Make your rental feel warm this autumn

The golden season is upon us, even though in some parts of the country temperatures are still high. Homeowners may know from experience the importance of entering the colder months well prepared, but many renters have yet to discover it. We’ll help with a few tips.

Preparing the rental is a win-win situation for both the landlord and the renter as both will have an easier season overall and less to attend to when snow comes down on solid roof. Typically the landlord is the one who initiates the process by contacting the tenant to address known issues, but the tenant may have input on problems, such as issues with plumbing or drainage, or drafty windows and doors.

Get together and make a list of all the things that should be done.

  • Clean the gutters;
  • Drain water from outside faucets;
  • Insulate water faucets and drain pipes;
  • Insulate doors and windows;
  • Seal ducts and vents;
  • Store away the seasonal furniture;
  • Replace furnace filter;
  • Have the chimney cleaned.

If you live in an older home, you may need to consider using window insulation to upgrade the comfort of the home, but also to cut down on expenses during the long winter months.

When it comes down to decide who’s paying for what, both of you should be reasonable. Typically, anything structural that needs repairs should be fixed by the landlord, unless otherwise stated in the lease agreement. Tasks that are not required for comfort or quality of life, however, are the renter’s business. Find a compromise that works for both of you because even though you are not the owner, you live there and thus you share responsibilities.

Preparations should include both the inside and the outside. The roof needs a proper inspection to see if there are any weak spots; make sure the siding is secured and stable; check doors and windows to make sure they are sealed and insulated.

Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are vital; remind your landlord to check and see that they are in working order. If you have ceiling fans on your property, check to see if the fan has a reverse movement for winter—changing the direction on the fan forces warm air down and the room feels warmer.

Review your renters insurance agreement and then make yourself some hot cocoa, you deserve it.

Be disaster prepared with an apartment survival kit

We’re in fall storm season, the time of year when thunder and lighting take over the sky and remind us of nature’s unrivaled powers. It’s the kind of weather that stops you from whatever you are doing and make you check your battery supply and make sure you have a flashlight that works. Well, do you?

Don’t be caught off guard. Hurricane season is no joke, imagine how you’d survive in case a storm took down the power to your apartment for any duration of time.

warning sign of bad weather ahead

Self-sufficient emergency preparation is important, so make ready an apartment survival kit. Depending on the region where you live (visited by hurricanes, floods, or earthquakes) you might need to consider adding a few dedicated items to the survival kit starter pack we’ve compiled below.

  • Non-perishable food. Protein bars work wonders in times of distress, so stash a few boxes in your kit, but make sure you put it somewhere far away from the place where snacks usually go, so that no one is tempted to grab one. Or a few.
  • Bottled water. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 1 gallon of water per person per day in a disaster kit, for at least three days. Even though your 500-square-foot studio doesn’t have room for a doomsday cellar, do your best to stash away as much bottled water as possible. You can even collaborate with everyone in your building and store the wat6er supply in a basement or anywhere there is room.
  • A flashlight, make it rechargeable. If you get one that plugs into the wall, put it into an outlet where you can leave it 24/7. When the power goes out, the flashlight will come on, fully charged. Let there be light!
  • Candles & matches. Indeed, this is a backup plan for the flashlight. In case the power outage extends over a longer period of time, candles will be your savior. Plus, they have that romantic feel to them. We’d recommend the big 22-ounce jar candles—they protect the flame, burn for 100+ hours, and keep the melted wax under control.
  • A spare phone battery. Smartphones are the only phones we have in our houses these days, so investing in an external battery is vital.
  • Things to keep you busy. Books, game boards, whatever makes the time pass by easier.
  • Blanket, pillows, and warm clothes. Because tornadoes like to throw stuff all around and pillows can keep you covered.
  • Medicine. Your first aid kit should be ready at all times; if you know you’re suffering from a specific illness and take the appropriate treatment, make sure you have that too put aside for unfortunate events.
  • Extra pet supplies. If you own a pet, make sure you have everything they need to get through the stormy period. Food, water and toys will keep your buddy in shape.

