Smart tips for subletting

In case you need to leave town but don’t want to lose the apartment you’re currently living in, you might be a great candidate for subletting. But before you leap in, it’s advisable that you get the full picture of the risks you might face and what you could do to minimize them.

  • Receive permission. If you’re a renter and wish to sublet you place without talking to your landlord first, you could be in violation of the terms of your lease. Yes, that means you could be evicted. Review your lease and talk to your landlord before subletting. The best scenario is the one where you get your landlord’s permission in writing.

  • Consider the risks. So, your landlord gave you permission to sublet. However, this does not put you in the clear. Subletting your home can also mean theft and serious damage that you’ll be responsible for. Think hard about this one as there are plenty of horror stories out there about sublets gone awfully wrong.
  • Search among non-strangers first. Reach out to your family, friends, work/school colleagues. However, even if someone in your close circle wants to sublet from you, it’s still wise to follow the same steps you would take to make your home ready for a stranger. This means that if priceless piece of furniture you own gets damaged by a good friend or relative, you’ll have to deal with all the broken pieces—of the furniture and your relationship with that person. Save yourself the trouble and take away anything that would upset you seeing scratched, dinged or broken and place them somewhere safe. Better safe than sorry, right?
  • Limit your pool of potential renters. Try reaching out to a local university that needs to house visiting professors, for example. See what you can find in your community.
  • Put on the landlord coat. Don’t be soft just because you’re offering a short-term rental. You need to be just as careful as a landlord looking for a long-term tenant: ask for a security deposit, check references and have them sign the rental agreement.
  • Document your place. Take photos of your home before you sublet it and get a move-in checklist signed. The checklist should contain details about the condition of your place when they move in and when you walk-through the apartment at the end of their stay, hopefully you won’t have any arguments over damages.
  • Keep an eye out, even from afar. If possible, have a trusted person available to regularly check on your home and be available to your renter, if anything goes wrong while you are away. You can either pay this person, or take them out for a fabulous dinner when you return.
  • Create a reference notebook. It should contain information such as your home’s little quirks, the Wi-Fi password, and day of trash pickup. This is also the perfect place to include the contact info for someone local the renter can reach if anything is wrong, as well as restaurant recommendations, markets and entertainment activities.
  • Be at peace with your decision. Review everything from options to risks before committing to subletting your home. There are, of course, guidelines you can set, but if the idea makes you nervous, don’t do it.

Leasing terminology for apartment renters

Some of our readers are preparing this year to rent a new apartment, maybe even their first. The To Do list is extensive and takes a lot of time to complete, but it’s as important to make sure the terms of the apartment lease are clearly understood.

Typically, most lease documents are clear and without unexpected surprises, but just for your peace of mind, make sure you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into and what restrictions you might obey to as a resident of your new apartment.

We recommend you double check the following before signing your lease:

Start and end date of tenancy—also known as the periodic tenancy, means to check that your move in and move out dates correspond with the time frame expected/requested.

Rental price and deposit amount—check to see that the dollar amounts match up to what you’ve discussed with the leasing agent.

Contingencies for post-lease continuance—simply put, in some apartments you’ll be able to rent month to month after you have completed your first year of residency; in others you will be asked to sign another year-long lease or a shorter term lease, such as six months.

Terms of anticipated increases—most likely this won’t pertain to your first year of tenancy because you agree to rent the apartment at the monthly price stated in the agreement. However, read thoroughly to make sure there aren’t any situations or causes in which the landlord has the right to raise the rent. Look for a standard second-year increase in the lease agreement.

Reasons for termination—this section has to be detailed and very specific. Be on the lookout for vague loopholes under which a landlord could evict you for some cause or without violation of the lease terms.

Move-out penalties—in the event that you need to leave the apartment before the lease is up, will you be subjected to an additional fee?

Tenant-responsible repairs—in the lease is should be clear who is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the residence, and it should not be the tenant.

Renters Insurance—there are apartment complexes that mandate renters insurance. It’s a wise thing to have because it offers you protection, but it may be required by your lease as well.

Policies about subletting or visitors—before you move in and start having guests over, make sure you know what rules you’ve agreed to abide by.

Easy ways to save money at home

Saving money for rainy days is something we all do in one way or another, but some of the best money saving hacks are closer than we’d think. Here’s a list.

Watch your electronics—according to the Consumer Technology Association, the typical American household is equipped with 24 consumer electronics. These appliances can easily become energy vampires as they draw energy even in standby mode—on average $100 per year per household. The easiest way to fix this problem is to plug your devices into power strips and switch them off at the end of the day.

