Add green value to your home with smart improvements

There has been much talk lately about green living and what it takes to be green. Environmental groups are constantly working on making our communities and ecosystems sustainable and economically productive, yet to be fully effective their efforts need to be continued by each and every one of us.

As apartment dwellers, we have a multitude of options available to play our part in the quest for sustainable living. Whether you are a homeowner or a renter, hunting for new digs, or making home improvements, we’ve collected a few tips to help you live green and create a healthy home environment.

#Surround yourself with greenery. Aside from enhancing home decor, houseplants can do tons of good to your place. According to the Wall Street Journal, “a growing body of global research is showing plants can reduce dust particles and contaminants, such as formaldehyde and benzene, which come from cigarette smoke, paint, furniture, building materials, and other sources.”

Naturally, vegetation options for the indoors come in a wide variety of shapes and foliage. Plants like English ivy, orchids, mother-in-law’s tongue, peace lily, asparagus fern, flamingo flowers and even fig or rubber trees, can instantly brighten any interior while cleaning the air of toxins and releasing oxygen.

#Go green with daily chores. Steer away from toxic or polluting home products and look for healthier alternatives to your cleaning habits. For example, you can easily use white vinegar to clean both fabric and leather furniture pieces such as sofas and loveseats. White vinegar contains acetic acid which can help you get rid of hard-to-remove stains, eliminate foul smells and sanitize at the same time. Also, you can utilize coffee grounds as mulch for acid-loving plants such as roses, azaleas, hydrangeas and camellias. The natural acidity and nutrients found in the coffee grounds will help your plants thrive.

#Be smart and cash-savvy. When buying new products for your home, look for EPA’s Energy Star label to help you make the most energy-efficient decision. You can find the Energy Star label on more than 60 kinds of products, including appliances, lighting, heating and cooling equipment, electronics, and office equipment. According to EPA, products in your home that have earned the Energy Star label can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 130,000 pounds over their lifetime, and save you $11,000 on energy bills.

Additionally, consider replacing your five most frequently used light bulbs with Energy Star qualified products, and you will reduce carbon pollution while saving $75 a year on energy bills.

#Save resources. Pay extra care to your water and energy consumption habits and strive to conserve natural resources. Just by turning off the tap while you brush your teeth in the morning and before bedtime, you can save up to 8 gallons of water! That adds up to more than 200 gallons a month, EPA research shows.

#Trim expenses. Plan your monthly budget carefully and strive not to overspend. Instead focus on buying quality items and services that pay for themselves in the long run. One of the most sensible expenses associated with renting is acquiring renters insurance which, for about 43cents/day, protects against personal property loss.

A standard renter’s policy provides coverage on a ‘named perils’ basis which includes loss due to fire, lightening, windstorm, explosion, smoke, glass breakage, theft, hail, and more. It protects the policy holder against having to shell out thousands of dollars to replace stolen possessions, such as electronics or jewelry, or settle liability claims in the event of accidental physical injury or damage to property brought about by the insured.

Get a free instant renters insurance quote based on your location and personal details.

Facts about renter’s insurance

When you move into a new home, the landlord or property manager will most likely inform you about your rights and responsibilities as a tenant, and ask you to read the lease agreement thoroughly. Some may even advise that you purchase renters insurance before moving in. But in most cases, renters insurance is optional.

Renters should keep in mind that the landlord’s insurance policy only covers the property itself, the structure and the common areas, and will not reimburse or replace the tenant’s personal belongings should disaster strike. For example, if a burglar breaks in and steals you Mac, your landlord cannot be held accountable. Keeping your assets safe and shielded from unexpected events it’s entirely up to you.

Rental insurance generally comes with relatively low premiums – about 43 cents per day with ResidentShield – and protects up to your selected policy limits against a variety of mishaps such as fire, robbery, vandalism, smoke, lightning, or windstorm. Earthquake coverage is optional and available only in California.

Standard policies typically include liability coverage which basically offers protection in case of unfortunate accidents, including slip-and-fall injuries and dog bites. This means that if a guest is injured on your property, or if Fido becomes mistrusting of the mailman and decides to act on it one day, you can be held liable and sued for medical expenses. With ResidentShield, you may receive up to $100,000 of coverage against common personal liability claims and select a liability provision for dog bites up to a maximum limit of $25,000.