Preparing the survival kit in advance will help you remain calm and collected when disaster strikes. Once you’ve prepared your kit, don’t let it sit around and gather dust until, if, and when you might need it. Go through the kit at least twice a year and replace the expired items (food, water, medicine, and batteries). Stay safe!

Treat your windows right to save on your energy bill

Even though living in a rental comes with some expenses that cannot be avoided, there are ways to keep the budget at a decent limit without too much of a hassle, but with a bit of awareness and planning. The security deposit is not something you can dodge, but the monthly bills you can turn into friendlier letters from your providers; here are some summer tips.

The general conceptions regarding window dressing is related to beauty rather than function, but why not take both into consideration? It’s mostly a matter of choosing the right materials and proper placement, and you can turn these decorations into savings on your monthly energy bills. Before you blast the air conditioning, check some of these window treatment ideas and let us know the results in the comment section. The United States Department of Energy advises that a set of medium-colored drapes backed with white plastic reduces solar heat gain by 33 percent.

Image via Pinterest

Shades – are considered the most effective and simple way to save energy. The key though is proper installment. Mount them as close to the glass as possible and right up against the adjacent wall as this way it creates a tight seal that minimizes not only heat gain, but also heat loss. The ideal ones are those with dual layers of fabric, with a light color on one side and a darker color on the other as they add more functionality – you can reverse them based on the season – the light color will reflect heat during the hot months, and the dark color will attract heat during winter.

Image via Pinterest


Blinds – the beauty with these is that both interior and exterior ones will help reduce heat while allowing light, ventilation, and privacy. Apparently, white ones, when closed and lowered on a sunny window, can reduce heat gain by 45 percent. Of course, the exterior blinds are more effective as they block heat before it reaches the window, but it’s not an easy task to add them to an existing window and are best to be added on new constructions.

Image via Pinterest

Drapes – are ideal in both the hot and the cold seasons as, depending on the fabric weight and color, they can insulate the home from both heat gain and heat loss. Just like shades, a tight seal is needed to maximize performance. Hand them form a cornice or up to the ceiling down to the floor, and place them as close to the window as possible.

Image via Pinterest

Awnings – are those chic decoration pieces that add personality to the exterior of your home, but even more importantly, offer fantastic defense against the sun in those areas with extreme hot weather. These cuties can reduce solar heat gain by up to 65 percent for south-facing windows and 77 percent for west-facing windows.

Renter’s Insurance – is the kind of sunshine you want to let in. Even though it sounds like adding another expense to your already succumbing bank account post move-in, renter’s insurance is an absolute must. Break-ins, fires, thunderstorms, do happen – better pay a few hundreds of dollars in small amounts than to have to replace all your belongings in the event of mishaps. Resident Shield can get you covered.

Apps for home-sharers

Nowadays, living with housemates is a reality that goes beyond student years. Sure, it has its perks, but it can also come with a (or more) messy roommate, even if it’s someone you love, things can turn into more than just a few disputes. Sharing the home might teach you about the living needs of different animal species or have you deal with situations you’ve never even thought of. Still, there are a couple of apps that might smooth the experience.


  1. Splitwise – everything is nice and sunny until financial aspects need to be addressed. What was once a warm and happy shared house, can easily turn into a battle field. Have a look at Splitwise instead. The app, available for free on iOS and Android platforms, lets you easily split bills. Create a group online or on the app with your housemates, enter any bills paid and whatever house expenses incurred, and Splitwise will send a note to each person with details about the payment. The app can also calculate the monthly rent in fair amounts by simply inserting the monthly rent amount, the number of roommates, and the size and amenities of each room.
  2. HomeSlice – iOS and Android ready, this app allows you to share messages and keep track of bills and chores. The app sends notifications to your housemates when something needs done, or when you’ve completed a task.
  3. HelloFresh – if you come to an agreement with your housemates to split weekly costs for grocery, this online service will send a container right to your door that has in it a recipe and the necessary ingredients for a complete meal for two to four people. Not only will you waste less, but you’ll get to cook and eat delicious and healthy meals together, and who knows, maybe even discover a new hobby!
  4. RENTCafé – there comes a time when, after living for two or more years in a bedroom as large as a closet, you realize you need to move on. RENTCafe is designed to help you find an apartment and share your findings with your friends or future roommate with just a touch of a button. Free on iOS and Android.
  5. Chairish – is an iOS app to help you find the furniture you need for your rental and the place where you can post your furniture once you decide to relocate. This is the place for design aficionados to buy, sell, and ogle furnishings and décor pieces.
  6.  Handy – is designed to help you find and hire cleaners and professional household services from plumbing to keeping your house clean and hassle free. The iOS app promises next-day appointments and background-checked professionals.