Low-flow water faucets—by simply replacing your sink faucets with low-flow models you can cut your water bill by 25 to 60 percent. If you want to, you can save even more water and money by installing low-flow shower heads, too.

Light bulbs need upgrading too—replacing your old light bulbs with some that have earned the ENERGY STAR certification could save up to 80 percent of your electric bill. Yes, it’s true that they cost more than traditional bulbs, but they last three to 25 times longer and use power more efficiently.

Proper sealing—as much as one third of a home’s total heat is lost through drafty windows and doors. EPA estimates that adding proper insulation can save an average of 15 percent on heating and cooling costs. There are several ways to go about it: insulated window shades, weather-strips, plastic film kits, or caulk.

Curtains and blinds can cut cooling costs by 45 percent. Use highly reflective ones during the summer months and window treatments to trap heat in during the cold months. The conventional draperies can reduce heat loss from a warm room up to 10 percent.

Hot water heater needs insulation, too—as do the pipes around it. By doing so, you will be able to trap in up to 40 percent more heat, thus saving as much as 9 percent on your bill.

Bottled water—as you’ve probably noticed, bottled water is one of the biggest money spenders out there. But there are water filters if drinking from the tap is not an option for you and installing one could help you save up to $177 a year.

A programmable thermostat is a very good investment, especially if you’re working long hours or are away from home a lot during the week. The device will allow you to adjust heat and cooling settings according to a pre-set schedule. How much money you’ll save depends on your utility costs, the type of heating or cooling system in your home, as well as the size and average temperature of your place, but on average, you could save $130 to $145 on your utility bills a year.

Renters insurance might sound as adding an extra expense to your already too burdened bank account, but in fact it’s an absolute must. It provides coverage for personal possessions against damage due to fire, smoke, lightning, theft, vandalism, explosion, windstorm, water, and other disasters listed in your policy. The possessions include furniture, clothing, electronics, appliances, kitchen utensils and bed linens. It also offers liability coverage, which protects against lawsuits for bodily injury or property damage caused by you or your family members, as well as no-fault medical coverage in case a visitor is injured on your property. Furthermore, it includes additional living expenses such as hotel bills, restaurant meals and other daily expenses—in case your home becomes uninhabitable due to a covered hazard.

Millennials, the force disrupting insurance

Millennials are currently the largest force disrupting insurance. The young adults from ages 18 to 34 are empowered, connected, and lead the charge for change and insurance companies have to find new ways to serve them.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, millennials account for up to a third of the U.S. population. Commensurate with their size is their estimated purchasing power:

TechCrunch reports that millennials will spend more than $200 billion in 2017 and Ad Age says they’ll spend $10 trillion throughout their lifetime. No wonder their expectations will define how the world works, including what insurance looks like in the future.

Pleasing millennials is not an easy task; legacy insurance products aren’t attractive to them and the old ways of selling insurance won’t do the trick, either. Millennials’ households look completely different from those of Baby Boomers, so insurance products need to change.

According to Pew Research Center, only about a quarter of millennials are married; back in the day, Baby Boomers were already married at the age millennials are now. The gap between these generations is so wide, that the millennial household was called (among other names) “Four Buddies and a Dog.”

Selling life insurance to millennials means that the millennials are pregnant, already have kids or are buying a house. Car insurance? Millennials don’t really want to own cars. Yes, they need access to cars and places to live, but many of them don’t want to or can’t afford to own them.

TechCrunch notices that even though 85 percent of non-millennials never use rideshare companies (like Uber), approximately a third of millennials use them with high frequency, including daily. Furthermore, they are also car sharing—almost one third of millennials are willing to rent a car on a short-term basis (like Zipcar) versus only 3 percent of non-millennials.

Goldman Sachs reports that 60 percent of millennials would rather rent things (cars, homes) than own them. As a result, insurers need to shift their focus to offering more renter’s insurance and it’s known that millennials are under-insured, thus there is room to grow.

According to Towers Watson, 88 percent of millennials prefer usage-based insurance (UBI) to coverage based on conventional elements such as age and gender. This generation is comfortable with technology knowing their personal business, and more so, they are willing to trade personal information for a price discount.

Insurance companies discovered that millennials don’t purchase their policies from local agents. Could be that they think that the insurance industry is behind the times. Where would they rather shop for insurance? Online. According to surveys, “comparison websites” are the most powerful influencer in their insurance buying decisions, followed by some time spent researching for the best insurers online.

