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
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.
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.
Navigating the landlord-tenant relationship can be tricky at times, but landlords and renters don’t have to perpetually be at odds. During part 1 of this article, we touched on 5 ways to keep your landlord happy.
As we’ve discovered, in How To Keep Your Landlord Happy (Part 1) the unfortunate reality is, that most renters are unknowingly damaging their landlord’s perception of renters without even realizing it. Having a good history with your landlord is vital to ensuring that your landlord will be more willing to assist you if you come across a rare late payment or simply need a good reference for a future rental.
This time, we will talk about the last 5 ways to become an excellent renter and develop a great landlord-tenant relationship.
KEEP UP WITH MAINTENANCE:
It’s true that your landlord is responsible for most maintenance issues, but if you want a truly happy landlord or property manager be sure to tend to your renter maintenance responsibilities. Ensure your landlord-tenant relationship remains solid by caring for the rental as you would a home that you personally owned. This means ensuring that the HVAC is not damaged because the filter was not changed regularly, or that pipes are prepped for winter cold.
GET PROPER RENTERS INSURANCE COVERAGE:
Having renters insurance is vital to protect your belongings and convey to your landlord that you are a responsible tenant. Renters insurance can even cover damages should you cause unintentional harm to the property or if your dog bites someone who decides to sue. Renters insurance is surprisingly inexpensive, and can even offer coverage on your valuables outside of the home. Just don’t forget, a policy is only as effective as your documentation. Be sure to take a complete inventory of your belongings in case you ever need to file a renters insurance claim.
CAREFULLY EXAMINE AND RECALL YOUR LEASE TERMS:
If you want a happy landlord, you must follow your lease agreement down to the “T”. Many renters will look at a lease agreement as a mere formality that consists only of general guidelines regarding the rental and its respective rules. However, ignoring the details of your lease terms will guarantee a rocky relationship with your landlord, and could result in additional fees or even eviction. Pay attention to small details in the lease like who is responsible for snow removal, the use of nails when decorating your apartment or if you are allowed to keep indoor plants. These rules may seem nitpicky, but your landlord likely has specific reasons for their implementation, and failure to follow those rules could result in security deposit deductions, fines or even eviction.
AVOID CONSTANT COMPLAINTS:
The tenant that makes their landlord happy to have, is not the tenant that calls at all hours of the night and day to complain about menial issues. Altering your landlord to maintenance issues is important–and can even save your landlord some extra funds if prompt alerts prevent damage from getting worse. However, constantly requiring special attention will make your landlord weary of your tenancy. You’re better off resolving small matters on your own, change your own lightbulbs and deal with bad neighbors professionally on your own. Keep your complaints to a minimum and remember that you are not your landlord’s only priority, this will both keep your landlord happy and ensure that if you ever must make a complaint, it is taken more seriously.
Having a great relationship with your landlord can make your tenancy a breeze, and can put you first in line to keep your dream apartment when your lease is up for renewal. While there may not be such a thing as a dream tenant, you can come as close as possible by avoiding these mistakes.