The “rent-to-own” industry has become a multi-billion-dollar sector in the American economy. One of the most popular rent-to-own purchases is furniture because of its typically high prices and the fact that it is a general necessity for homeowners.
Furniture also does not become outdated nearly as fast as electronics, so it makes more sense to be paying for furniture over a long period of time than it does for electronics. In general, rent-to-own can be a good option for consumers who cannot comfortably afford to pay the full price of an item in one payment.
There are several pros of rent-to-own furniture.
• It is not difficult to find a place that offers rent-to-own purchasing options. There are approximately 8,600 US rent-to-own stores in operation, serving 4.1 million customers a year.
• Flexible payment plans allow consumers to change the amount they pay and they can execute an early-purchase option at any time to obtain ownership of the product.
• The customer is never obligated to make the next payment and can return the product at any time for any reason, although he or she will not get their money back.
• If a customer chooses a fewer number of payments, the rent-to-own price is significantly lower and can be competitive with retail prices.
• Unlike the terms attached to a loan, a rent-to-own buyer’s credit will not be damaged in any way if they are unable to make a payment.
• Some stores offer
free replacement, repair and delivery.
There are also some cons to the agreement.
• If the customer chooses a higher number of payments, the total cost will be more than retail, sometimes double or triple the item’s original price.
• Although a rent-to-own contract is not a loan and does not involve payment of interest rates, when factored in, the equivalent interest rate can be 60 to 100 per cent or higher.
• There have been complaints that stores do not adequately explain their contracts, deliver used or damaged goods and use illegal collection practices, such as harassing phone calls.
• Store employees often convince customers to rent products they don’t need, thereby burdening customers with many payments they cannot manage.
• Some plans have hidden fees ¬– if the product is returned or damaged, for example.
When considering a rent-to-own purchase, it is very important to follow these tips to ensure that this flexible payment option does not become a costly scam:
• Read all terms and conditions of the contract carefully before signing. Determine what fees are associated with the transaction, who is responsible for repairs or maintenance and what happens after a late or missed payment.
• Make sure you know, in writing and orally, the total dollar amount and number of rental payments you will have made by the time ownership becomes an option and the payment plan has ended.
• Before choosing a rent-to-own company, visit www.bbbhouston.org to see what other consumers’ experience has been like, the volume of complaints against the company and how it resolved them.
• Only rent the item that you absolutely need so you do not find yourself trapped in numerous payment contracts at a time.
• Visit the Association Of Progressive Rental Organizations’ website, rtohq.org, for links to state laws governing rent-to-own provisions.
Jordan Rzad is the senior director responsible for internet marketing at Houston Better Business Bureau.