A 2014 Gallup poll discovered that millennials are twice as likely to buy their policies online instead of from a local agent. The days of selling insurance door to door are long gone.

It’s obvious that millennial needs and behaviors are different from their predecessors. It’s unfortunate that insurers have been slow to adapt to their demands. This led to new competitors rushing in to make a bid for the industry. Investment money goes to insurance-tech—“since 2010, investors have funneled more than $2 billion in venture capital into the insurance-tech industry,” reports TechCrunch. In other words, these investors are betting big bucks on the idea that a star-up will rob legacy insurers of the millennial business. A possible solution? Either be very afraid, or jump in and buy them.

Tips for successfully filing personal liability claims

When the unthinkable happens, it pays to be prepared.

You never imagined a day like this would come. Without warning, the unthinkable happens. A guest or roommate sustains injuries while in your home. In the bustle of the action, it is important to remain composed and take proper measures to document the event. Preparedness and documentation rest at the center of every successfully filed personal liability claim.

 

Insurance Not Risk

To prepare your file, consider the following:

What happened? Take a moment to create an accurate and detailed description of events. This may involve compiling the insights of multiple guests at the scene of the incident. Even the smallest details may be pertinent to your claim so it is better to be too thorough than too vague.

Who was involved? Collect detailed information of those involved in the accident, most importantly the contact information of the injured parties. It may be necessary to contact these individuals throughout the process of your filing.

Where did it occur? Depending on the location of the event, your personal renters insurance may cover damages. In other instances, the coverage may be provided by the landlord’s insurance. To settle any ambiguity, be as specific as possible about the location of the incident.

How was it handled? Some emergencies simply can’t wait. In those cases, it may be necessary to have the problem resolved before you are able to complete a claim. It is important to keep record of how the problem was handled. Did you call a taxi or ambulance? Which hospital was the injured party taken to? Did the incident make the rental uninhabitable for any duration of time, forcing you to stay in a hotel? It is vital to keep all receipts as they will determine your reimbursement. Insist upon receiving receipts when none are offered.

Take photographs. Use photographs as part of your documentation package. Images from a camera phone suffice as well as any. It may be helpful to add captions or descriptions for each of the photos to help processors understand what they are seeing in each image. Do not alter photos.

Your Resident Shield renters insurance representative is here to assist you every step of the way. Simply contact us to have your questions answered.

Spring allergy remedies

Most people look forward to the arrival of sunny spring, following the cough, flu and cold season. Yet, along with all that sunshine come the pollens and molds, a real threat to those of us suffering of seasonal allergies.

In the northern parts of the U.S., the earliest pollen triggers come from trees. In the Midwest, Elm trees begin to pollinate as early as February or March when the temperatures start to rise. Cottonwoods, Birch, Maple and Oak follow in March, April and May. In May, grass pollen jumps into the mix, and ragweed follows in mid-August. You can learn a lot more about pollen and molds by visiting the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology.

People who suffer of seasonal allergies have a well-deserved break over the winter months. Before they can really enjoy the beautiful spring and summer weather, they have to deal with nasal itching, runny nose, stuffy nose, a lot of sneezing, and itchy and watery eyes. Or else.

Start early and visit your doctor. He’ll know that starting your medications before the pollens and molds kick in. Non-drowsy antihistamines are preferred. Lately, prescription nasal sprays have become important players in managing nasal allergies, just remember to start 1-2 weeks before the beginning of the pollen season.

Doors & windows – entryways for allergens. As tempting as it might be to keep the windows open, that’s how you let in pollens and molds. No, the screens don’t keep them out. One way you could get rid of the stuffy air in your home is to run the A/C earlier.

Car windows too. And the sunroof. When in your car, if you can adjust your vent to recirculate inter-compartment air, do it.

Outdoor activities need proper timing. Early and mi-morning hours have the highest pollen counts, so steer away from these hours.

Take your antihistamines. If you must go out, take your antihistamine at least two hours before doing so. Furthermore, consider wearing a dust mask and glasses while working. As soon as you’re done, remove your clothing and take a shower immediately after going back in the house because you don’t want to spread pollen all over the place.

Keep your nose clean. Nasal saline can be used two or three times a day to rinse your nasal passages. Many people (me included) have found that sinus drainage and congestion is greatly reduced by these nasal rinses with saline.

