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.

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.

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.

A little maintenance now, fewer problems later

Maintenance. It’s one little word that seems to require a lot of our time and effort. For that, we tend to avoid regular maintenance on the things that matter most. For renters, that simply isn’t an option.

two electricians working

As a renter, having basic maintenance issues resolved can be as easy as calling the management office. Even if you have to call back multiple times and send emails, it is important to get small issues fixed as soon as possible. If management is unresponsive, have electronic documentation of your efforts to contact them.

Why? Consider this scenario: every time that you turn on the light in the kitchen, you notice that the other lights in the home dim. You know that there is an electrical problem and you’ve contacted the office but you haven’t gotten a response, nor have you pushed for one. You turned off the light before leaving this morning, heard a strange click, but thought nothing of it as you rushed out of the door.

You returned that evening to nothing. Electrical problems lead to a fire. You and your neighbors have lost everything. Who is liable? Without documentation and proper insurance coverage it could be hard to pinpoint the responsible party in such a situation.

A little maintenance can go a long way when it comes to protecting yourself and your property from fire, flood, theft, and other dangers. Push for results from management and contact your insurance specialist to determine when it is appropriate to take matters into your own hands.

Should you insure your pet?

We all love our pets. Often a beloved dog or cat becomes as much a part of our family as a child or close relative. And when pets age, suffer accidents or start to have health problems, bills and emotions can quickly become complicated and overwhelming.

Dog and woman playing on a sofa

The value and care of your pet is not covered by your renters’ insurance policy (though your pet’s bed, toys, and other possessions are part of the contents of your apartment and are included). One option you may want to consider as you provide for your pet’s future is to purchase insurance for your pet.

Pet insurance is essentially the same as human health insurance – depending on the policy, it typically covers expenses incurred if your pet becomes ill, is hit by a car, or gets in a fight with another cat or dog and has their ear ripped off (by the way, please don’t let your pets roam around outside with no supervision – it’s a recipe for disaster).

The tricky part of pet insurance is figuring out whether the cost of the insurance (which can vary widely, depending on the type of pet you have and  how old it is) will be less than the coverage you’ll benefit from should anything ever happen to your dog or cat.

There are mixed opinions on this one. Many assessments conclude that the cost of pet insurance over a pet’s lifetime ends up about equal to the cost of the insurance premiums, so you might be better off setting the money aside and taking your chances.

However, if you want the peace of mind that pet insurance offers and know that you’re the type of person who would want to keep your pet alive in almost any foreseeable crisis, insurance might be the best route for you.

One disclaimer about pet insurance is that policies can be variable and finicky about what they’ll cover. For example, they will almost always cover your aging dog’s arthritis medication, but they might not cover a purebed pup’s heart condition, arguing that it’s a preexisting or genetic disease.

Before signing on to any pet insurance plan, be sure to do your due diligence and find out what you can expect from the policy you’re buying later on down the line. Hopefully you and Fido or Fluffy will have a long happy life together and never need to use that coverage at all.

Protect your Valentine’s Day Gift

It’s almost here. Little hearts adorn every window in the city, restaurants are booked well in advance, flowers, bonbons—Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. With the risk of being considered the antithetical of a romantic, allow me to call myself rational and give you some advice on how to ensure adequate protection for your new ring if you’re being proposed for marriage this weekend, because some of you will.

Jewelry losses are among the most frequent of all home insurance content-related insurance claims. Protect your precious possessions.beautiful diamond ring on a woman's hand

Contact your insurance professional.

First you need to know if you’ll need additional insurance. Most standard homeowners and renters insurance policies include coverage for personal items such as jewelry, but typically the dollar amount on the policy is limited to $1,000 to $2,000. Engagement rings are estimated to cost more so this limited coverage won’t be sufficient.

To ensure proper coverage, consider purchasing a floater or an endorsement policy. It even covers you financially for the so-called “mysterious disappearance”—when your ring falls off your finger and is flushed down a drain or is lost. Unlike homeowners policy, floaters and endorsement carry no deductibles, thus no out-of-pocket money is needed to replace the item.

First, you need two copies of the store receipt: one to forward to your insurer, so that they have the current value of the ring, and one for your own records. A copy of the appraised value of the item is also a good idea, especially for heirloom pieces. Ask your insurance professional to recommend a reputable appraiser.

Include it in your home inventory.

Remember to update your home inventory. If you don’t have one yet, why not celebrate your engagement by creating one with your fiancée?

Renters insurance

If you insist that you don’t think you need renters insurance, read this: a 2015 Insurance Information Institute poll conducted by ORC International discovered that 95 percent of homeowners had homeowners insurance, yet only 40 percent of renters had renters insurance. However, it seems that an engagement ring often triggers interest in getting a renters insurance policy for the first time, as many people start to think more seriously about financially protecting themselves after such a big event.

 

Safe and sane Super Bowl hosting

With the Super Bowl approaching, we thought it would help to offer some tips on how to host the event without opening too much to risky situations. In fact, regardless of the event that gathers your friends over, if you’re planning to serve alcohol, it is important to take steps to limit your liquor liability and make sure you have the proper insurance.

There is a legal term for the criminal and civil responsibility of a person who serves liquor to a guest—social host liability. Laws involving this liability vary widely from state to state, but it’s present in 43 states. The majority of these laws offer an injured person, such as the victim of a drunk driver, a way to sue the person who served the alcohol. Moreover, there are circumstances under these laws where criminal charges may also apply.

A social host will not be held liable for injuries sustained by a drunken guest as they are also both responsible and negligent, the host can be held liable for third parties. Yes, it sounds terrible, and yes, it’s important that you speak to your insurance agent or company representative about your policy’s coverage and exclusions, conditions or limitations, before planning your next party at home.

We’ve put together a list with tips to promote safe alcohol consumption to reduce your social host liability exposure:

  • Know your state’s laws. The social host liability laws vary greatly from state to state: some states so not impose any liability on social hosts; others limit the liability to injuries that occur on the host’s premises; some states extend the host’s liability to injuries that can occur after a guest leaves the party. All states have laws that forbid serving alcohol to minors.
  • Does it have to be home? If possible, consider venues other than your home for the party. Choosing a restaurant or bar with a liquor license will help you minimize the liquor liability risks.
  • Have a designated driver. This person will refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages so that he or she can drive everyone else home. If no one is willing to step up, encourage your guests to Uber to the party and back home again.
  • Be a responsible host. Lead by example and limit your own alcohol intake to at least be better able to judge your guests’ sobriety.
  • Serve non-alcoholic beverages and food, too. 
  • Know when to stop serving alcohol. Towards the end of the afternoon you can switch to coffee, tea and soft drinks.
  • Call a cab or prepare the couch. If your guests drink too much or seem too tired to head home, call a cab, request an Uber, or prepare the couch.