Renting from private parties (vs. property management companies)

What if your dream apartment belongs to an individual instead of a company? How does the procedure differ from renting from an individual as opposed to renting from a company? It’s a compromise: give the 24/7 maintenance, the workout room, and the community gathering spaces for a more personable, friendly, and flexible process.

Flexibility is the main benefit. Working one-on-one allows you to develop a relationship with the landlord and the option to negotiate the policies or whatever situation you might find yourself in. Whether it’s pet related or rent payment date, individual landlords might be willing to work with you. It may also save you money in some places: since you can negotiate, you may do so with the rent amount, or work out some trade situation.

Since they own the property, they have vested interest in the property’s condition, thus he may allow you to improve the living space, indoor or outdoor, for a discount on rent. If the two of you get along well, he will want to keep you as a tenant for as long as possible and probably enable you the possibility to avoid rent increases at renewal or even get a discount for signing a longer term contract.

Of course, there are also risks and many of them are unknown as every experience will vary, depending on who you are renting from and the terms you have agreed upon. A great risk is visible when you don’t have a contract/lease in your renting transaction. If the landlord doesn’t insist on having one, be very careful, investigate. It is as much in your protection as it is in his.

Make sure that the landlord actually owns the apartment as he might be renting it, in which case, check to make sure he has the right to sublet. And as in any case, sign a contract that you know you can follow through – contracts work the same with individuals as they do with companies.

Questions for the landlord:

  • What is the monthly rate? What utilities will you be paying for and how much?
  • How much is the deposit, if there is any?
  • What are your responsibilities?
  • What amenities are available to you – WiFi, laundry facility, maintenance?
  • How will the two of you manage situation in case of emergencies or if something breaks, are there any emergency expenses?
  • How long will the space be available to you?
  • Are they planning on selling the property?
  • Is he the owner of the property?
  • Are there any personal policies – noise or visitors related?
  • Are you the first renter or has someone else leased the apartment before you? – you might be able to find out more about the location, or about doing business with the landlord.
  • How much will the landlord be involved in your life? Will you see them every day or will they give you privacy?
  • What situations will make the landlord require access to your apartment?
  • Ask for a copy of the contract to take home and read it fully before signing it.

At all times make sure everything is clearly written down. Be aware of your move-in and move-out responsibilities. Don’t just look at the place, but try it out: operate the cabinets, test the faucets, flip the switches, turn on the air conditioner and heater; mainly check the little details to be functional. Of course, make sure any broken things are replaced or fixed before you sign the contract. Additionally, document the space: take pictures, write details, and have the landlord sign it. To make sure you really did your homework, research tenant rights in your area.

Regardless if you rent from a company or an individual, renter’s insurance should always be part of your plans. Remember the great benefits such a small amount of money will bring.

7 reasons why Millennials need renters insurance

As you’ve probably noticed in your group of friends, most Millennials rent, rather than own their home. There are many benefits to renting, but not needing insurance isn’t one of them.  While you don’t need homeowner’s insurance, you most definitely need renters insurance. Here are some of the essential reasons why:

  • Your landlord’s insurance doesn’t cover you. The insurance policy your landlord or property management company has only covers the structure itself. It does not extend to the valuables or furnishings you own.
  • It’s the only way you can protect your possession. You can and should all precautions against fire or theft and any other unwanted events, but no matter what you do, you can never be 100 percent safe. That is the nature of accidents. But with renters insurance, such as Resident Shield, you are protected against financial disaster should any of the following happen: fire, windstorm, theft, vandalism, smoke and lightning – even earthquakes if you live in California.
  • It protects you from liability. Say a potted plant from your balcony falls on a pedestrian. This makes you liable for the injury. Or you throw a party and a guest slips, falls and hurts himself.  Renters insurance will help you cover medical and legal fees in case you get sued. Resident Shield for example offers up to $100,000 of coverage against personal liability claims such as slip and fall injuries.
  • It protects you from animal liability. Which is quite handy should bite somebody or damage something in your unit or the community. Moreover, having renters insurance with animal liability coverage can help you secure a better apartment or even a unit in a community that isn’t very open to pets.
  • It will cover your living expenses after a claim. Should an unfortunate event make it impossible for you to reside in your rented unit, renters insurance will cover your living expenses for the duration of your displacement.
  • It’s cheap. Overwhelmingly people without renters insurance assume it to be very costly. That however is quite untrue. On average a policy will clock in at $300 yearly. In fact, Resident Shield will cover you for as little as 50 cents a day. A steal, especially when you factor in that in case of a claim, Resident Shield insure full replacement value for your personal property and that of your neighbors.

