Monthly Archives: July 2014

Getting Out of the House

Hey all you renters, landlords and property owners out there. Summer is the time for vacationing, and that means, hopefully, actually leaving your house, apartment or condo and getting out there to see the world! Depending on your situation, you may be out for just a few days, or for a few months, but if you don’t have roommates, or they’re coming with you, it’s going to mean leaving your home all alone for a period of time. This week, the Hometown Rant is bringing you a handy guide to make sure your rental property doesn’t miss you too much while you’re gone.

Even if you don’t have a big summer trip planned, chances are you’ll want to get out for at least a few weekends, which won’t be a big deal so long as you take the proper steps to make sure your property is secure. Close your windows and lock your doors, and make sure you remember to bring your keys. If you’re having a neighbor or friend house-sit, don’t forget to leave them a spare, or they might have to resort to drastic measures to get in.

A good habit to get into before leaving the home for any period of time is doing a quick run-through to make sure your electronics and appliances are turned off, and you don’t have any water running. While it may not matter if you’re out getting groceries, a TV or a stereo left on will run up your electricity bill faster than you might think, especially if it’s going for a few days straight. Same with a faucet left even a little bit running. The last thing you want to be paying for on vacation is a huge wasteful water bill from your house or apartment back home. The most important appliance to have off though is the stove. Not only is gas expensive, it can lead to disastrous results if left running unchecked. Don’t be a Rob Schneider. Turn it off.

If you’re planning on being gone for more than just a few days, you’ll want to have a neighbor or a friend check on your house or apartment now and again. This is yet another reason that you want to be on good terms with your neighbors, so if you aren’t yet, you might want to start schmoozing before it’s too late and you have nobody to water your plants while you’re gone. If you have higher orders of things living in your house or apartment, cats or dogs for instance, you’ll want to have someone coming in every day to feed and clean up after them, otherwise you might come home to a big mess at best, and a slew of animal cruelty charges at worst.

As a final note, it’s always nice to clean your house, apartment or condo before you leave. That way when you come home, it’s to a fresh space instead of some gross dishes that have been festering for two weeks while you were away. Most of all though, have fun out there, and hopefully when you come back, you’ll feel refreshed and your rental property will have that magical aura of newness about it once again.

 Do you have rental questions of your own? Comments? Concerns? Love letters? Hate mail? Holla back:  Hometownrant@hometownrent.com

The Final Showdown: House vs. Apartment

Hey all you renters, landlords and property owners out there. This week on the rant, we’re turning once again to you, our readers, specifically one reader by the name of Amanda, who recently moved into a rental house for the first time instead of a condo or an apartment. In doing so, she discovered a whole host of new responsibilities that go along with a larger property. She wanted to share her experience, so she wrote to us, wondering if we could help her help all you other apartment and condo renters out there who are thinking of taking the big leap. Here’s what she had to say:

Home Maintenance: House vs. Apartment Living

The difference between renting a house and renting an apartment is more than just having your own yard and some additional space between you and your neighbor. While those two benefits of renting a single-family detached house are quite appealing, they come along with some increased maintenance responsibilities that apartment residents do not have. You should carefully consider the pros and cons of each before choosing which one is right for you.

Tending to the Landscape

All of that additional space requires upkeep by someone. It is usually the responsibility of the renter to cut the grass, trim bushes, and weed the flower bed. Sure, you won’t have property landscapers gearing up their noisy equipment outside your apartment bedroom window at the crack of dawn anymore, but now the yard management is in your hands. Having your own back yard is great, but it is going to have additional cost. During the summer months, you will have to devote a few hours each week to care and maintain the landscape whether that involves pruning up plants, trimming the grass, or simply raking and cleaning off the gravel. If this is an enjoyable hobby for you, great. If not, you may find yourself spending more time complaining about the responsibilities of a large yard than you do enjoying the benefits. And if your home is in an area with HOA regulations, you’ll definitely have to take extra care to ensure your property is looking pristine in order to avoid any fees.

Apartments often have common park areas, playgrounds, and walking trails. Community garden areas are becoming more common. These are maintained by the apartment management and the cost is part of your regular rent payment. You are able to enjoy them without having to expel any energy maintaining them. When it comes to inviting over a large group of friends for a backyard cookout and some volleyball or horseshoes, an apartment cannot compete with having your own outdoor space with plenty of parking for everyone. How often you host such activities should be weighed against how many hours you want to spend maintaining the yard.

