three years. That's nearly 4% of the original purchase price, knocking it down to $289,200.
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Be sure that maintenance and repair requirements are clearly stated in the contract (ask your attorney to explain your responsibilities). Maintaining the property – e.g., mowing the lawn, raking the leaves and cleaning out the gutters – is very different from replacing a damaged roof or bringing the electric up to code. Whether you’ll be responsible for everything or just mowing the lawn, have the home inspected, order an appraisal and make sure the property taxes are up to date before signing anything.
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Your contract may state that you, as the buyer, have to pay for repairs, homeowner fees, property taxes, and insurance while renting. Other contracts will stipulate that the current owner (the seller) covers these costs. It’s important that your contract clearly state who will cover repairs, because you might get stuck fixing a water leak on a home that isn’t legally yours yet. You should still have renter’s insurance to cover any issues in the interim.
When you enter an RTO contract, you agree to rent the property for a set amount of time and purchase it once the contract term is up. There is more flexibility in this option, and you usually won't need a large down payment like you would if you were purchasing a home. Many RTO contracts have a term of one to three years. This means that after that set term is up, the tenant will purchase the property from the seller. You'll usually pay a higher rent amount because your rent will be split into two categories. The rent portion of your monthly payment will go toward the seller's mortgage payment on the home, and the rent premium portion will go into an escrow account and be used for the down payment when it comes time to purchase the property.

The cost incurred by consumers in rent-to-own transactions has been the subject of long-term debate and differing opinion. Historically, consumer advocates, some U.S. state attorneys general and some academic researchers have expressed concern that consumers entering into rent-to-own agreements may be unaware of the potentially high long-term costs of rent-to-own in comparison to traditional installment or layaway plans.[11] Often mentioned alongside most critiques is the question of whether prices paid for services of this type are adequate for lower-income individuals who can least afford additional financial outlays.[12] At the same time, other academic researchers and representatives of industry associations have contended that rent-to-own transactions are not comparable to traditional methods of purchasing or financing consumer goods, in that they include services such as delivery, assembly, service and repair, all of which are factored into the higher assessed value and corresponding price charged.[13][14] Also frequently noted by proponents of the unique nature of rent-to-own transactions is the point that they are not obligations to purchase, since the agreement can be terminated by the lessee at any point in time with the return of the property.[15] Research conducted by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in 2003 found that 90% of rent-to-own merchandise is returned with less than 36% of the scheduled weekly payments made, suggesting that transactions of this type are "more frequently used for short-term needs rather than as a method of acquisition."[16]
At the end of your two-year lease term, assuming you exercise your option to purchase, the fixed $200,000 purchase price will be discounted by a) the amount of the option fee and b) the total rent credits. So subtracting the $6,000 option fee brings the price down to $194,000. Then, subtracting $7,680 in rent credits ($320 x 24 months) further reduces it to $186,320.
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"rent-to-own agreements reside in a gray area of the law. An examination by The New York Times of contracts and court filings, as well as interviews with housing lawyers and more than a dozen of Vision’s customers across the country, found that these deals are risky, lack consumer protections and may not be enforceable in some states. Most tenants walk away with nothing, having sunk money for rent and repairs into homes they had once hoped to own. Others faced surprise evictions, having signed a contract that did not disclose what repairs were needed, yet set a deadline for making sure the home was up to local housing code. As different tenants move in and out of the same property over the course of years, many homes fall further into disrepair."
Rent to own is different than a lease option, which gives you the option to buy a place you were renting before it goes on the market, but there’s no obligation to do so. When you rent to own you usually make a deposit, which can also be called “option money,” and the contract stipulates your obligation to buy. The deposit goes to the seller and is a non-refundable fee.
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I’m a single mom of two. We own our coop apartment but it’s a one bedroom. Rentals in my NY require an income of $100,000 or more for a 3 bedroom rental. My income is to low for us to rent. It seems that ownership is my only option. Is it a bad idea to consider rent to own in my situation? We need more space and need time to sell or sublet our coop. Is there a better option?
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Renting to own is one of the best ways to get into your own house. A rent to own agreement means you don't need a large deposit to secure a home - your regular rent includes a portion that progressively turns into a downpayment. This means you can skip costly mortgage insurance while getting to know your neighbourhood. The whole process also builds on your history of savings and payments, improving your credit rating and your chances of later qualifying for a conventional mortgage.