Rental insurance also covers unintentional damage brought about by the insured to the apartment, the common building, or any other resident’s property (such as loss caused by accidental kitchen fire).

Additionally, should you be forced to move out of your rented home while repairs are being made following a covered event, or until you can find new accommodation, renters insurance will provide you with temporary living expenses over and above your normal living expenses.

It’s often a good idea to prepare a home inventory that will help you file an insurance claim, should you be confronted with any of the above. You can create a video of your home or take pictures to make sure you don’t overlook anything important. Every little thing counts when estimating the value of your possessions, including electronics, dishes, books, DVDs and clothes. Also hold on to bills, receipts and other documents that might be used to prove an item’s ownership and value.

For more information on how to protect you belongings, and specifics of renters insurance, click here.

Greet summer with an updated home protection plan

With warm weather in full swing it’s hard not to rejoice in the beauty of nature and invite fresh air into our homes. And while resorting to natural ventilation in the warmer months is a good idea that might help us lower our carbon footprint and save some money on electricity bills, it may also give way to misfortunes if we’re not careful enough. An open window or an unlocked door is also an open invitation for sneak-in burglars who can be in and out of your apartment in minutes, robbing you of your dearest possessions.

According to Commander Harold Medina with Albuquerque Police Department’s Property & Economic Crimes Division, on any given day when the weather warms up home break-ins can increase by as much as 10 percent. “Burglars are good at the job they do,” he told the KOB Eyewitness News 4. “They really know where to look and they’ll jump into backyards just to see if there is an open window.”

We’ve collected a few tips that will help you improve security at your home and minimize the damage in case of an unfortunate event.

Home burglaries may seem random but intruders actually do their homework before breaking in. They usually eye unoccupied properties and homes that are easy to get into or offer alternative escape routes. If you live in an apartment building, pay extra caution to your fire escape window as it’s a preferred point of entry for mischievous criminals.

The first step to reduce the risk of getting burglarized is to make your rental more difficult to enter. Always lock the door behind you when you come home from work, school or shopping. And double check for open windows or doors before going to bed.

Also, you might want to consider having a bell attached to your doors so that you can hear anyone getting inside the house.

Keep expensive possessions – such as phones, jewelry or cash – away from window sills or window-adjacent furniture so they cannot be grabbed by someone reaching inside the window.

Get renters insurance to keep your assets protected. Burglars are often tempted by small and costly items such as jewelry, watches, ultrabooks or tablets, computers, smartphones, and video players. These are all things that could benefit from renters insurance, which generally covers everything from furniture to clothing, electronic equipment and other personal belongings.

The ResidentShield Renters Insurance Plan offers protection in case of a wide array of misfortunes including theft, vandalism, fire, smoke and natural calamities. Standard policies also provide liability coverage, including liability provision for dog bites and accidental injuries of guests while at your residence. Additionally, rental insurance can provide you with temporary living expenses over and above your normal living expenses if your apartment becomes uninhabitable due to a covered loss.

Getting ready to rent: vital pre-lease planning

As many people found respite from the financial hurdles associated with homeownership in renting, the U.S. multifamily sector received a big push forward and recovery is almost complete. Rental occupancy saw a signficant increase earlier this year, reaching a national average of 94.3 percent, according to research data from Axiometrics Inc.

“With the extremely strong rent growth seen in 2010 and 2011 it was inevitable that it would begin to moderate, which has been the case now for about two years,” said Jay Denton, vice president of research for Axiometrics. “By historical standards, however, the apartment market is still strong, especially in some coastal areas and regions of robust job growth, like Texas. We pointed out recently that oversupply could become a concern in some markets. Affordability could also be an issue with so many high-priced units coming to the market. The next few quarters will be telling as deliveries continue to increase.”

With developers upping their game, prices for the new product are somewhere between $1,000-$1,600 per unit, depending on location, unit mix, amenities and other factors, Axiometrics further reports.

Investors may rejoice the current state of affairs yet renters feel things quite differently. With low inventories and rental rates on the rise, there’s a lot of competition out there. Renters usually look for the same things in their apartment choices: a safe environment, convenient location, Wi-Fi, green features, pet-friendliness, responsive staff and the list may go on. But what happens when you find the one, the apartment that best suits your needs and lifestyle? Are you sure you’ll be the one getting it and not your agent’s five o’clock appointment?