For Some, It’s All About the View

Apartment residents typically have walls that back up to their neighbor’s living area. This results in windows on just one side of each unit. The developers take this into consideration and strive to make each unit have access to ample natural light. Still, some units will have a view of the park and some will look out on the trash bins. Heck, some will only have a view to the side of another apartment building. The good news is that apartment dwellers have fewer windows to clean and less heat loss through those windows than people living in a house.

Many rental houses are older and do not have thermal pane windows. In addition to the time spent cleaning windows, home renters can expect higher energy bills. About 56 percent of a households energy usage goes to maintain a comfortable inside temperature, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. And although the cost may be a bit more than apartment dwellers, the views and windows in majority of rooms is a huge perk to make it worth the extra cost.

The Household Handyman

For those renting out older houses, keep in mind that there may be more maintenance to perform that can’t be fixed with a simple work request to the property handymen. These older homes can have older wiring and plumbing that will need your attention at some point or another. They may not have the lines needed for cable and high-speed internet and it could cost an extra fee in order to install outlets that are adaptable with current times. Meanwhile, most apartment complexes have easy access to the latest technology and some even include free internet or cable in the rent.

Requirements for multi-family buildings are often much stricter than the standards for landlords of single-family houses. If you rent a house, you may be responsible for any utility issues that may occur. But depending on your rental agreement, with landlord approval you can make renovations as needed to help you cut costs in the home. Easy upgrades around the home like smart thermostats or tankless water heaters can cut energy costs by 40% for a home, making home utility costs near those of living in an apartment. Most apartment complexes have full-time maintenance staff on call to correct even minor problems. When renting a house, you may be responsible for the additional water usage of a leaky pipe or dripping faucet, in addition to the cost to repair the problem.

Before signing a lease for an apartment or house, make sure you understand what maintenance issues are covered by the landlord and which issues are your sole responsibility. Simple things like trash collection are taken for granted by residents of apartments. People renting houses need to know who will remove leaves and yard waste and they’ll have to be responsible for putting out their own trash. Apartments are often owned by corporations and managed by companies while houses are frequently rented by individual owners under a property network. Be sure you know what your rights are as a tenant and ensure you read over all your responsibilities upon signing your new lease. If you’re ready to take on the extra responsibilities of renting out a house, then sign on the dotted line, but if you’re still not ready or find that you don’t have the time for the extra maintenance that will be needed, perhaps apartment living is just right for you.

-Amanda

Whew, thanks Amanda. It’s a lot of information to take in, but definitely worth a read if you’re a renter considering moving into a house, or if you’re a landlord or property owner who wants to tell potential tenants what the differences between houses and condos or apartments might be.

Do you have rental questions of your own? Comments? Concerns? Love letters? Hate mail? Get at us:  Hometownrant@hometownrent.com

Lord of the Flies

The Summer heat has set in most everywhere in the country, and with it come the seasonally associated critters. for renters and landlords alike. One such critter that becomes exceedingly common in the summer months is the fly, infestations of which can range in severity from being mildly annoying to spreading dangerous diseases that could potentially kill you maybe. Don’t worry though, this week the Rant is dedicated to helping you rid your house or apartment of the buggers once and for all.

Flies come in quite a few varieties, but some are more common than others, and each type has different particularities. The first step to getting rid of your flies is determining which type you have, though be warned, there may be more than one. Orkin provides a nice illustrated guide as a good place to start.

Fruit flies are one of the most common types of fly, especially in the summer. They can find their way into almost any house or apartment, and they  typically go for the kitchen. Fruit flies feed mostly on fruit (go figure), vegetables, or other produce that’s nearing the end of its life. As a preemptive strike against them, make sure that fruit and veggies don’t sit too long on your counter, and if your produce is starting to turn, get rid of it ASAP. If you’ve already got fruit flies, make sure their food sources are cleaned up and then make yourself a few traps. In our experience the red wine trap works well. If you can get your hands on some Mad Dog 20/20, it’s even better, though be warned that flavored fortified wine beverages should under no circumstances be humans.

