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.

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.

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.

Lease is up – should I stay or should I go?

When your apartment lease is almost up, you might find yourself not knowing what to do: renew for another glorious twelve months or explore other options. In some cases it is easy – the place is exactly what you want and you’ll sign the renewal without any doubt; in other cases it is also easy as the place is so far from what you wish to call home that you’ll count the days until your move-out date. And then are those cases when you’re just not sure about what to do: your current place is decent, but you don’t love it. How do you organize your thoughts?

I’ve always started with the thing closest to me: the building itself and the location. Answer honestly why you don’t like your current place – is it a bit too small, or a third-floor walk-up? Does it lack the in-unit washer and dryer you so much desire, or the workout facility?

With apartment vacancy rates decreasing, finding that ONE apartment is becoming more and more challenging. If you are willing to pay more, your options multiply; if not… you might have to continue living without these amenities. However, if your problems are with an untrustworthy landlord or with neighbors who party three times a week, moving is the only solution that can solve them.

When vacancy rates are dropping, availability is scarce. In other words, it might not be very easy to find a suitable replacement; the great apartments are taken quickly. On the other hand, when vacancy is high and there are new places for you to choose from, moving and upgrading sounds like the thing to do.

Compare your lease amount with what’s available on the market. You will either find that you’re getting a deal on your modest one-bedroom or that you can save money by moving to a comparable place further down the street.

Analyze the roommate-situation. Do you have them? Do you like them? Would you rather live alone? Or is it the opposite, you’re tired of living alone and you’d rather share the living space with three other people? If the roommate situation is what troubles you the most – having more or less of them, moving to a larger or smaller space is the right choice. Remember the general rule of the thumb: the more people living in a house, the less each pays per month.

Check your finances. Know that on the short-term, moving means spending more. Moving itself means expense, while staying put implies none.

Review your income – if you’ve been promoted in the past year and received a raise (or improved your financial situation somehow else), perhaps you don’t want to renew and go for a real upgrade. For example, if you can ditch the studio and pay for a one-bedroom, do it!

Review your spare time as moving means apartment hunting, planning and then the move itself – and that means some serious dedication and amount of time. If one of your constant thoughts revolves around a new place, then you should probably find the time to move.

If you decide that a new place would make your life better, you should call your renter’s insurance provider and announce the change of address as soon as possible. Otherwise, review and renew not only your lease, but also your renter’s insurance.

14 tips for moving with pets

You’ve written list upon list, made calls, got boxes, tape and bubble wrap, prepping everything you can in advance for your move. Regardless how much prep-work you’ve done moving day is going to pack a pretty big stress punch. And while your pet won’t have to label, pack and oversee movers, your furry (or feathery) little friend might very well go through his own stressful rollercoaster. Here are a few tips to make moving as easy on your pet as possible.

Dog and woman playing on a sofa

  1. This one might seem obvious, but make sure your new apartment community is pet-friendly. You really don’t want to show up on moving day only to find out Fido isn’t welcome.
  2. Even if your community is pet-friendly check if they have any breed restrictions. It would also be wise to check with local government, especially if you’re moving to a different city or county.
  3. Make sure your renters insurance policy is up to date. Consider adding Pet Damage Coverage. It not only adds and extra safety layer, it will also make you look like a super responsible pet owner to your new landlord/property manager.
  4. If you’re moving far enough to need new animal health care services, ask your current vet for your pet’s medical records, especially vaccination records. Shot records might also be essential for your new apartment community to allow you to move in with your pet.
  5. Ask your current vet to recommend a new doctor, veterinary clinic and emergency pet hospital in your future location. If you current vet is unable to assist you request information from the state veterinary medical association. Tour your pet’s new clinic before committing and check how clean the kennels are, the staff’s knowledge and training, business hours, whether or not they offer emergency or boarding services.
  6. When you found a new veterinarian, ask if there are any health risks in your new area, such as heartworm.  Follow the doctor’s recommendations regarding preemptive medication, shots or avoiding specific areas in your new neighborhood.
  7. If your pet isn’t familiar with crate travelling or has a new crate, slowly train him up to get used to it. Forcing him inside a new, restrictive environment such as a crate, on moving day could skyrocket his stress levels. Make sure you get a comfortable, well ventilated, sturdy crate to keep your pet safe.
  8. Pack food and medications for about a week to have on hand. If your pet has special dietary needs, buy extra food, in case your pets’ specialty food isn’t readily available in your new location. If he’s taking life-saving medication, considering asking for an extra prescription from your current vet. Vets are forbidden to write medication prescriptions without a pre-existing doctor-patient relationship.
  9. On moving day, confine you pet in a quiet, safe, well-ventilated space, clearly marked as such – you can post a sign on a door or even lock it.  This way your pet will be separated from all the unusual activity, won’t feel (as) threatened by strangers and will have no occasion to slip away through a carelessly open door or window. Surround your pet with favorite toys, blankets, food and water.
  10. Update your dog’s collar with your new address and new phone number.
  11. Leave your contact information (new address, phone number, even vet contact info) with a few of your neighbors and your landlord. Should your pet get loose and make his way back to your old home, you’ll get word of it asap.
  12. If you trip takes more than a quick one-hour drive, regularly check on how your pet is handling travelling, if he’s got enough water and food, or if he needs a walk.
  13. As soon as you arrive to your new location put him in a similarly clearly marked safe area, surrounding him with the same comforts as right before the move. As soon as the strangers have left (movers, landlord, friendly neighbors) let him out of his seclusion to roam and explore his new home at will. If you own a dog, take him out for a quick walk as soon as he seems to be a little less apprehensive of his new surroundings. Make the walk quick, se he doesn’t get overexcited. Slowly increase the duration of outside walks every day, so your dog has time to readjust.
  14. Enjoy your new home!

Renter’s insurance has your back on vacation

Ah, summer, the golden months when all we want to think about is vacation. The summer escape, whether it’s a mountain cabin, a beach bungalow, or some city condo, is the sweetest relief.

Some of us travel light, using the occasion to satisfy shopping pleasure. Others consider heavy bags to be the sign of a happy vacation. Yet all that stuff we take with us – laptop, camera, sports equipment, musical instruments, jewelry – is not only heavy, but also valuable. What happens if these items are damaged or stolen while staying at a hotel or a vacation rental? For peace of mind, first determine whether or your luggage with its contents will be covered by your insurance policy in event of loss due to fire, theft, or some other unfortunate events.

Your renters or homeowners insurance most probably has “off-premise” coverage. In other words, your personal possessions will still be covered outside your home – regardless if it happens to have your property stolen from your car or your vacation rental. Furthermore, you will also be covered for the common perils such as fire, theft, vandalism, and hurricanes. However, if you put your bike on the roof of your car, don’t secure it properly and it falls down, most probably you won’t get a new bicycle under insurance coverage.

The Insurance Information Institute advises to check on the off-premises coverage as some policies limit it to 10 percent of the amount of coverage you have for your personal possessions. Specifically, if you have $100,000 worth of coverage for your personal items, you’d get only $10,000 for off-premises coverage. Check with your agent before you start your vacation. If your off-premise coverage is too low, you may want to consider raising your policy limits.

Depending on where you spend your vacation, be selective with the items you take with you. On the beach or on some mountain, you won’t need all that expensive jewelry or tech. Make an inventory of the things that make it in your luggage and keep it documented and detailed in case you have to make a claim for damage or loss. If you must travel with valuable items, consider adding a floater to your renter’s policy. This endorsement will cover the cost of specific higher-value items, whether at home or on vacation.



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