10 questions to ask before you rent

Think you’ve found the best apartment to rent? It’s spacious, reasonably priced, and designed to impress. What more could you want?! Well, a lot more, actually. It might be a good idea to go over a few specifics before signing the lease. Minor details may mean a lot if we’re talking money deducted from your security deposit for the nails you drove through the living room walls to hang your pictures.

Here is our list of 10 questions to ask your landlord or property manager before closing the deal.

  1. What are my payment options? Is there a secure way to pay rent online?
  2. Can I see the actual unit where I will be living? This shouldn’t be a problem, unless the previous residents have not vacated yet. Either way, you should thoroughly inspect the unit before moving in and make sure it’s everything your landlord advertised.
  3. What does my monthly rent include? Many apartment communities now offer a series of amenities which may be free of charge for residents. While you’ll probably have to pay for cable, natural gas, and electricity, you might catch a break on trash removal. If you’re lucky, you’ll find WiFi on the freebies list as well.
  4. Are there any security features that might help residents feel safe? If the rental apartment is located in a gated community, that’s definitely a plus. Other security features that you might encounter in urban apartment buildings include electronic access control, video surveillance systems, good lighting in the common areas, a visible security presence on site or a state-of-the-art alarm system – these are all good options that will help you feel safe in your home.
  5. Can I do some decorating? And re-paint partitions? Chances are you’ll want to make the place your own, so knowing where you stand with regards to remodeling permissions is a must. Some landlords simply require that you leave the rental unit in the exact same condition you found it when you moved in, and will accept nothing more than the normal wear and tear. Others may not be comfortable with any remodeling projects at all, so unless you have their written permission, it’s better to stick to decorating with throw pillows, potted greenery and other pretty items that won’t alter the premises in any way.
  6. What is your pet policy? Make sure to specify what kind of pet you’re planning to shelter. Some landlords promote their properties as pet-friendly but when you read the lease you find out that by pet they mean cats, bunnies, or fish. Fido is nowhere to be found on that list. What about visiting pets? Will you be able to babysit your sister’s Beagle when she’s out of town? And if the answer is yes you should also inquire about the extra pet security deposit which is usually required to cover any damages brought about by four-legged companions (dog owners know well what we’re talking about here: wrecked floors, scratched doors, ripped patio screens, upsetting neighbors with barking in the middle of the night, etc.
  7. Where can I park my car? Needless to say free parking would be awesome. Renting a parking space can amount to a couple of hundred dollars per month in big cities, so landing a rental home that includes parking in the monthly rent would be both convenient and cost-efficient.
  8. How do you handle maintenance requests? Is there a property manager on site who can take care of work orders? Or an online resident portal for submitting requests? Find out which procedure you’ll need to follow should you experience leaking faucets, mold problems, or bug infestation.
  9. What is your policy on subletting? That’s something that you want to know, just in case you have to get out of your lease due to unforeseen circumstances, like moving to rejoin a life partner or deciding to pursue a job opportunity that is 2,000 miles away.
  10. What is the total cost of the move-in? In addition to the first month’s rent, deposit, and any extra fees that might apply for pet owners, there may be a rental application fee that covers the cost of the background and credit checks. This is something that most responsible landlords take care of before approving you as a tenant, but you just might encounter one who surprises you with it later.

Also, it would be wise to take photos of every room, including close-up shots of any damages, defects, and faults that you notice while doing the initial home inspection.

You can even jot these questions down and keep the printed checklist if you decide to make that particular apartment your new home.

P.S. Once you settle in, it’s important to consider other things as well, including getting renters’ insurance which will protect the contents of your home against a wide variety of mishaps, including fire, lightning, smoke or theft. It even comes with a personal liability clause which provides protection in case of all sorts of accidents, from slip-and-fall injuries to liability provision for dog bites.

It’s still hurricane season: protecting yourself and your possessions

For another two months or so, hurricanes are still a threat to homes in many of the United States, bringing powerful winds and heavy storms. Their power of destruction can be incredible: 2012’s Superstorm Sandy caused more than $68 billion in insurance claims across 24 states.warning sign of bad weather ahead

Homeowners know very well what steps they need to take to keep their homes on the safe side, but renters seem to be lagging behind. Do you know how to keep your possessions and house safe in case of tropical storm or hurricane?

1. Get renter’s insurance

No, your landlord’s homeowners insurance will not cover your belongings. Even if you’re just renting a room in a shared house, the coverage only protects your landlord’s furnishings, while your property is specifically excluded.

If you are renting the entire house, your possessions still won’t be covered without renter’s insurance. However, the additions and alterations made by the tenant to the property may be covered up to 10 percent of the home’s coverage limits for contents. Storm screens or carpeting are examples of addition and alterations. Make sure the policy you are purchasing specifically includes hurricane coverage as renter’s insurance policies provide coverage only for the types of situations that are explicitly names on it.