Often times, the secret of securing a good apartment lies in the approach. In order to get ahead of the competition, you need to play your cards right. When showing up for the walk through, have your credit report, renter’s history, and references at hand and be prepared to throw in a recommendation from your boss if things get serious. Additionally, in order to make proof of your “good tenant” status, offer to buy renters insurance. Many apartment communities have already included renters insurance as a prerequisite in the lease agreement to save themselves additional trouble and help protect the contents of the rental apartments, should disaster strike.

What’s even more important is that, in addition to standing proof of your responsible character, renter’s insurance will keep you shielded in the event of a mishap that could cause partial or total loss of your personal property including electronic equipment, clothing, furniture and jewelry. A standard insurance policy provides protection up to your selected policy limits against a variety of unexpected events such as fire, lightening, windstorm, explosion, smoke, glass breakage, theft, hail, and more. Earthquake coverage is optional and available only in California.

Plus, you’ll also benefit from the liability insurance clause which essentially provides coverage for accidental physical injury to another person as well as damage to property caused by the insured policy holder.

Receive a rental insurance quote from ResidentShield.

Four reasons for renter’s Insurance

More and more utilized, sometimes at the renter’s initiative, some other times at the request of the landlord, renter’s insurance still has a series of benefits which are not known by all. The number of residents purchasing insurance is showing consistent growth, and by the looks of it, it will turn into a compulsory contract requirement in the near future.

Since this policy will soon enough become a must-have criteria in order to sign a lease, it is best to know what you’re paying for, and when to call the insurance company for ransom.

1.      It protects your belongings in and out of your home.

In a way, renter’s insurance is like a hidden gem. Aside from the protection it offers to your personal property in case of fire, theft, and severe weather, it also covers it outside your home. For instance, if your car is broken into, your car insurance will not cover the items you had in your trunk and now are gone. Your renter’s insurance will. Under the same claim, the same thing happens if you come out of some coffee shop and you find your bicycle missing, or return to your hotel in some vacation you went on to discover that your laptop or tablet is missing.

Other less known facts about renter’s insurance include the cases when your home is broken into – many of the renter’s policies will replace the locks after such a misfortunate event, or will replace your food if it spoils during a power outage.

2.      It covers additional living expenses

In the event your home is damaged by water or fire, you will need a place to stay while repairs are made. Renter’s insurance will cover the costs for your temporary move, hotel and even meals. It is important to look into how much and how long you would be covered, there is a big difference between a couple of weeks at a Super 8 or a few months at the Hilton.

3.      It eases up identity theft recovery

Current times are about connectivity to the online environment, identity theft is ever-more present. Some renter’s policies help you recover faster by working with credit card companies, credit bureaus, and other related institutions to undo any damage caused to your good name; even the associated legal fees can be covered.

4.      It can pay for liability and medical costs

Litigation is a reliable way to ruin friendships. But if a guest is injured on your property and renter’s insurance covers the medical bills. Also, if your dog chews up your friend’s designer signed shoes, renter’s insurance can help pay for a replacement pair.

Keep in mind that not all renters’ policies are created equal; take the time to compare prices and coverage levels.

Time for a renters’ insurance checkup

Do you live in a rental apartment? Do you own a TV, laptop or a smartphone? An engagement ring maybe? What about a dog? Do you like having people over? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes”, then you should definitely consider getting renters insurance.

Renters should pay the same level of attention to insuring their belongings as homeowners do as they are prone to the same type of risks, including theft, vandalism, fire, lightning, and personal liability. Don’t assume that just because you live in a rental and you landlord takes care of everything around your apartment, you’re protected against personal property loss. A lot of people have the misconception that their possessions are covered because their landlord has insurance, yet typically that’s not the case. Without renters insurance before disaster strikes, replacing items such as furniture, clothing, electronic equipment, jewelry, and other personal belongings is solely up to you.

If you’re worried about the costs of renters insurance, you should know that pricing is quite reasonable as compared to what it does. For about the cost of an IMAX 3D movie ticket per month, you could have peace of mind knowing that you are protected against the financial risk associated with property damage. Rental insurance with ResidentShield can insure full replacement value for your personal property and that of your neighbors in case of fire, smoke infiltration, water damage and other similar incidents.