Peace of mind. Being in your twenties is stressful enough as you start out in adult life, especially financially. Renters insurance, at minimal cost and hassle, gives you peace of mind, knowing that should an unfortunate event happen, your finances won’t suffer

Memorial Day Safety

With Memorial Day fast approaching, you are likely scrambling to make sure that your home is ready for guests and festivities. The guest list is complete and the pantry is stocked but there is still one thing to keep in mind before you’re ready to party: safety.

Kids at the swimming pool

Creating a safe environment for your party will simply make your party better! Fewer worries means that you can relax and enjoy time with friends and family. Below is an easy to follow checklist of a few common safety concerns:

  • Grilling is a popular Memorial Day pastime. While getting the coals going may seem like your biggest challenge, there are a few other things to keep in mind. Avoid placing grills on inflammable surfaces. Even decks, particularly those that are painted or varnished, can pose a fire hazard when sparks and embers escape. At least one person should monitor the grill at all times and dispose of used coals properly.
  • When the sun sets, families often head out to local fairgrounds for fireworks. If you’ll continue the party at home, check local fire ordinances before using flares, sparklers, or fireworks. When conditions are dry, even the smallest spark can lead to danger.
  • To prepare your food safely, avoid cross-contamination. Use a separate cutting board for raw meats, fruits and vegetables especially if the fruits and vegetables will not be cooked.
  • Also be mindful of food allergies. Use a separate cutting board, utensils, and cookware when preparing items for those who suffer from severe allergic reactions.
  • Many kids love splashing and swimming in the water during Memorial Day celebrations. Unsupervised play is the leading cause of water-related injuries and fatalities amongst children. Ensure that there is at least one adult chaperone with children at all times and, at best, that a life guard is present.

Enjoy a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend.

Five reasons why renters insurance is recommended

Renters insurance is on the short list of insurances that are not a waste of money – and should be on your list of things to buy if you are living in a rented home.

Financial experts say that the low cost of renters insurance (premiums are typically based on the content valuation of your apartment), coupled with the typical benefits it provides should you need to submit a claim on your policy, make it a no brainer decision.

red umbrella showing renters insurance

Here are the top ten reasons why renters insurance is recommended for anyone who rents their home.

  1. It covers disasters. Like catastrophic medical insurance, it pays to have coverage for the day something completely unexpected happens. If your roof caves in tomorrow, exposing the entire contents of your apartment to a rainstorm, and your landlord doesn’t cover the damages, renters insurance will pick up the pieces, replacing your things.
  2. It covers crime. The activities of nefarious folks are impossible to predict and you never know when you might be the victim of a property crime at your apartment. No matter how well you lock your doors and windows, home burglaries have become more prevalent due to a more challenging economy. Prevent yourself, just in case.
  3. You don’t pay for anything you don’t already own. Because renters insurance is calculated based on the valuation of your personal possessions, you won’t feel like you are getting ripped off. Your premium is based on the contents of your home.
  4. Your possessions will often be covered by renters insurance if they are stolen or damaged while away from your home. When my boyfriend’s bike was stolen while he was inside the supermarket, renters insurance replaced it. When his cell phone was rendered unusable by the powers of an airport security scanning machine, it was also replaced.
  5. It’s not that expensive. Even if you have many nice things, renters insurance will typically cost you less than $30 a month. That’s a nice restaurant lunch, a bag of groceries, or half your monthly cell phone bill – a small price to pay for personal protection of the things you care about.

The essential senior renter checklist

America’s apartment market is seeing an influx of senior renters, who are choosing to leave their oversized, suburban homes behind, in favor of amenity-rich apartment communities. But however active seniors are, there are key factors you need to consider when renting an apartment, especially if you choose a non-age restricted community.