 You can lose your entire investment if you miss a payment or two. With mortgages, if you miss a payment, your credit score drops and you don’t lose any of the equity on the home. With a rent to own contract, you can forfeit all of the money you’ve put toward the home.If the houses in your area start to decline in value, you risk having bought a home that isn’t worth as much as you thought.
There are actually two types of contracts: a lease-purchase and a lease-option. With a lease-purchase contract, you're locked into buying the home by the conclusion of the contract. If you don't, you will forfeit all the money you’ve supplied to the seller over those years and could also face legal action. If you choose this route, you should be absolutely clear on your long-term plans and financial outlook. Plenty can happen to your life and livelihood that could affect whether you can (and want to) own this house.

Buyers see benefits—but not without some big potential roadblocks. In many cases, they are counting on being able to rebuild their damaged credit rating while living in the rent-to-own home and paying above-market rent. To benefit, they must be able to get their financial house in order and qualify for a home loan before their lease option expires. Should the market drop significantly, the renter might end up owing a lot more on a house than it's worth. And it's harder to move out should your lifestyle change.
The primary benefit is the ability to live in your future home while you make payments toward a down payment. If all goes well, you get to enjoy living in your new home before buying it. It’s often possible to negotiate with your landlord over such things as painting the walls and owning pets to a more prominent degree than you may be able to in a standard rental agreement.
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The biggest con of rent-to-own for a seller is that if a willing buyer showed up on your doorstep offering full price (or more) for your home, you would have to refuse — your tenant’s lease option gives them that right exclusively during the contract term. If you lock in a purchase price initially (the most likely scenario), you may leave money on the table over a traditional sale if your home’s value climbs dramatically.
Rent to own housing contracts is especially attractive to sellers when the real estate market is slow, and the homeowner worries that their house won’t sell quickly at an appropriate price. So, instead of listing the house for sale, the seller offers the rent to own option to attract a potential buyer who wants to buy the house but isn’t in the financial position to purchase the property at that moment.

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How the purchase price of the house you're renting to own can vary as well. Some contracts stipulate that the purchase price will stay what it was when the initial contract was signed, while others have it be the market value of the house at the time of purchase. Some contracts eschew each of these for a different method entirely, having the purchase price go up a certain percentage every year of the lease. Rent-to-owners can decide to buy the house any year of that lease.

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Your debt-to-income ratio can have a negative impact on your credit history and stop you from obtaining a mortgage if it is on the high end. By entering an RTO contract, the individual with a high debt-to-income ratio won't be adding on more debt right away. They usually have two or three years to straighten out their finances and lower their debt-to-income ratio, so they qualify for a mortgage.

Transportation and CommutesLas Vegas has a lot of options for transportation, both public and private. RTC is one such public system that offers a bus service throughout the main city and other suburban areas in the valley. For a quick commute to the Strip from Downtown, or to reach the Convention Center or Town Square, a transit link exists called the Strip & Downtown Express. As you may expect, this service includes few stops, and is intended to ease congestion on the major traffic routes between the city's major hubs of activity. For drivers commuting into the city from outlying areas, two major interstates -- 15 and 515 -- cross over into downtown Las Vegas, making the city easily commutable. In addition, taxis are readily available for easy trips, and the city has a walkability rating that puts it at number 25 on the USA's most walkable cities.
As the end of the rent-to-own contract nears, it’s a smart idea to address any minor problems that the home inspection turned up. It’s also a good idea to make small cosmetic improvements and upgrades as needed, if possible, to help increase the value of the home prior to applying for a mortgage loan. It’s called sweat equity … and it can make a big difference when it’s time to negotiate favorable mortgage loan terms.
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