Know of useful ones you’d like to share in our comments field?

What (not) to do before signing a lease

Whether seasoned or fresh, all renters make mistakes. Remember that time you thought it would be such a riot to live near a ballpark? And then the noise kept you up late on weeknights? Or the time you thought you *had* to live in a community that had tennis courts? But you never actually ended up using them and paid more for a smaller apartment than your previous digs? Renter mistakes can vary from annoying to disruptive to downright disastrous. Here are some of the dos and don’ts of renting:

-          Do not rent sight unseen. It doesn’t matter that you’re busy or moving cross country or any other excuse. If you haven’t walked through a unit, don’t rent it. Real life and pretty retouched, perfectly lit pictures are not the same. Neither are bumps and dents, which takes us to the next point:

-          Do document all the damage. Make notes, compile a list and take time-stamped photos of everything that can be considered damage: from the tiniest scratch on the coffee table to chipped tile, to a fridge door that doesn’t close properly. Make sure you share the damage compendium with your landlords, so they also have it on file. Foregoing documenting damage is nothing short of signing over your deposit.

-          Do make a commute test drive, both pack and forth between your future digs and your place of employment. Try out on multiple days. This saves you from realizing your commute is a nightmare that shaves off hours off your free time and being trapped in a 12-month lease.

-          Don’t skim the lease, read it! Multiple times, including the fine print. Make sure everything is covered. If you’ve reached other or additional agreements than are present in the standard contract, put those in writing as well. As the old adage goes “verba volant, scripta manent”. Put everything in writing.

-          Do research a community’s and its owners’ online reputation. A few bad comments and disgruntled former tenants are to be expected, but if there’s a torrent of bad online reviews and complaints, especially over long periods of time, it might be best to look somewhere else.

-          Don’t ignore the neighborhood. Walk and drive around to see what the neighborhood offers and what it doesn’t. Do you have a dog, but not parks nearby? Does the neighborhood have enough retail options or is it a food desert? Is it a safe neighborhood or does it have a bad reputation?

-          Don’t ignore renters insurance. It’s an inexpensive safety measure should anything happen. If you already have a policy, the moment you sign a lease, make sure you contact your renters insurance provider to let them know beforehand you’ll be leaving and give them your moving date, so you don’t go one day without protection. Happy apartment hunting!

A cyclists’ life – always ride insured

Everywhere you look, the bike lane has more traffic. It is expected, given the thousands of miles of new bicycle lanes in cities across the United States and the environmental benefits. Not only is riding a bike good for saving the planet and your hard-earned cash, but it is also one of the most effective and fun workouts you’ll ever do.

Bicycles are not the cheapest thing though; they can cost anywhere from several hundred dollars for a basic bike to thousands of dollars for specialized racing bikes. A cyclists’ life, everything from a commute to work, to an easy ride around the neighborhood  to a serious workout while enjoying nature, comes with a set of important to understand rules of the road, as well as with a protection plan for the financial investment which involves, you guessed it, proper insurance.

The standard homeowners and renters insurance policies cover bicycles under the personal property section. This coverage will reimburse you, minus your deductible, if your bike is stolen or damaged in a fire, hurricane, or other disaster, as per your policy. This is why, if you plan on buying a new bicycle, you should remember to keep the receipt and call your insurance agency as soon as you complete the purchase. If your bike is an expensive one, you might want to consider getting an endorsement for additional coverage.

