Tag Archives: Rentals

Security in the Digital Age: A Hometown Rant Guide

Hey there all you renters, landlords, property owners and managers! We’re back! Did you miss us? For the past month or so we’ve been down due to an ongoing brute force attempt to crack our WordPress page, but we remain unintimidated in the face of such aggression, defiant in the face of the digital terrorists.

Since we’ve been the target of malicious internet activity, this week we’re talking about online security to help you keep the network in your house, apartment, condo, duplex or other rental property secure, which will help keep your information safe from all those who would seek to steal it.

As a landlord or property owner, chances are you won’t be the one who actually sets up the network, unless you manage an entire apartment complex or other type of property that provides communal WiFi. If you do have such an arrangement, you’ll definitely want to secure the network with a password, and if your building is large enough, you may even want to consider hiring somebody tech savvy to set up a system that allows each unit to have its own password.

As a tenant, chances are it’ll be up to you to get your house, condo, apartment or duplex online, which will entail calling one of the service providers in your area. Some work better in certain places than others, so you might consider doing some research as to who is the most popular/best functioning provider in your area. Service providers usually offer a variety of plans as well, which is something else to consider once you’ve decided who you want to go with. Things to keep in mind when making your choice include the number of people who are going to be living in your house, apartment, condo or duplex, how many of those people you expect to be online at once, and what you all are going to be doing once you get here. If you mostly read articles and look at pictures, you probably don’t need the pro-gamer all-star package that usually costs quite a bit more.

Most providers make it pretty easy to put a password on your network–routers these days often have a setup function that will prompt you to take at least the most basic precautions towards protecting your network, or at least keeping the neighbors from freeloading off your signal.

Another thing to keep in mind is that many online criminals rely less on breaking into systems to acquire information, and more by convincing a legitimate user to give out access information, a practice commonly known as phishing. Never give sensitive information to anybody online unless you’re absolutely sure they are who they say they are, and remember, if a website tells you that you’ve won something, it’s probably a lie.

Seriously though, congratulations! You’re our millionth reader! Send us your rental questions, comments, concerns, love letters and hate mail to claim your free prize!

 

If These Walls Could Talk

Hey there all you renters, landlords property owners and property managers. This week on the rant, we’re taking a look around us, at the very things that, along with a roof, define a house, apartment, condo, or duplex. If these walls could talk, they’d tell you that this is an awesome song. Also, they’d tell you that they want to be decorated, and to make it classy.

Landlords, property owners and managers, you guys don’t have a whole lot to do here, although the one job you are in charge of is an important one. You’ll almost certainly be in charge of painting/wallpaper, and unless you really trust your tenants, you probably don’t want them re-doing the place. For sanity’s sake though, pick nice colors and/or simple designs, and if in doubt, go off-white. Cream, one might call it. It’s the classic for a reason–it goes with just about any design style, and is pretty much guaranteed not to be off-putting or garish.

Renters, you’re the ones who are going to be living in the space, so it’s your job to figure out what’ll fit the aesthetic of your home and your lifestyle. The one constant rule we’ll always suggest is to keep it simple, although it’s really more of a guideline than a rule. Still, one nice, well placed image generally looks a lot classier than the collage of random images you know you cut out of your favorite magazines and tacked all across the walls in high school.

If you really wanna elevate your game, get some frames for your posters and hang them like a real person instead of using this stuff and watching them slump down the wall over time. A nice tapestry can also be a good way to fill a lot of space, especially if you don’t mind the heady hippy look. Get some prayer flags while you’re at it and go all out. Whatever you do though, don’t decorate in a way that’ll be a pain to take down, since you’re eventually going to have to do just that.

Above all though, have fun with it. It’s the space you’re paying to inhabit, so you might as well make it look the way you want it to. A dwelling that reflects the personality of the inhabitant is the American dream, after all. Make that dream a reality.

Do you have rental questions of your own? Comments? Concerns? Love letters? Hate mail? Throw it up on the wall: Hometownrant@hometownrent.com

Decoration Nation

Hey there all you tenants, landlords, property owners and managers. As we find ourselves in the thick of the holiday season, we’re all thinking the same thing: how do we make our houses, apartments, condos and duplexes appropriately festive. Well have no fear, the Hometown Rant is here to help you with all your wildest decorative desires.

