HOW TO DOCUMENT YOUR BELONGINGS FOR RENTERS INSURANCE
By now, many responsible tenants know the importance of renters insurance.
Policies can save renters thousands in the event of damages caused by personal negligence or unforeseeable threats to the property. Knowing that you have the right renters insurance policy can offer you a great deal of peace of mind, and will allow your landlord to rest easy knowing his property is fully protected in the event of an accident for which you are financially responsible.
However, having the proper renters insurance policy is only half the battle. The other half is knowing what you will need in order to file a claim on your renters insurance policy. This starts with having prepared an inventory of your belongings.
CREATE A COMPREHENSIVE INVENTORY OF YOUR THINGS
Your policy’s effectiveness is largely based on how well you have documented what you own. It’s not enough to simply take out a policy and forget about it the next day. Instead, you need to create a list of your household belongings–most especially those of a higher dollar value. Naturally, this list needs to be kept in an off-site secure location since it will not be useful to you if the list was damaged in the event that is causing you to make a claim.
Thankfully, in the days of mobile apps and cloud services like Google docs, this process has become a lot more streamlined than when you had to handwrite a list and invest in a safe deposit box. Apps like Sortly, Encircle, and iKeepM all can be useful in tracking your stuff to ensure you can file a claim easily in the future. Some insurer websites also provide free inventory services, so be sure to check with your renters insurance provider.
DOCUMENT THE DETAILS OF YOUR ITEMS:
While a comprehensive list is vital, it is not all that your insurance provider may require when responding to a claim. Many times, an insurance company or other parties will ask for supporting documentation above and beyond your inventory list. This is especially important in cases of theft since police reports and your insurance claim can rely heavily on properly documented serial numbers.
Take photographs of any of your items that possess serial numbers, or simply write the numbers down next to the item on your lists. One good rule of thumb is to always keep shopping receipts for valuable items. If you don’t want to store all of these little papers, simply take a photograph of the documents or use a receipt storage application for easy future reference. Be proactive in documenting the value of your items.
TAKE VIDEOS AND UPDATE YOUR LISTS:
As life goes on, your belongings will change. Things you once owned will wear out and some will be tossed, donated or sold. Likewise, you will acquire more items–and over time–often will acquire more quality replacements of those past belongings. This means you should be continually updating your inventory of items (once or twice a year is ideal), and should also consider a yearly video documenting the things in your home to ensure there are items that you did not miss.
Should a fire, robbery or other claim-creating situation occur, you will be able to easily reference the video and ensure that you are not forgetting what items you had at the time. During this process, it is also a good idea to compare your new list of items (and their respective replacement values) with your current renters insurance coverage.
Chances are, the policy you took out when getting your first apartment in college will not cover all of the higher-dollar-value items that you may have acquired as a working adult in your latest rental. To ensure that you will not be stuck in the lurch if a disaster strikes, reevaluate your coverage yearly and look into your provider’s policies regarding items that may appreciate in value (like heirloom jewelry or a coin collection) as these items may need an additional insurance rider in order to be fully covered.
Having renters insurance is one of the markers of a responsible tenant, and can hint at the qualities landlords look for in a tenant. And while you may know the many benefits of renters insurance, and may even know that coverage is often cheaper than most renters think, it can be easy to feel that having a policy of any kind will ensure that you are properly covered. In the end, however, keeping an inventory of your items and matching your policy to your current lifestyle is key to guarantee that your items will be covered the way that you expect.
THE REAL COST OF LYING TO YOUR LANDLORD
You may have heard the parental admonishment “my house, my rules” at one time in our life, and when you’re renting, there’s no doubt this phrase can still apply in some sense. Thankfully, as adults, it is a much more understandable concept to swallow than it may have been at 15-years-old.
A good tenant remembers that while the home or apartment they are leasing is their living space, in the end, your landlord is entrusting you with their property. It is imperative to be mindful of that fact.