2. Create a home inventory

The next step, following the renter’s insurance purchase, is to make a home inventory of all your belongings to have it in case you need to file a claim in case of loss or destruction during a hurricane. The inventory should include photos of the items, estimated purchase dates and values, the brand name and model, and, if possible, copies of the receipts. Also, taking a photo of the receipt is another valid option to keep these records.

It’s important to keep your inventory safe from fire; a modern way, and a very secure one, is to create a digital file of the inventory that you can save online and can be accessed from anywhere.

3. Discuss with your landlord about measures to protect the home in case of a hurricane

As a renter, you have no responsibility to protect the property, unless your lease agreement states otherwise. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make sure the place you live in is not as wind- and storm-resistant as possible; talk to your landlord about precautionary measures to protect the dwelling.

FEMA recommends securing the roof with wooden planks running along the underside of the roof in the attic, known as truss bracing. Doors can be strengthened with reinforcing bolt kits and windows and glass doors can have added storm shutters. Perhaps some of them you can add yourself, but others might require professional skills in which case hiring a contractor is the best option.

Some local governments require homeowners to assure some or all of these measures, so you might want to look into seeing if the dwelling you’re renting meets the requirements of the region you live in. if you discover that they don’t, it’s your legal right to demand them from your landlord.

4. After hurricane damage, you might receive some help to recover from the loss

If you disregarded the first tip on this list and didn’t get renter’s insurance to protect your valuables, or perhaps lost items that weren’t in your renter’s policy, you may be eligible for a low-interest disaster assistance loan of up to $40,000 to repair or replace articles including clothing, furniture, appliances, and cars destroyed or lost during the super storm. You can apply for a disaster assistance loan here.

Three reasons why every football fan should have renter’s insurance

One of the many joys of the arrival of fall is the NFL fall football season. If you’re a true football fanatic, ‘tis the season to be jolly. Whether you’re pumped for the Patriots or cheering for the Chargers, you’ll surely have friends over for some beer and football. Although renter’s insurance might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re planning your next football viewing party, we’re here to show you why it’s as essential as the perfect salsa dip and high-def flatscreen.

  1. Speaking of that flatscreen, it cost a small fortune, right? I mean, if you can’t see your favorite team crush the competition on a stadium, you should at least watch it on a high definition TV set with a diagonal that would give some theatre screens a run for their money. We know you take good care of it, but the nature of accidents is that they’re unpredictable. What if lightning hits and fries your precious connection to the world of football? Well, if you have renter’s insurance, it will help pay for the repairs or a replacement.
  2. Beer. Yes, beer is one of the main reasons you should have a renter’s insurance policy as a football fan. Just think about it. You have a couple of friends over, your favorite team is winning, your popping brewskis and before you know it, everybody’s had one too many. Now we all know how even a bit of alcohol can make you accident-prone. Suddenly someone loses their balance, falls down and sprains an ankle or breaks an arm. And they’re blaming you and your supposedly slippery floors. That could get you into trouble, especially if your friend needs a visit to the ER and the medical bills pile up. Resident Shield covers accidental injuries of guests while at your residence and does it for as little as 50 cents a day. A bargain!
  3. Now let’s be honest and admit that some football fans can get a bit out hand. Like Jim from 12D, who can’t get over the fact that the Falcons just got crushed by the Vikings. And every time he sees that Vikings sticker on your door he inches closer to the edge. One day you come home to find your door ajar and every bit of Vikings memorabilia smashed, ripped or spray-painted. After going through the necessary motions with the authorities of course, you’re still left with a disaster.  If you have renter’s insurance however, you’re covered in case of vandalism. Even though nobody can replace the memories tied to all that was destroyed, renter’s insurance will cover the damage, helping you buy new reminders of mind-blowing touchdowns and last-minute wins.

Now go get renter’s insurance before the next big game, and host the most epic football viewing party ever! Geaux New Orleans Saints!

Only you can prevent apartment fires

Fall is now upon us and heating systems are turned on, fireplaces crackle and candles are lit to chase away the dark and cold hours. But the comfort of warmth and light can come with a price. According to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2012 97,000 fires were reported in apartment buildings alone, claiming the lives of 380 civilians, injuring 4,050 and causing $1.9 billion in property damage.