The basic renters’ policy provides both liability coverage and personal property coverage. The liability component is more useful than you might think. Just imagine: what if Fido goes crazy one day and bites a neighbor? What if a houseguest slips and falls in your kitchen? Or your roommate’s ex-girlfriend trips over an exposed cord on her way out, gets injured and decides to take you to court? You could be held liable for thousands of dollars in damages. Renters’ insurance does precisely that: it shields you from having to pay out for any damages you accidentally cause to your apartment, the common building where you reside, or any other resident’s property. It also offers protection in case you are held responsible for injury to another person.

Additionally, renters insurance can provide you with temporary living expenses over and above your normal living expenses if your apartment becomes uninhabitable due to a covered loss.

Check out ResidentShield’s Personal Contents Calculator to determine just how much contents coverage may be right for you.

Renting with a pet roommate

Owning a pet comes with many amazing moments, but just as everything has a price, so does renting with one. Especially with dogs.

After the challenge of finding a rental that is pet friendly, you’ll be paying the supplementary pet deposit.  Depending on your dog’s breed, you might have to introduce your furry roommate to the future landlord to prove that she or he is friendly. Once you’re ready to move in, you might also consider – or even be required – to hold dog liability insurance.

Renter’s insurance typically covers personal property damages/displaced-living  expenses caused by fire, wind, burglary, as well as  personal liability expenses caused by negligence or accidental injury to others while on your property. Dog bites usually fall under the personal liability section of your insurance plan, but depending on your dog’s breed, where you live and who your insurer is, you might need additional coverage.

Things turn more dramatic if you own one of the 11 “riskiest” dog breeds:

  1. Pit Bulls & Staffordshire Terriers
  2. Doberman Pinschers
  3. Rottweilers
  4. German Shepherds
  5. Chows
  6. Great Danes
  7. Presa Canarios
  8. Akitas
  9. Alaskan Malamutes
  10. Siberian Huskies
  11. Wolf-hybrids

Not all insurance companies ban these breeds, but you’ll most likely have to shop around for a potential policy.

Having renter’s insurance may help ease your landlord’s mind if he’s undecided about renting to you. Some landlords will ask for proof of pet liability insurance before signing the lease. For them, it is a necessity simply because their homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover dog bites (or your pets for that matter). Any property damage can be paid out of the security or pet deposit (or both). Be a responsible pet owner – train your pup, and protect yourself against unforeseen circumstances.

Protecting your peace of mind

Most people go through the process of renting a home; some spend years in rentals, others simply grab a house for a few months at a clip. In any case, financial pitfalls may await, so it’s important to understand the procedure before moving in. Landlords and real estate agents are all sugar and honey at move-in, but can easily turn bitter once damages and repairs become subjects of discussion.

First thing comes first: finding the right home.

Many prospective renters, when finding a home within their requirements, rush into agreeing on the spot and move in within days. Only weeks later they realize they should have conducted a detailed investigation of the premises, or at least a thorough walk-through. The result is in most of the cases the same: serious disputes over the property’s condition when the time comes to move out.

To avoid such instances, invest a few hours of dedicated attention and record everything about the state and operation of the respective home. Pay extra attention to door frames, HVAC units and kitchen appliances, as these are usually the most problematic ones.

Look into the owner.

Search for records and documents from the previous property owners pertaining to repairs and issues. Look into your rights as a renter and what to expect in terms of liability. Check the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to see if any liens or claims have been drawn against the owners. Do all of these before you sign any contract.

Research and purchase Renter’s Insurance.

Once you’ve signed the lease agreement and moved in your new home, it is fundamental to research and select renter’s insurance. Landlords keep their own insurance policies to protect themselves against liability they may owe you; it would be wise you did the same. Renter’s insurance allows you to create item-lists to include your most valuable possessions; furthermore, you can even include replacement cost values rather than existing ones – this will reimburse you a larger amount of money on case of theft or damage to your property.

Keep in mind that renter’s insurance doesn’t protect you on case of natural disasters – earthquakes, flooding, or any “act of God”. If you live in an area that is prone to such events, look into supplemental insurance.

Renters’ insurance helps Millennials save the day

The nation’s young-adult generation is quietly breaking away from tradition and reshaping ideals to fit a more pragmatic way of life. As opposed to their parents, Generation Y – or Millennials as they are often called – delays some of the rites of passage into adulthood like getting married, buying a home and having children, primarily because they have witnessed first-hand the effects of the economic downturn and hasty financial resolutions.