Whether it’s a seemingly small fib or a knowingly bald-faced lie, lying to your landlord can have significant consequences. Failing to follow every last detail on the lease agreement may seem innocuous, but it could have lasting damage—to your relationship with your landlord and to your pocketbook.
THE LIE: LATE RENT
Telling your landlord that “the check is in the mail” may roll off the tongue, and a ‘white lie’ might seem prudent, at the time, but as they say “honesty is the best policy.” If you caught a gruesome flu that kept you home sick, and you know that your paycheck will be short, it might be tempting to wait it out—and hope your landlord doesn’t notice that your rent is overdue—or simply tell them that the check is on its way.
The Cost: Rental fees can add up, and can eventually land you in hot water. If you are consistently failing to pay on time, it can even result in eviction. Not to mention, even a first-time-fib can undermine your landlord’s trust, and ensure tension down the road. Rather than waiting for your landlord to call, and falsely replying that the check is in the mail, be proactive and contact your landlord as soon as possible. If he or she has advance notice, you might have given them the ability to arrange their finances accordingly. They may be willing to grant you some grace by waiving the late fee, or allowing you to pay this month’s rent in increments.
Find out more about what to do if you can’t pay rent on time. A good rapport and a past history of on-time payments will greatly work in your favor if you ever run across an instance like this.
THE LIE: PETS
Hiding a pet may seem simple in the moment, but it could cost you more than just an unpleasant conversation with your landlord. If your co-worker has puppies for sale, think before you stock up on puppy chow.
The Cost: Animals can cost untold damages to property – untrained dogs can chew carpet, animal accidents can be nearly impossible to fully remove, and pets can bring in fleas and other pests requiring extermination. If you chose to hide a pet, you can be liable not only financially, (requiring that you pay fees and/or forfeit your deposit) but you can even be evicted for breaking the lease.
If you already have a pet you can’t live without, look for a pet-friendly rental from the start. If you recently found that you would like a pet, speak to your landlord before taking any action. If you have proved to be a responsible occupant throughout your tenancy, your landlord might find it as simple as adding a pet deposit to your current lease. If not, stick to the truth and live by your rental agreement.
THE LIE: SUBLETS
Hiding roommates or unapproved subletting can also put you in just as great a risk. While it may just seem like a formality, landlords have a specific vetting process for before agreeing to tenant residency, and allowing a friend or significant other to bypass that without your landlord’s knowledge can set you up for trouble.
The Cost: If your friend goes from a part-time invitee to a full-time roommate without your landlord’s knowledge or consent, you risk breaking the rental agreement, and forfeiting your security deposit. If your name is on the lease, and your roommate causes damages, you could even be setting yourself up for a potential lawsuit. If you and your best friend or significant other decide you are ready to room together, make sure you have formal consent from your landlord before allowing them to stay long-term.
It might seem easier to tell a lie at the moment, but clearly, it is best to remain honest throughout your tenancy. A good tenant-landlord relationship goes a long way, and having a great referral ready for your next rental is indispensable. Lying just isn’t worth the short-term stress, or the long-term cost.
Norbert G. Huston, Broker/Realtor
WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN BUYING A RENTAL PROPERTY
If you’re considering entering the rental game and adding “landlord” to your title, then you’ll want to educate yourself on the various pros and cons of this business endeavor. Becoming a quality landlord as well as a successful one who actually sees a return on their investment, takes quite a deal of patience, effort, and savviness. Avoid mistakes when purchasing a rental property that may end up costing you more than you bargained for. Turn to these tips of what to look for when buying a property to help give you an advantage when shopping around.
DON’T: LOOK FOR A FIXER-UPPER
All of those popular home improvement reality shows make buying a rundown home look so glamorous and fun. Beware of signs that the fixer-upper you’re being shown is a mistake. Buying a fixer-upper may be cheap in the beginning, but transforming it into a gorgeous and livable home isn’t a project for the inexperienced. Unless you’re particularly blessed with an ability to perfectly execute large scale home improvement projects, you’re going to need to rely on professionals, which will add up and gradually deplete the value of your return.