There are two types of coverage for personal property:

  1. Actual Cash Value – You receive what the bicycle is actually worth, taking into account its age. For example, a 5-year-old bicycle will be valued at the actual cost of a comparable bike, minus 5 years depreciation.
  2. Replacement Cost Coverage – You receive what it would cost to replace your 5-year-old bicycle with one that’s identical in like, kind, and quality at current cost. It costs about 10 percent more than the actual cash value, but it is a good investment.

On top of the coverage protection, renters insurance also provides liability protection in case you harm someone or their property. If you injure someone in a bicycle accident and the person decides to sue you, you will be covered up to the limits of your policy. The insurance policy also includes a no-fault medical coverage in case you harm someone. The policy coverage ranges from $1,000 to $5,000 per incident.

To avoid any unpleasant surprises in case you need to file a claim there are two things you need to keep in mind. First, you should save your receipts, including all expenditures related to the bicycle (i.e. helmet, patch kits, pumps). Second, is to add your bicycle to your home inventory with your insurance company to ensure coverage.

Back to campus, insured and prepared

It’s almost that time of the year again. Have you noticed that leaves have started to turn yellow? It’s time to get ready to go back to school.

Before heading off to campus, there are a few preparations you’ve probably already started. But didn’t you forget something? Perhaps an insurance policy?

Make the time to contact your insurance professional and find out how much coverage your homeowners or renters insurance policy will provide for your child’s personal possessions if they’ll be living in a dorm. If they will be living off-campus, renter’s insurance is essential.

Create a “college inventory,” a master list of items your student plans to bring to school, along with their estimated value. Having this list will help greatly in the event you will need to fill a claim following theft, fire, or other disaster.

Typically, homeowners and renter’s insurance include protection for a student’s personal belongings (TV, clothing, furniture) away from home, if they live on-campus. However, some policies might limit the amount of coverage to 10 percent of the total amount of the policy’s overall coverage for personal possessions. Most likely, the terms of the coverage would be the same as for the primary home or renter’s policy, ensuring protection from perils like theft or fire. Remember: like a traditional home insurance policy, mishaps like spilling tea on a computer are not included.

Some items, such as jewelry, expensive musical instruments, and sports equipment may be subject to dollar limits under standard homeowners and renters policies. For these the student may need additional coverage, in which case you should acquire a floater or endorsement. The stand-alone policies provide higher amounts and broader coverage. Have you heard of “mysterious disappearance”? it means that even if the item is lost, you may be able to file a claim.

If your student has been driving the family car and will attend a college that’s at least 100 miles from home, talk to your insurance company. You may be eligible for a discount on your auto insurance. And as incentive for good grades, many auto insurers also give a discount to students who maintain strong standing at school—usually at least a 3.0 grade point average. Be sure to notify the insurance company if the vehicle will be kept in another location.

You might also want to look into tuition insurance. This coverage refunds a portion of semester tuition and on-campus room and board when a student withdraws at any time during a semester due to a covered medical reason.

School’s back in session: Dorm room essentials for college life

As summer winds down, eager college freshmen start to think about the adventure they’re about to begin. It’s time to get ready for college and move out of Mom and Dad’s house. Planning and organizing are essential, with an end goal of making the dorm room feel as homey as possible. Here’s a checklist we’ve created, thinking of you:


You’ll probably spend many hours studying late after dusk; be considerate towards your roommate and don’t disturb with the harsh overhead glow of the fluorescent lights. Take two lamps – one for your desk and one for your bedside. You can create a cozy environment with their gentle light.


A full-length mirror is a must have; you need to check your look before you leave the room, no?


Unfortunately, not all dorm rooms have pretty carpet or healthy hardwood flooring, especially the older ones which have cold, worn out tile. A rug can save the feel of the room by adding style and warmth. Make sure you check with the dimensions of the room, as well as with your roommate, to make sure yours fits.