While renter’s insurance provides you with a safety net should the worst happen, it’s still safer to prevent. In observation of National Fire Prevention Week, running Oct. 5 through 11, here are a few tips to keep yourself, your loved ones and your property safe.

fire in apartment complex

  • Did you know that “Working Smoke Alarms Save Lives” is this year’s National Fire Prevention Week theme? Check if your fire and carbon monoxide alarms are functional and operating. Be on the lookout and replace batteries in time.
  • If your apartment has a sprinkler system, ask your property manager when they were last inspected.
  • Check if your heating system works properly. If it makes weird sounds or you smell something out of place, shut it down (if it’s no danger to you) and contact your landlord and the appropriate authorities.
  • If you use alternative heating sources, such as space heaters, make sure they are always three feet away from anything that can burn. Always turn them off when you leave the room or go to bed. Always plug them directly into an outlet, never use an extension cord.
  • Make sure the insulation is intact on all your chords, appliances, light fixtures and any other gadget that runs on electricity. Short circuits are one of the most common fire sources.
  • Always use light bulbs with the correct wattage.
  • Never use extension cords for large appliances such as refrigerators or washing machines.
  • If your apartment has a real fireplace, make sure the chimney has been recently cleaned.
  • Always place candles in stable holders, far from flammables and never leave them unsupervised. If you have pets, be especially careful or simply switch to flameless candles.
  • Did you know that pets start around 1,000 fires every year? According to the Chicago Metropolitan Veterinary Center, it’s true. Put candles and chords out of their reach and remove or lock stove knobs. Although Pet Damage Coverage can help you pay for the damage, prevention is still easier.
  • Fall is also the time to celebrate one of America’s favorite holidays: Thanksgiving.  It is also the day with the highest number of residential fires in the entire year.
  • In fact, according to the Unites States Consumer Product Safety Commission, the number of cooking fires triples on Thanksgiving Day. So remember your basics: don’t cook when you are tired or distracted, never wear loose-fitting or flammable clothing (i.e. high in polyesters), keep your cooking surface clean and uncluttered,  never leave cooking unattended and always make sure all sources of fire and heat have been turned off and put out before sitting down for dinner.

Welcome fall into your apartment

Fall has officially arrived with its many unique joys: pumpkin patches, football, Halloween candy, scarves, Thanksgiving and burning fireplaces.  Here are a few tips on how to welcome fall in your apartment.

Whether you bought that giant flat screen to enjoy football season or to be thoroughly scared by all the goriness of the new season of The Walking Dead, be sure to update your renter’s insurance.  Should anything happen to your home theater system, renter’s insurance will help replacing it so you don’t miss one moment of Darryl and his awesome crossbow skills.

Take a few hours to thoroughly inspect your apartment. Do you have a window that doesn’t close properly? You could be providing an unwanted visitor with easy access to your belongings. Has the insulation around it worn away? Rain could get in and before you know it, cause damage not only to the apartment but your personal property as well. Put in a maintenance request with your community and have it fixed before anything happens. You should also check if the heating system works properly, whether you have any leaking pipes and in what shape your fireplace is. While renter’s insurance has your back in case of misfortune, prevention is still safer. If you own any extra sources of heat, i.e. space heaters, check if they’re compliant with your community’s regulations and if they work properly and safely. Never, ever improvise when it comes to heating.

With the decreasing hours of light comes the temptation to light up all the candles you own. By all means, go for it, just be sure to place them in stable holders, far from flammable materials, never leave them unattended and never fall asleep with them still burning. Be extra careful if you own pets, especially cats. They might accidentally knock them over, while investigating the mysterious source of light. Consider buying flameless candles.

If you’re a true fall fanatic, you’ll be doing some redecorating to bring the most awesome season into your apartment. Acorns, dried leaves, flowers and plants, pine cones, pumpkins and even a smaller hay bale (hello rustic new couch!) could find their way into your apartment.  Before bringing anything home though, be sure they’re not poisonous for your pet or small enough to be swallowed and cause internal damage. Be careful how you decorate with them as well. While those bright red maple leaves you strung from your chandelier look extra stylish, Captain Meowington might be tempted to pull them down. Along with your chandelier.  And even though you have Pet Damage Coverage, you really don’t need the hassle of getting them replaced.

Now go throw some marshmallows into a cup of hot chocolate and enjoy the smell of your pumpkin spice candles while you cheer for your favorite football team – go New Orleans Saints!

Nine back-to-school shopping tips

It’s that time of year again – for parents across the US, back-to-school stress might be on the brain.  Here are a few shopping tips on how to tackle one of the most stressful activities of the start of the school year.

  • Sit down with your kids and make an inventory of their belongings. Sort through outgrown clothes, see which can be passed down to younger siblings or donated, which are too worn and make a list of items that need replacing.
  • Not everything needs to be replaced just because it’s a new school year. Shop smart when it comes to items that can have a longer life, such as backpacks and instrument cases. Take children’s passing whims into account as well. For example, Jimmy’s backpack doesn’t necessarily have to feature the comic book hero of the moment, because six months from now, he might be over it and the $50 backpack.