DO: LOOK FOR A HOUSE WITH MINIMAL REPAIRS
This type of house may be more than your traditional fixer-upper, but you won’t have to worry about investing in a handful of expensive repairs. If the property needs some tlc, look for a home that is priced under the average market price to still feel as though you’re getting a deal with your investment.
DON’T: LOOK WITHOUT CONSIDERING LOCATION
Even if you find the perfect house to invest in- it’s affordable, below market price, has minimal issues- you could be left struggling to fill it with tenants if it’s located in an undesirable location. No matter the amount of effort that you put into a home, if the house itself is far away from the majority of jobs or has a considerable drive to major grocery and department stores, then it may be seen as too much of a hassle for those looking to move in.
DO: LOOK FOR A PROPERTY IN HIGH-TRAFFIC AREAS
Buying and renovating a rental property within an area that has a thriving rental market will increase your chances of receiving a large return on your investment. Purchasing a property within this type of area will provide an advantage, as most people flocking to this location are looking for rentals. Additionally, choosing an area that caters to a renter demographic may also give you an edge. Young professionals, those with travel heavy occupations, or those needing a place close to a college or university are in the market for rentals specifically.
DON’T: SETTLE WITHOUT INVESTIGATING “MINOR” DAMAGES
If the property you’re looking at requires minor repairs to pipes or needs a simple water heater replacement, calling in a plumbing professional will have this issue fixed in no time. However, don’t take the “minor” issue at face value. If there are detected leaks in the house, there may be potential water damage that can be much more serious, time-consuming in its repair, and especially costly.
DON’T: FORGET TO CHECK GUTTERS AND INFRASTRUCTURE
If the gutters were not maintained throughout the winter, your rental property could be (or already has been!) the potential victim of flooding. Check gutters to see if there are any signs of cracks or severe dents caused by harsh weather and ice. Survey the base of the house for any cracks that may allow flooding brought on by damaged gutters to pool up and seep into the foundation of the home.
DO: VISIT THE HOUSE DURING AND AFTER RAIN
If you do see cracks in the gutters or base of the home, be sure to visit the house during or after moderate to heavy rain to check if flooding occurs. This can additionally help you gauge if there may be water damage within the infrastructure or basement that is worth investigating further. This is especially important if the property has a finished basement, as potentially dangerous substances like asbestos may have been used in tiling or ceiling insulations. Water damage can cause asbestos to become airborne, which can be a liability as a landlord should a tenant become sick. Inquire about the timeframe in which the house was built- older homes constructed before the mid-eighties are most likely to have asbestos present. Age may be helpful in identifying if this may be an issue!
DON’T: OVERLOOK COSMETICS
If the house is in a great location, doesn’t require major repairs, and you can get an awesome price for it, don’t assume that this means you’ve hit the jackpot with the perfect rental property. If the house looks outdated, the yard itself is dingey, and the inside needs some updates, potential renters might be less likely to pay a price that will help you see a return.
DO: LOOK FOR A PROPERTY WITH SMALL BLEMISHES
Look for a property with cosmetic faults that can be easily updated, especially on your own. Houses that have one or two rooms with old, worn out wallpaper can be taken down and repainted within a single weekend, and at little cost to you. Use DIY tips to redo kitchen cabinets that are outdated but in good shape, such as repainting, installing new pulls and knobs, or putting on a fresh, modern cabinet door.
Although there is a long list of things to keep in mind when searching for your rental property, don’t be deterred from making this investment. Having a rental property may be similar to running a small business but it is entirely possible to be wildly successful in your endeavor. Taking your time while searching for the perfect rental property, and being mindful of some simple dos and don’ts will have you on your way to being a great landlord.
Effective September 1, 2019, weekends and court holidays will no longer count in calculating the time periods for the following tenant notices in California:
- Notice to Pay Rent or Quit
- Notice to Perform Covenant (Cure) or Quit
- The five-day period in which a tenant has for filing an answer to an unlawful detainer summons
Starting on September 1st the three days must exclude weekends and court holidays. For example, under the current law, a tenant who is given a three-day notice to pay rent or quit on a Friday would be required to pay by Monday. Under the law effective September 1st, Saturday and Sunday would not be counted towards the three days, so the tenant would have until Wednesday to pay.