 

  • With over 200,000 accidents registered every year, most of them involving senior citizens, bathrooms are decidedly the most dangerous part of every home. When taking your walk-through in a potential new apartment, thoroughly check over the bathroom. ADA-compliant showers are definitely a something to look for – having a shower seat or bench gives you more comfort and security and the lack of a threshold makes getting in and out significantly safer. Also check if showerheads or mobile, or if you can easily install one.
  •  If the unit (also) has a bathtub, measure if there’s enough space to make use of a transfer bench to safely get in and out of the bathtub.
  • If you’re looking at an apartment outside of a senior housing development, chances are your bathroom won’t have any grab bars. Ask if you can install one (without losing your deposit).
  • Check if floors are non-slip. This applies for the entire house, not just the bathroom. Kitchen floor tiles or a highly polished hardwood floors can be hazardous.
  • Other features to look out for in a kitchen are lever-handle faucets and drawer-style storage and drawer style appliances (such as dishwashers).
  • Hallways should be a minimum of 36 inches wide to be accessible. It’s also recommended that they are well-lit. Adequate lighting decreases the chance of accidents, especially during the night. Motion-controlled light switches are ideal.
  • Light switches should also be in the 44 to 48 inch height range to be easily accessible from a seated position.
  • An accessible apartment should have doors with a minimum clear width of 32 inches.
  • Try looking for an apartment on the first floor or look for an apartment community with elevators. In case you’re looking to rent a townhome, orient yourself towards a home with a first-floor bedroom for minimum mobility challenges.
  • Even if your community doesn’t require renter’s insurance, do get a policy. For as little as 50 cents a day you can insure all your possessions against theft, vandalism, fire, windstorms, accidental injuries of guests at your residence, even additional living expenses, should you be forced to temporarily move out of your home as a result of a covered loss.

Do seniors need renter’s insurance?

If you have a grandparent that lives in a rented house or apartment, pay them a visit and ensure they have insurance protection. Not only will it be a wonderful gesture for a dear one, but you’ll also be at peace knowing they are safe.

Many seniors are retired and live on fixed incomes. If an accident or incident were to happen, it could be extremely difficult for them to get back on their feet. Even though they might say they don’t have much, it is known that older adults have valuable jewelry and family heirlooms they’ve collected throughout the years. It doesn’t matter that these items have a greater sentimental value than a financial one, it is still worth it to protect them with a basic policy.

If your parent or grandparent decided to sell or rent their home and move to an assisted living center, make them aware that they’re losing an important insurance protection – the personal liability insurance (the policy that protects the holders from financial losses when someone is hurt on their property or has personal property damaged). Most people have personal liability insurance through their renter’s or homeowner’s insurance policies, but it disappears when someone moves into an assisted living center.

The assisted living center has or should have its own liability insurance, it usually only cover the common areas. This means that if a visitor falls and gets injured in a resident’s room or apartment the resident could be forced to pay for medical expenses.

Let’s not forget about the pet bites protection that falls under personal liability coverage as well. Many assisted living centers allow and in fact encourage residents to keep small pets. Without liability insurance, they can be responsible for any medical expenses if a dog bites a visitor or if a cat scratches an employee.

How to create the perfect pet resume

Although a growing number of apartment communities are becoming pet-friendly, pet owners are still faced with an uphill battle when it comes to finding rental housing. An emerging trend of the past few years that aids pet owners in landing their dream rentals is the pet resume. You can find below all the essential points you should include in your pet’s resume.