  • Set a fix budget and stick to it. Explain to kids, especially younger ones, what is needed and essential and what is a whim – i.e. store brand pencils and notebooks are as efficient as the ones featuring the boy band of the moment. This will help avoid in-store melt downs and impulse purchases.
  • If you and your partner have a busy work schedule during the week and the kids aren’t old enough to safely handle doing laundry, buy a generous stock of everyday basic items such as socks, to avoid those dreaded mornings that start with “Mom!/Dad!I don’t have any clean…”
  • Check if your state has a sales tax holiday. If it does, schedule your shopping outing accordingly and you might save significantly on supplies, clothing and footwear.
  • Although modified and year-round schools are increasing in popularity, 86 percent of US students still attend classes within the traditional school year system. That means hordes of anxious parents with kids in town flocking to the mall. Avoid the swarms by shopping online or hitting the stores early. The latter also ensures you get dibs on all the best choices.
  • Check with the school for classroom supply lists. If you know what extra-curricular activities your kids will attend, ask about supplies and equipment. While you might not manage to buy exactly everything, you at least won’t have to scour the city for a flute or a quality lacrosse stick.
  • Save all your receipts. Last-minute changes can happen and it’s good to have all your bases covered.  Also, should something unfortunate happen to your apartment, receipts can be very useful when filing a renter’s insurance claim.
  • Look over your renter’s insurance policy and update if necessary. Update your record of possessions, especially if you’ve purchased big ticket items such as computers, laptops, musical instruments, sports gear and bikes.

10 “Safe and Sound” questions to ask at your apartment

So you’re renting a new apartment or home. Congratulations! You’ve probably already covered the basics with your leasing agent or property manager, but these 10 questions you may not have thought of. Ask them, and take appropriate action based on the responses, to make sure you’ll be safe and secure in your new home.

couple in  front of one-family house

 

  1. What phone number should I call, after 911, in case there is an emergency situation in or on the property of my new apartment?
  2. What is the emergency evacuation plan created for my new apartment complex? Where is the nearest hospital?
  3. Where is the neighborhood’s nearest emergency shelter facility?
  4. Where are the nearest industrial size fire extinguishers located in proximity to my unit?
  5. Does my property management company carry a mandated umbrella renters insurance policy for my complex that I can pay into? (If not, be sure to purchase your own individual renters insurance policy.)
  6. Is there storage available for the apartment that’s not attached to my unit? How is it secured and can I change the lock code or combination to a personal, secure preference? (Be sure to include the contents of your on-site storage in any renters insurance cost estimate.)
  7. Does my new complex have emergency contact information on file for me – in case something happened to you, or to your apartment, would they be able to reach you if you were at work or traveling, or contact another person who could reach you?
  8. Am I storing my most important and valuable possessions in a safe deposit box? Some items, like birth certificates, passports, heirloom jewelry, savings bonds and other vital documents, are not recommended to be stored in the home.
  9. If I do have extremely valuable items in my apartment, are they stored in a secure fireproof safe? A small safe can be a storage alternative that will protect your belongings in case of fire or flood.
  10. Have I updated my renters insurance policy from my old apartment? Don’t forget to do this each and every time you move, or your policy may lapse.

Congratulations, and may yours be a safe and happy home.

Transferring renter’s insurance to your new apartment

Moving to a new location doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll need a new insurance policy or provider. With Resident Shield, it’s easy to transfer your coverage to your new home.

couple moving

Within the State

Moving into a new apartment is hectic enough without worrying about your renters insurance. (You just want to make sure that the rental truck delivers all of your possessions promptly and intact!)  To make life easier, Resident Shield has created a convenient system for transferring your policy to your new apartment. Simply give us a call at 1-800-566-1186. A specialist will note your new address and you’re done! Resident Shield will send a proof of insurance document to the new management office on your behalf.

It’s common to buy new items when moving to a new apartment. When you call, notify the representative of any recent purchases such as appliances, entertainment equipment, furniture, etc. These could increase the estimated value of your possessions. You’ll want to make sure that they’re covered, too.

Out of State

Renters that relocate out of state can follow the same procedure. Give us a call with your new address and any additions and we will handle the rest. Keep in mind, however, that premiums are different from state to state. You may experience an increase or decrease in your premium once you move, though your coverage remains the same.

New roommate

If your change in location has also resulted in a new roommate, let us know immediately. Up to two adults roommates (including spouses) can be placed on your policy as insured persons. It is important to keep this information up to date to ensure proper coverage.

Facts about renter’s insurance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greet summer with an updated home protection plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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