Among the less glamorous aspects of life in a dorm room is the fact that you cannot control the temperature of the respective room. It is very likely that at some point during the year, the room will be freezing, and you’ll have your blanket to keep you warm.

Dorm Trunk

Remember that dorm rooms have limited storage space, choosing a stylish trunk will firstly help you carry your stuff in, but also will provide storage for bulky items, extra seating for friends, and even a lounge table.


Nothing says relaxation more than your bed. Need I say more?


You’ll discover that hooks are your best friends in the dorm room. Towels, backpacks, clothes, you’ll find plenty uses for every hook you’ll own.


Your parents’ homeowners insurance typically offers coverage away from home, including the dorm room. However, you should check what the policy entails: an HO-3 policy covers all perils not specifically excluded, while HO-2 covers 16 specified perils. Furthermore, the insurance agency should be notified in writing that you’re a student and are moving to a college room. Have your parents follow up on the written notification with a telephone call as the agent can provide valuable information.

It helps to know that off-premises coverage is usually 10 percent of the liability coverage. For example, the homeowner policy may show $300,000 coverage, but there may only be 70 percent of that in contents coverage – this is $210,000 on a $300,000 policy, thus the student will have $21,000 coverage, subject to a deductible. Once you’ve done the math, you’ll know if there is need for a rider for your student’s belongings, or a separate insurance.

Should you need a separate insurance, renters insurance may be the ideal solution. The advantage of the HO-4 policy is that a claim on the student’s renters policy won’t affect the rates of the homeowners policy. Furthermore, renters insurance will cover more of the student’s loss than the homeowner’s off-premise coverage, and also cover more.

The potential roommate: a conversation guide

At work the other day, one of my colleagues told us that she is looking for a roommate. She gave us some basic details about the apartment and I started thinking about the times when I used to share a rental with a roommate. I’ve had quite a few of them, so I decided to put down some important aspects I would want to discuss with any possible roommate, based on my previous experiences.

When referred to marriage, people often call it “taking the plunge”, but if you come to think of it, moving in with someone you know and love is somewhat less scary than moving in with a stranger. Whether you are the one looking for a roommate in your space or the one looking to get into a new place, there are important things that need to be discussed before taking your own plunge. Some might call it an “interview,” others a conversation, you choose.

1.   Does his/her occupation or financial situation allow them to pay the lease & utility bills?

Even though it might seem indiscrete, this is probably the most important thing you need to hear to have peace of mind. Knowing if they are unemployed, part-time or full-time employees will make it clear to you if you can rely on them that they will be able to pay for the monthly rent amount and utility bills on time. Furthermore, the ideal roommate will be willing to co-sign on your lease, thus making them hold responsibility for anything that happens in the apartment throughout your cohabitation. 

2.   Pets or plans of adopting one (two)?

A pet can be seen as another family member, and even though the community or landlord might be pet-friendly, chances are that you or your future roommate have allergies that don’t cope with the pet. It might as well be the case that one of you doesn’t see the pet as someone to share the apartment with.

3.   Night owl or morning bird kind of person?

Compatibility regarding the time spent sleeping is highly important as sleep takes up to one third of our lives. Sleep invigorates not only the body, but also the mind, thus the quality of sleep is highly essential. Ask your future roommate what they need to sleep. Some people need a completely silent, dark, and chilly room to sleep soundly; others have no trouble sleeping in less sleep-organized rooms. It is good information to know.

4.   Any allergies? Peanuts, perfume, milk, flowers, mold…

The best cure for allergies is prevention. A person who suffers of allergies will have to take some extra measures to ensure a friendly environment for their sickness. Dust, perfume, flowers, or foods, if allergic to them, can be harmless by simply avoiding them. Moreover, in case of emergency it’s good to know what to expect and how to react to an allergic reaction. If your future roommate is allergic to some kind of ingredients, you’ll be careful not to offer food that contains them and won’t be offended if they ask more than one time what it that you’re offering is. And vice versa.