Recently I’ve acquired a Himalayan salt lamp and placed it in my bedroom; it is pretty, but it has amazing health benefits. I’ll explain:

The air in that room is cleaner as the Himalayan salt lamp has this incredible ability to filter the air, removing dust, cigarette smoke, pollen and other contaminants of the air. They attract water molecules and any foreign particles they are carrying and absorb it—it’s a process called hygroscopy. When the lamp is turned on, the heat coming from it releases the water back into the air, but keeps all the particles trapped inside the lamp.

Your allergy symptoms will be reduced as the Himalayan salt lamps filter microscopic particles in the air, including pollen, dust, pet dander, mold and mildew. You’ll get sick less often is you breathe cleaner air.

Those suffering of allergies or asthma, have the quality of sleep decreased. Every molecule is made up of atoms and every atom is made up of three types of particles: protons (positive charge), electrons (negative charge) and neutrons (no charge). Positive ions in the air are those making it difficult to sleep, and they are all around us. The Himalayan lamps release negative ions which will neutralize the positive ions. Now you can understand why I’ve chosen to place it in my bedroom. If you’re the type who needs complete darkness to sleep, turn it on for a few hours during the day and turn it off before going to bed.

You’ll breathe easier, too. The Himalayan salt is known for its ability to clear you airways—there are even Himalayan pink salt inhales. Moreover, you might experience fewer headaches as the salt lamps help enhance your mood, relax you and improve the blood and oxygen supply to your brain and other organs. It will improve your concentration, and also help you distress.

Studies have shown that being outside energizes the body because there are a lot more negative ions there. So there you go, plenty of reasons to remedy your allergy/asthma issues.

Renters pay more for auto insurance, study finds

In case you were wondering, there is an invisible link between homeownership and car insurance. According to Consumer Federation of America’s new analysis of premium quotes from major auto insurance companies, consumers pay about 7 percent more, on average, for car insurance premiums if they rent their home rather than own it, regardless of their stellar driving records.

The report shows that renters paid an average of $112 more a year for auto insurance when compared to drivers who owned their homes. At some insurance companies, the basic liability insurance rate for renters was 47 percent more than it was for homeowners.

The report reflects that insurers’ evaluation of homeowner status hurts lower- and moderate-income people. Renters had a median income of $27,800 in 2013, compared with $63,400 for homeowners, according to Federal Reserve statistics.

“To raise people’s auto insurance premium because they can’t afford to buy their homes unfairly discriminates against lower-income drivers,” said Robert Hunter, insurance director for the consumer federation. “A good driver is a good driver, whether she rents or owns her home.”

Jim Lynch, chief actuary for the Insurance Information Institute, didn’t dispute CFA’s findings, but said that different rates are “justified by underlying data” that shows homeowners are “more responsible” than renters and that renters are more likely to have accidents than owners, so the difference in rates are the result of “an actuarially justifiable variable.” One of the examples he gave was related to the fact that renters park in crowded surface lots, where the likelihood of accidents is higher than in homeowner’s driveways.

“It would be difficult to go to a homeowner and say, ‘We’re going to charge you the same rate because somebody else says that’s the way it ought to be.’ If I were that homeowner, I would say, ‘That’s not fair.’ But that’s how fairness operates in the insurance (industry),” Lynch said.

Knowing all this, how can one get the best rate on auto insurance?

Consumer advocates and insurance industry representatives agree that rates vary widely by insurer. So whatever you do, seek quotes from several companies. Moreover, remember that companies often offer discounts if a consumer buys more than one type of policy. Typically, a discount is given if a customer buys homeowner’s and auto coverage from the same insurer. Many companies also offer such “multi-line” discounts to customers purchasing renters insurance; just remember to ask if any discounts are available, such as those offered to good students or to people (especially those over 55) who take special driving classes.

National Consumer Protection Week: Protect yourself year round

March 6-12 is National Consumer Protection Week, so we thought to take a moment and remind renters nationwide to protect themselves as consumers. We’ve compiled a list with tips that make renting a lot less stressful.

Learn to avoid rental scams—scammers are known to advertise rentals that don’t exist (they’re also known as phantom rentals) to fool people into sending money before they discover the truth. The signs are easy to spot: they’ll ask you to wire money, the security deposit or first month’s rent before you’ve met or signed the lease agreement.

Report scams by contacting local law enforcement and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Look after your finances and credit score. Look after your money and pay as little as possible for the apartment you want. Nearly half of renters are paying more than 30 percent of their income in rent, according to a recent report by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. There is financial counseling which helps individuals strengthen their credit and establish savings goals; this leads toward having enough money for the security deposit and overall helps improve credit scores.