The new law also applies to the five-day period that tenants have to respond to service of an unlawful detainer summons and complaint. A tenant served with an unlawful detainer summons will now have five days excluding weekends and holidays to respond. The law does not impact the notice periods for 30 or 60-day termination notices, or notices based on uncurable breaches such as illegal use, unauthorized subletting, nuisance or waste.
Norbert G. Huston, Broker/Realtor
SPRING CLEANING FOR LANDLORDS & TENANTS
Springtime has arrived and it’s time to open the windows and clear the mustiness of winter. For landlords, it’s time not only for vital spring maintenance, but it’s important to tend to the external landscaping of the property. For tenants, now is an excellent time to deep-clean your space, change HVAC filters, and ensure you are completing any necessary tenant maintenance.
LANDLORDS’ SPRING CLEANING TASKS
While it’s important to complete the full checklist for vital spring maintenance, the transition to spring weather creates the optimal opportunity for cleaning of the exterior of the property. Make certain that the gutters are cleared of materials that fall and winter weather may have brought debris to. Leaves, small sticks or branches, and organic material can accumulate in the gutters due to autumn and winter storms. Make certain that your gutters are fully cleaned to prepare for spring showers which we just experienced here in Stockton. Furthermore, protect your building’s exterior with a good power wash to eliminate any gathered grime from winter.
Maintaining curb appeal is an important aspect to protecting your investment’s worth, there’s no better time than spring to guarantee your tenants and prospective tenants will adore the landscape. Get out your rakes and pruning tools and get down to business–and for added flair add a few new spring blooms to the mix.
TENANTS’ SPRING CLEANING TASKS
While one of the benefits in renting lies with having to deal with fewer maintenance tasks, renters are not off the hook completely. Seasonal changes serve as an excellent marker indicating that it’s time to change your HVAC filters and complete other recurring renter responsibilities.
Deep Cleaning Tasks
- Daily Tasks: Before the deep cleaning can begin, start with the daily tasks to set the stage. Tidy any personal items throughout your space, vacuum carpets, and sweep kitchen and bathroom floors.
- Dust: Work from the top down, starting at the ceiling taking pains to clean hard to reach spots that may be missed in the day-to-day cleaning tasks. Use an extendable duster to tackle any cobwebs or dust on ceiling fan blades and any crown molding.
- Clean Walls: Scuffs caused by furniture, children, or general use should be tackled with every deep clean. If a sponge and clear soap (avoid any dyed soap that could cause staining to light-colored walls) with a small amount of water doesn’t do the trick, using a product like the magic eraser should remove most scuff marks.
- Wash Window Screens & Sill: You may clean your window glass until it sparkles, but often the screen and sill get left out.
- Vacuum Low-traffic Areas: While ideally, you will be vacuuming low-traffic areas regularly, places like under furniture, the floors of closets, and other hard to reach spots are excellent candidates for spring cleaning. Move out furniture and items from closets to ensure that every area in your house is free from accumulating dust and allergens.
- Clean Carpets: To truly ensure you get your security deposit back, a good carpet cleaning once or so a year is a great way to maintain the cleanliness of your space, and keep it as clean as the day you moved in. Borrow or purchase a carpet cleaner (you can find consumer level versions for the same cost as an average vacuum) and do the task yourself, or confer with your landlord and offer to pay part of the cost of hiring a professional service. Either way, a clean carpet will ensure that your space stays fresh and will eliminate many household allergens.
In the end, both landlords and tenants are responsible for maintaining the property. Tenants who fail to regularly clean and maintain their home during tenancy can face a dwindling return on their security deposit should anything be damaged due to neglect. Landlords should strive to remind their renters of important cleaning and maintenance duties to protect the property and set tenants up for success.