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
HOW TO WRITE A PET RESUME FOR YOUR RENTAL APPLICATION
Finding a pet-friendly rental can be a huge challenge for renters, especially when you’re living in an already competitive market. A pet resume may prove to be the answer to landing that coveted pet-friendly rental.
With many landlords and property managers making the decision to place restrictions on pets (or disallow pets altogether), your choices as a rental in a tight market become even more limited. In light of this, it’s normal for renters to wonder about the best way to stand out from the crowd and ensure that when you apply for your dream rental that the landlord chooses you–and your furry friend–over the other applicants. Enter the pet resume, the perfect way to convey to your prospective landlord or manager that your pet is an ideal four-legged tenant.
BASIC INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR PET
Just as you would a rental resume for yourself, there are some basic facts that you should begin the process in order to easily provide the most vital information at-a-glance. Don’t forget to list your own contact information as well, just in case your pet resume is separated from any part of your rental application. The resume should clearly list your pet’s name, breed, age, weight or size, and spay or neuter status. This is also a great time to include a photo of your pet.
Many landlords and managers have breed and/or size restrictions–even if they have pet-friendly housing available. Including this information at the beginning lets your potential landlord know that your pet will qualify and will save you from wasting any time with going through an extensive application process for housing that may ultimately not be appropriate for you and your particular pet. Keep in mind, if you have a dog that is a larger breed, your photo can play an important role in displaying a happy and playful side of the animal. This can help managers or landlords who may not have a breed restriction, but may still be concerned when it comes to breeds that are deemed aggressive.
LIST ACHIEVEMENTS OR NOTABLE FACTS
Include achievements, certificates and other verifiable facts about your pet; this is a time to show of your pet’s accolades. Think of it just like a job application resume, but for your furry counterpart. Fill this part of the pet resume can be as extensive as needed but don’t add anything untrue or unverifiable as your potential landlord may want proof.
This is an excellent place to list any obedience school classes, special training, and vaccinations for which your pet has been administered. Don’t forget to include special activities, if warranted. If your dog participates in a local K9 reading program for children, or if your cat visits the local elementary school these can all speak to your pet’s nature. If you regularly utilize any medication to keep pests at bay (such as a flea and tick repellent), list that information, as well as the frequency that it is administered.
Landlords can fear liability risk when it comes to pets. Fears of damage to the property or attacks and medical bills can be a deterrent for a landlord. You may know that your pet is calm, loving, and will not carry disease, but explicitly listing obedience training and vaccinations conveys that you are a responsible pet owner and reassures your potential landlord of your pets’ low-risk nature.
To truly stand out from other applicants, reinforce the idea that you and your pet will be excellent tenants. A property manager’s job can be made stressful if they’re getting calls about a tenant’s dog constantly barking or a cat roaming in areas it shouldn’t. Provide peace of mind and quell these fears by including pet references with your pet resume. Include one from a former landlord and a former neighbor, if possible. These should convey that your pet did not cause damage to the property or disrupt other residents. You can also include a reference from a veterinarian, obedience trainer, or friend who has had close contact with your pet. This reference can speak about your pet’s overall demeanor.
HIGHLIGHT YOUR PET’S PERSONALITY
Now that you have covered all of the vital information, it is finally a time to highlight what makes your pet unique. Since this a pet introduction, there is no reason to keep the language strictly formal. Talk about your pet and their favorite activities, consider including a funny anecdote in which your pet’s personality shines. Overall, make it fun-but not unprofessional. Remember, a pet resume is also a reflection of you as a potential tenant; while you want to keep this introduction factual, fun and interesting, it’s still important to take the process seriously.
Standing out as a rental applicant can be a chore–especially when you not only need to convince a potential landlord of your dream tenant status, but also that of your pet’s. Thankfully, with the right resumes in hand, there is no doubt that you can put your best foot forward and start an amazing landlord-tenant relationship within your new pet-friendly abode.