Renters Insurance is a must to protect your belongings from loss or accidental damage. Renters insurance protects your possessions whether you’re living in an apartment or renting a house. In case of fire or water leak, the landlord’s insurance will only cover the building itself, but you’d still need to replace your own items if they were damaged.

Watch out when selecting the moving company. If your friends and family can’t help you move, research moving companies and find one that you can trust. Check their reviews and social media, and of course, ask for recommendations. The right one will make your moving experience a smooth one.

Managed property or renting from a landlord? Expectations and peace of mind vary from one individual to another. To answer this question, weigh the pros and cons of both, and each has plenty.

Act like a homeowner. Acting like you’ll be living there for a few years will make you more aware of the space’s qualities and shortcomings. Moreover, this might even make you gut-check if you wish to rent versus own. Compare prices and long-term investment for each path.

Easy safety tips for electronics

It’s hard to live without electronics. Enjoy them in safety with these simple tips.

Electronic fires and other dangers can cause serious damage to your rental. In many cases, these accidents are preventable with the knowledge and application of a few safety tips.

outlets

Appropriate Outlets- All outlets must be properly grounded, accompanied by the correct power ratings. You can often check outlet safety during your property inspection. For added safety, use a surge protector with multiple outlets (sometimes called a sister plug or power strip). These units protect your electronics while providing you with multiple outlets for your computer, printer, speakers, and other devices.

Never overload your power strip. For example, it is not safe to have multiple extension cords—which host multiple devices—connected to a single power strip. Stick to a one-to-one outlet to device ratio for optimal safety.

Common Sense Water Safety- Do not operate electronics while you are wet (such as reaching out of the bathtub or pool to adjust the volume on the radio). Though it’s tempting, avoid drinking beverages while operating your laptop and other electronic devices. Aside from ruining the device, you could also risk electrocution and fire.

Breathing Room- Provide electronics with ample air circulation. Do not place electronics against window curtains or block them into an entertainment system or storage unit without proper ventilation.

Common Sense Repair Safety- Aside from changing a light bulb, leave electrical work to the professionals. If you are experiencing frequent power outages, the sporadic dimming of lights in your rental and other problems contact your landlord or leasing agent with your concerns. He or she should contact the appropriate professional to fix the problem.

Cord Care- Discard and replace damaged cords immediate. Electrical tape is not a reliable solution for damaged cords. Do not run damaged cords under carpets or tuck them into the opening along the baseboards.

The superpowers of renters insurance

There are plenty of reasons why renters insurance is a smart move, and you probably know most of them, but did you know that you can actually take more from your renters insurance other than claims for fire incidents and burglaries?

We’ve compiled a list with some of the most unexpected, but financial painful, scenarios that might be the last piece you need to pick up the phone and call a renters insurance agent.

  1. You’re back from your much deserved vacation only to realize that your luggage gets lost, again. Who you gonna call?
  2. Your darling Fido got fed up with everyone telling you and him how adorable and cute he is that when the 300th tourist tried to take a photo of him, he gave the tourist more than just a snap of his great figure, but a tattoo of his teeth on his arm. Hello, renters insurance!
  3. Your friend comes over for some delicious home-cooked meal. The trouble is that you forget to take your bag of groceries out of the way and he trips over it, breaking a newly capped tooth. Both of you can go ahead and smile, your renters insurance will take care of that.
  4. You then went to the dry cleaners where your clothes were not just cleaned, but went up in smoke. This is when you wish you can still find another Cashmere sweater at 70 percent off.
  5. Rush hour—of course you didn’t see that guy dressed in neon orange overalls and ran into him with your bike, and of course he sued you. Hello again, renters insurance!
  6. Bikes are not allowed inside your apartment as per your lease agreement, thus you got a storage unit. Somehow, someone found their way into your basement storage and left on your new mountain bike. Now what? Thanks for your service, renters insurance!
  7. You’re really proud of your new flat screen TV. But then a power surge hits your building, frying the 42-inch LCD. Yes, you’re right, your renters insurance could get you a new one.
  8. After all the hassle, all you want is just some relaxation. You turn on the water to fill your bathtub, but remember that the wine bottle you opened needs decanting. You head to the kitchen to deal with it, but forget about the running water and the tub overflows in the apartment below. Oops!
  9. Someone in your building plugs too many appliances into an outlet and sets the apartment on fire. You have to vacate yours and stay in a hotel while repairs and cleaning are completed. No, you’re not paying for the hotel – that’s what renters insurance is for.