  • Start off with a cute photo of your pet. A dog playing outside, especially with a child, will inadvertently send the message that your pet gets plenty of outdoor exercise and is great with kids.
  • Describe your pet, including what type of animal it is, breed, age, size. If he’s a mellow, laid-back pet, include it here. It can also prove very advantageous to include how long you’ve had your pet. A long-time ownership will make property managers more inclined to trust your knowledge and control over him.
  • Provide training info, such as whether or not he’s house-broken, leash-trained, obeys voice commands etc. Be sure to include any behavioral or obedience training he attended and include certificates of graduation.  If your dog has not attended obedience training, it might be smart to sign him up for classes at a local kennel club, SPCA chapter, animal rescue society or pet store.
  • Health and grooming. Be sure to mention if your pet is spayed/neutered and how this positively affects his or her behavior and overall health. Mention that your pets are up to date on their shots and provide your vet’s contact info.  Describe how you keep your pet clean and flea-free. Mention professional groomers you visit and the frequency of the sessions. It could be helpful to explain the grooming schedule. For example, a pug or shorthair Chihuahua won’t need to be shorn, whereas a poodle needs frequent professional grooming.
  • Activities. Describe how you provide the adequate amount of exercise for your pet, such as frequency of walks, visits to off leash parks, etc. This is also the place to disclose if you have a high-energy dog, such as a border collie, since you can offset that information by showing you provide plenty of activities to avoid your dog from running around and barking all day in your apartment. This is also the place to mention if you employ a dog walker and how often they will be visiting.
  • You will score major bonus points if you provide details of how your pets will be attended to when you are traveling or work very long hours regularly.
  • Mention how you always clean up after your pets and dispose pet waste in the safest way possible.
  • Include an About Us section at the end in which you detail why you or you and your roommates/significant other are good pet owners.  Mention if you are part of any animal protection organizations – this will elevate a landlord’s opinion on your capabilities to properly care for an animal. This is also the place to detail why your pet is so important to you, why you know your pet will be a good tenant and what your pet care history is (e.g. having grown up with pets around, having volunteered at a shelter, etc.). Be sure to include that you are happy to introduce your pet to any potential future landlords.
  • Mention that your renter’s insurance has pet liability coverage, such as Resident Shield’s dog bite provision. In fact, it might be smartest to opt for a pet insurance add-on , such as Resident Shield’s Pet Damage Coverage, that offers you $500 in liability in the event of Pet Damage to the apartment.
  • Include references. Attach your current landlord’s contact info and a letter of recommendation for your pet. Letters of recommendation from your groomer, dog trainer, neighbors, vet as well as a health certificate from your vet, will make both of you that more trustworthy and responsible. Don’t forget to include current phone numbers, so your potential new landlord can check your references easily.

4 storage ideas to keep your valuables out of sight

If you just moved into your first apartment and chose a hip, downtown location with limited square-footage, you probably know the struggle of having more stuff than fits your tiny new apartment.

While stacking cardboard boxes atop your closet or sliding them under your bed might (sort of) do the trick, there’s prettier, niftier and classier ways to organize the overflow of stuff: hidden storage. We can’t tell you how to build a Batcave in your 600-square-foot apartment to hide your valuables from prying eyes and sticky fingers, but we have gathered up a few neat hidden storage ideas for you:

-The bathroom can be made tidier by neatly tucking away all those beauty products that line your bath tub and sink. Create a sleek, oversized medicine cabinet: install a frame, add some narrow shelves and hinge your mirror. You can do this whether you have a small over-the-sink mirror or a full-length one.

-If your bathroom also doubles as a laundry room, you can easily create extra storage by lifting your washer/dryer off the floor with a simple frame and adding a few laundry baskets or some pretty, waterproof storage containers underneath. Use these to store laundry, detergent and other cleaning supplies

-While hiding important documents or rare jewelry in faux books is a murder mystery cliché, a new twist on the idea can actually prove very practical in saving space and hiding valuables. Pick up some old books from your local thrift store, remove the pages, glue the spines and two covers together so it looks like you have a tight stack of books. Use this to hide your perfume collection from your roommate’s nosy friend or, if you use old cookbooks, you can actually conceal some smaller kitchen appliances, like a toaster or blender.

-We all know how easily earrings, necklaces and all other jewelry get tangled up. An easy way to avoid that is by hanging them on a corkboard. However, you might not want to keep grandma’s heirloom pearl earrings or the necklace mom got you for graduation in sight of any who pass through your home, especially if you entertain often. An easy hack for this is to simply attach a picture the size of your corkboard with a few hinges to makeyour own personal safe. Of course, this or any other hidden storage area idea shouldn’t be your only line of defense against would-be burglars. If the worst does happen, and you are burglarized, having renter’s insurance will help cover the cost of your valuables.