Larger flies like house flies and blow flies are usually less prevalent, but far more noticeable, and usually indication of a larger and grosser food source. They’ll eat other organic material, but they prefer rotting meat, so if you start to see larger flies appearing on the premises of your rental property, make sure that your trash cans have all been emptied recently, and your fridge and cabinets are both free of rotting food. If your kitchen and garbage is clean, search around your yard for any possible breeding sources. If you have a compost piled up in the back, that might be one. If you have a pet who poops in the yard, make sure to pick it up, or soon enough it’ll have turned into a festering fly-nest that spawns poop-covered flies who want to live in your kitchen. Gross, right? Bottom line is that you have to get rid of the breeding source if you want to live in a no-fly zone.

Traps and prevention are all good, but they take time, and we know that you’re probably wondering, how can I get rid of the fly or flies that are bugging me right now? At this point you have two options: you can either go to your local butchers for a pig head, put it on a stake in your living room, and proclaim yourself lord and master over a new rented jungle kingdom, or you can become a sniper with a rubber band. Actually we only advocate the latter. But seriously, the flies never see it coming, and best of all, exterminating pests becomes fun! If you have kids, give them a bag of these, or if you want to get crazy, get one of these bad boys. Good luck, and happy hunting!

Do you have rental questions of your own? Comments? Concerns? Love letters? Hate mail? Hit us up: Hometownrant@hometownrent.com

Ask The Rant #1

Here at the Hometown Rant, there’s nothing we love more than giving custom-tailored advice to landlords and renters like you, which is why this week we’re digging through our giant sack of emails to bring you the very first edition of Ask The Rant.

Coleen writes:

Hi, I was living with a woman for 3 months. Our agreement was that I drive her and her kids around because she lost her license, which I did daily. She had to have an interlock device installed in her vehicle. The driver (me) had to blow in before the vehicle would start. I have COPD, so sometimes I can blow in and other times I can’t. So she would and we got to start the vehicle. She got a job and decided to have a neighbor drive her to and from work. She didn’t pay for the gas or rides. The neighbor was bored anyways and offered to do so. So one day I asked if the neighbor wouldn’t mind grabbing the kids on the way back home, so I wouldn’t have to.

Next thing I know I’m being told the locks were changed and to get my sh*t out that night or the next day after she got out of work. Well needless to say I had to call the cops and wait hours for them. Could only get as much as I could get out of the apartment in ten min. Now I lived there for 3 months and my question is can she legally do that? And my cat was locked in my bedroom for 3 days before I got to get him! It was a total nightmare. And I never ended up getting my belongings out of her house. The cops are no help at all. The story goes on and on.

And the girl is selling my things on craigslist. Last time cops went with me she said she put my stuff outside and called me, as per the landlord’s orders. It never happened! Can I sue her and get money for the things I had in that apartment? The story goes on and on! But I can’t deal with writing it all down… very upset.. thanks,

Coleen

Well Coleen, this does sound like a horrible situation for everyone involved. If you’re serious about taking legal action, consult an attorney who is familiar with property law in your area. Ideally, that would be a last resort, but it sounds like you’ve already exhausted most of your options in terms of talking it out.

It may not be of much use to you now, but there are a few points you mention that should raise red flags for problems down the line:

First off, you make it sound like you were not paying rent, but instead had a verbal agreement to provide a service (driving) to pay for your lodging. While maybe not technically illegal, your situation certainly illustrates the problem with making a deal and not explicitly laying out the terms of the agreement in writing. When one party feels the other party hasn’t held up their end, the whole thing devolves into a series of accusations, and it’s virtually impossible to prove who is right or wrong.

Second off, it’s unclear from your story whether or not you had any contact with the landlord, or if the landlord even knew about the arrangement you made with the woman. From what it sounds like, you didn’t sign any form of sublease agreement, meaning that the woman is presumably the only one with her name on the lease. Typically leases contain a clause stating that tenants must be given notice a certain amount of time before an eviction, but if your name isn’t on paper anywhere, then it may come down to your word against hers. As for the stuff of yours that she has or has sold, you should speak to a lawyer if it’s that important to you to get it back, but depending on what it is, it might be cheaper to just cut your losses and not have to deal with a person who is clearly very difficult to communicate with.

For resources available to you at this point, check out the US Department of Housing and Development website, which provides state-by-state information about tenant’s rights, and other resources you can use to get help in your area. If after that you still feel that legal action is your best recourse, talk to a lawyer who specializes in rental law to figure out what you can do. Best of luck, and at the very least know that your story will help other people avoid similar situations.

Do you have rental questions of your own? Comments? Concerns? Love letters? Hate mail? Let us know: Hometownrant@hometownrent.com