5.   What is your definition of clean?

Here too the key to a happy cohabitation is compatibility. Some wash their dishes right after use, others leave the scrubbing part for when the sink is overflowing or there aren’t any more dishes to use. Some sweep the floors daily while others have never used a vacuum. Even more so, there are those who clean the house with bleach and there are those who make their own eco-friendly cleansers out of vinegar and baking soda.

6.   Social habits?

It is important that you know if your potential roommate will have frequent game nights that will turn into overnight guests. Furthermore, knowing if there’s a girlfriend/boyfriend in the picture is also something you want to know beforehand.

7.   Lifestyle habits?

Find out if they smoke, drink, or like to listen to loud music; decide which of those you are OK with.

8.   Extra sweaters or extra money on utility bills?

Ask about energy and water habits because here, too, people are different: some consider it madness to turn the light on during daylight hours, while others prefer to keep the climate at a nice, reasonable temperature all year round.

9.   Home décor and furniture items?

It’s true, in a rental it is a bit more difficult to express your artistic self as you’re restricted by the lease. However, there are various things you can do to make your rental feel like a home. But when sharing the space with someone else, there has to be collaboration in the common areas: kitchen, hallway, living room, and balcony/patio. Discuss and see whether there is room for compromise or if your tastes are completely opposite. Also, consider compiling a furniture inventory so you can see if you’ve got too many of one item or not enough of another.

10.                Renter’s Insurance?

Knowing the benefits of the protection plan offered by renter’s insurance, and having your future roommate share your belief in its value, will bring you both the much needed serenity at home. Theft or vandalism, fire and personal liability protection in case of slip and fall liability claims, as well as medical payments, which provides coverage for medical expenses, which ever happens your belongings will be protected by renter’s insurance.

Things to consider when looking for your next apartment

Most people look mostly at the big picture when searching for an apartment, especially first-time renters. Things like cost, safe surroundings, accessibility to transportation, and getting the best for that amount of money, are the highest up on the priority list. However, there are little things that mean a whole lot more than we’d imagine, which reveal their importance only when we notice we lack them.

1.   Storage space

People have more stuff than they think they do, me and you included. If you don’t believe me, check your closets or count your boxes next time you move. You will be surprised. Otherwise think a bit about this not-so-very-new anymore business with self-storage spaces, it has a valid reason behind it that makes it successful. More storage space is critical when searching for an apartment.

2.   Washer & Dryer

Think this is a luxury, when in fact, it is a necessity. Not to mention comfortable to do laundry whenever and without the grossing feeling that you’re washing your clothes where many other have, without really knowing how clean the laundromat is. Or that you spend a certain amount of money every time and the units don’t always work the first time.


3.   Less carpet

Carpet is very difficult to live with, especially if you have a dog, or allergies, or both. Furthermore, at the end of your lease you might discover that the people you hired to clean the carpet didn’t rise to the expectations of the landlord and you’ll be charged again for the job. Not really worth it.

4.   Outdoor space

A porch, a balcony, a terrace, a garden – anything out in the open is fantastic. A place to grow some plants, taste a relaxing tea, read a good book, enjoy the sun in the comfort of your own home.

5.   Hosting events

It’s all fun and games now to go out and socialize, but at some point you start appreciating more small personal gatherings. If, due to the size and shape of the living room, your apartment lacks the ability to host events like Thanksgiving or cocktail evenings, you will start feeling jealous of your friends’ space and will even feel the need to move into a new space that has this amenity.

6.   Receiving packages

If you’re into online shopping and live in an apartment that doesn’t have a doorman, you know what I mean. It’s much more complicated to receive packages from other than the United States Post Office and it has nothing to do with the other mailing services but with the fact that you’re not always there to pick them up.

7.   Renter’s insurance

This goes for any apartment you lease, be it the first, the second, or your last (because you’re hopefully moving into the ownership status). Renter’s insurance is the key to a peaceful life when living in a rental, protecting your belongings from different perils and your visitors from suing you in case of injury on your perimeter. Worth every cent.