Whereas the idea of putting off home-buying in favor of renting for a few years makes total sense in the current context, many of the Millennials ride to battle unarmed. Renting is undoubtedly a more relaxed housing option and many of its advantages derive precisely from the fact that it offers plenty of flexibility; it is true that as a renter you don’t need to worry about the roof, the heating system or plowing the driveway after a snowstorm; and you can easily relocate if a better job comes your way. But, there are some things that your landlord won’t be able to fix. You need to play your part well; otherwise you may end up losing tons of money in property loss.

Landlords may require for example that you carry tenants’ insurance to minimize property damage in case something bad happens as a condition of the lease. But it’s not a general rule. Most renters have to decide for themselves if they want to purchase insurance or not; and if you’re not comfortable with knowing your personal possessions at risk, you should definitely give it some thought.

Much like homeowners’ insurance, renters’ insurance covers the contents of the rented residence in case of an unfortunate event such as theft, vandalism, smoke and fire damage, windstorm, water damage from faulty appliances, freezing pipes, windstorm and more. In such instances your landlord’s insurance won’t do you much good as it covers only the building itself and the common grounds. You need to get rental insurance if you want to protect your own property, items that you brought to the residence yourself such as clothing, art pieces, electronic equipment, jewelry, and other personal belongings.

Most young renters are under the impression that they don’t own many valuable things; yet that’s almost never the case. Most of us own at least an iPad, a laptop or TV, camera, bicycle, or smartphone, among other gears, which, when taken as an ensemble, are generally worth a couple thousand dollars, wouldn’t you say? Just think: in case of a fire breaking loose at your apartment, would you able to replace all of your lost possessions immediately out of pocket? For about 43 cents/day you may get renters insurance from ResidentShield and have peace of mind knowing that you have all of that covered.

Moreover, the standard insurance policy comes with a liability protection clause which provides coverage for accidental physical injury to another person as well as damage to property caused by the insured policy holder.

Smoking bans gain ground

In an effort to protect people living in multi-unit housing from secondhand smoke, the town of San Rafael, California has passed an ordinance that makes it illegal for residents to smoke in their own homes if they share a wall with another dwelling.

The ban, which city officials touted as most stringent in the nation, applies to both owners and renters, and it covers condominiums, co-ops, apartments and any multi-family residences containing three or more units, according to a RealtorMag story.

Implementing no-smoking policies in multi-family communities can help prevent fires, reduce maintenance costs and may result in insurance discounts as well.

Many developers and property managers around the country have already adhered to the move and enforced smoking bans to make their communities smoke-free. Related Companies was the first developer and property owner to ban smoking in all 40,000 of its rental residences in 17 states.

Also a big supporter of smoke-free environments, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development encourages public housing agencies to implement smoke-free policies as well. The Houston Housing Authority has instituted a no smoking policy which bans smoking at the agency’s 25 public housing and tax credit properties in Houston.

The news has created much controversy and debate over libertarian principles since the ordinance affects private behavior. While people may argue that what they do in their own homes it’s private business, it’s not less true that second-hand smoke is to blame for many health problems, including severe asthma attacks and heart disease. Studies show that in some apartment buildings tobacco smoke can drift from one unit into another, or can enter an apartment or condo from halls, stairs, balconies, patios and courtyards, affecting other people’s well-being. The same goes for fire.

Residents of Hillsborough Pointe Apartments in Northwest Omaha, Nebraska, have been confronted with three fires in 13 months. The most recent incident was a two-alarm blaze that sent one person to the hospital in addition to causing property damage. There was another fire last March and the third was in December 2012. Investigators concluded all three fires were caused by improper handling of cigarettes. As a result, apartment managers decided to ban smoking all throughout the property, including apartments, decks and patios.

What’s very important to remember, especially if you’re a renter, is that when fire strikes the landlord is not responsible for damages to the contents of the apartment. Usually, a landlord’s insurance only covers the building and structure of the compound. It’s renter’s insurance that would protect your belongings, such as TV, computer, furniture or clothes, in the event of a fire or any other destructive event. Additionally, it should cover your personal liability if someone is injured while at your residence.