Image courtesy of Mariana Esquivel Ortube via Pinterest

 

Six tips for a low-cost winter

There’s one part of winter that even the biggest fans of frost and mittens hate, and that’s the foot-long heating and electricity bills that arrive in your (e)mail. Just think about all the cozy sweaters you could get with the hundreds of dollars you shell out on keeping warm. We’re craving some fluffy knitwear too, so we came up with a few tips to save on bills this winter.

  1. Have a specialist check your heating system or submit a request to your property’s management for it.  For your heating system to properly and efficiently work, the air filters need to be clean. In fact, it’s recommended to replace filters once a month to ensure maximum efficiency. But that’s not all. Contrary to what many believe, you need to keep all vents open for your system to efficiently heat your apartment. Closed vents won’t save on energy – they’ll probably hike up your bill and even contribute to your heating system breaking, since they force it to work overtime.
  2. Install a programmable thermostat. There’s loads of gadget you can get, with some even allowing you to control the temperature with your smartphone. Whether you go super-high-tech or with a basic one, a programmable thermostat will save you heaps of money. Don’t forget to add the gadget to your renter insurance plan and keep the receipt, just in case.
  3. Think of it as vintage eco-friendliness and just add some extra blankets to your bed, instead of turning your thermostat way up high. Trust us, you can sleep as comfortable in long-sleeved PJs and two or three blankets and down comforters as in your favorite college T-shirt and just one blanket.
  4. What better way to keep you home warm, than stopping the cold from getting in? Draft can be a real money pit, especially if you live in older window. The quickest way to fix it is to get some draft stoppers for your doors and windows. If you’re crafty you can even make them at home using some stylish fabric and old clothes as filling. #upcyle
  5. With all those hours of darkness, lighting pushes your bills further up. There’s a bevy of ways to minimize its impact on your budget. First off, turn the lights off when you leave the room. Second, switch classic light bulbs with energy-efficient ones. CFLs are a good option, LEDs are even better.  If you really want to go green, get some solar lights that you can leave to charge in your window during the day and use as ambient light during the evenings.
  6. Hang thick drapes. Keep them snugly closed at night to keep the cold out. Throw them open during the day to let sunlight in. You can also turn your bed into a canopy, with some drapes. They will help insulate your bed and immediate sleeping area, allowing you to further inch down your thermostat during nights. As an added bonus, canopy beds are utterly stylish.

Determine your insurance needs for 2015

At the beginning of each year, the natural tendency is to review, modify, and renew habits, behaviors, and needs. Throughout the course of a year many things can change, so an insurance review is also recommended. Here are some aspects you can consider that will help you figure out if you need to talk to your insurance professional about making a change to your coverage.

  1. Marriage or divorce. Marriage can bring with it a discount on your auto insurance as couples can bring two cars in the relationship from two different auto insurance companies. Take the opportunity and review your existing coverage and chose the company which offers the best combination of price and service.
  2. New baby. Birth or adoption, it is important to review your life insurance and disability income protection. A new family member will increase expenses and your life insurance. Keep in mind that if you plan to save for your child’s education, life insurance can aid that plan. Moreover, don’t forget to update the beneficiary designations to include the new member.
  3. First time driver’s license for a family member. Rather than purchasing a separate auto insurance policy for your teenager, add it to your insurance policy as it is generally cheaper. The type of the car a young person is driving has a major impact on the price of the insurance. Furthermore, most companies give discounts for getting good grades in school and for taking certified driving courses.
  4. Significant change in your income. If your income has increased, (good for you) your financial commitments might have as well. Make sure you review the life and disability insurance to confirm that is adequate to maintain them. If your income has decreased, one way to deal with expenses is to cut your life insurance premiums. If you have more than one policy, you might be able to replace both with a single policy at a lower rate having reached a ‘milestone’ amount of insurance. However, do not drop your existing life insurance before you have a new one in place.
  5. New lease. Living in a rental means that your landlord is usually responsible for insuring the structure of the building, but your possessions fall under your responsibility. More precisely you need renter’s insurance if you wish to be covered against losses from theft and catastrophes such as fire, lightning, or windstorm damages. Aside from these, renter’s insurance includes liability and this covers your responsibility to other people injured at your home and takes care of legal defense costs, should you be taken to court.