As a tenant looking to decorate your rental property in a seasonally appropriate fashion, you’ll first have to know which of the many holidays you’re celebrating. You probably already know what you personally celebrate, but if you plan on having guests over, especially recent significant others of your extended family, you may want to ask them so you don’t seem insensitive. Say you’re celebrating Christmas, but your cousin’s new girlfriend comes over expecting a kosher Hanukka meal, complete with latkes and a nice menorah. Could be awkward if you’re unprepared. Be a good host and observe the traditions of your guests.

Just as each holiday has its own decorations, it also has its own hazards that go along with said decorations. Christmas, especially American Christmas, has a lot of focus on exterior lumiation, i.e. lots of lights on and around your house. In some neighborhoods it even becomes a competition to see who can create the most elaborate and brilliant display. By all means, participate in a little friendly neighbor vs neighbor light show, but don’t get carried away. You don’t want to spend your holiday in the hospital because you fell off the roof trying to do the red lights for Rudolph’s nose. Also, don’t use that old set of lights with the exposed wiring, or create a massive outlet with a series of power strips. At best, you’ll be blowing a fuse every few minutes, and at worst you’ll be watching your rental property burn down because of an electrical fire. National Lampoon has a classic guide involving what not to do.

Hanukkah, being a celebration of a miraculous surplus of lamp oil, is also big on lights, but these lights are traditionally not electric, but either oil lamps or candles. Kwanzaa also involves a seven-candle lamp called a kinara. While perhaps less dangerous to set up, the menorah or kinara can still cause issues if it isn’t properly made, of if it isn’t put in a good place. A good metal menorah or kinara should be safe to let the candles burn down in, but it’s never a good idea to leave open flames burning unsupervised in your house, apartment, duplex or condo, especially near flammable things like papers or cloth. Always blow out your candles before leaving home or going to bed, otherwise you could come home or wake up to a burning rental property.

As a landlord or property owner during the holidays, now might be a good time to remind your tenants of a few things, one being any neighborhood regulations having to do with lighting or decoration–some areas are more strict than others. Another thing to mention might be your regulations for guests staying in rental properties, and disposal of decorations, particularly christmas trees. Sometimes the municipal garbage will dispose of them, but it might cost extra–let your tenants know who is responsible for this charge or you might have to pick it up, or deal with decomposing douglas firs outside of your properties for rent. That’s not how you want to spend your new years. Make sure it won’t be.

As for us, we’ll be busy performing feats of strength for festivus. Do you have rental questions of your own? Comments? Concerns? Love letters? Hate mail? Air your grievances:  Hometownrant@hometownrent.com

Ascetic Aesthetics

Hey there all you renters, landlords, property owners and managers. With black Friday just past and cyber Monday just coming up, followed by the next month of gift-giving holidays, we’re at the zenith of yearly consumerism in America. Your TV and your computer and pretty much everything else you’ve looked at recently has been telling you to Buy! Buy! Buy!, but here at the Hometown Rant, we’re providing a counterpoint to the voices that want you to fill up your house, apartment or condo with useless junk.

Don’t get us wrong, now could be the perfect time to get that flatscreen or new mattress or really whatever you need or want. All types of places and websites are having great deals on just about anything you need, so if you’re in the market for something in particular, now might be the time. Landlords or property owners could take advantage of sales on appliances or other things that need to be updated in rental properties being renovated. Likewise, tenants looking to take their living space to the next level can do so without breaking the bank.

Here’s what you don’t want to do: buy a bunch of crap that you don’t need just because it’s cheaper than normal. Don’t fall for that classic fallacy that you’re saving $59.95, or however much the ad says. You’re only ‘saving’ money if it was something you were definitely going to buy regardless. Not only is buying useless stuff a great way to rack up debilitating credit card debt, it’s also a good way to crowd your rental property while never seeming to fill up that empty feeling inside. For that you need meaningful human interaction and artistic expression. Not night vision goggles and party shirts for your dog. Ok, the night vision would be cool, but do you really need that? Unless you’re in a Tom Clancy novel, probably not.

If you really want to flip the script on ‘em, you could even try selling things. This might be a particularly good idea for those tenants who buy, say, a new TV, and then need something to do with the old one. It’ll help offset the cost of the new one, and it’ll help keep your house, condo, apartment or duplex free of clutter and looking good. Nothing is worse than moving and remembering that you have a bunch of stuff to deal with that you don’t even use. Now is also a good time to sell stuff, if only because people are buying stuff. Get out on the market and be a good capitalist! It could even pay your rent!

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

 

Dishing it Out

Hey there all you renters, landlords, property owners and managers. Happy Thanksgiving! Last week we were talking preparation for turkey day, so it’s only fitting that we now discuss an issue pertinent to your post-thanksgiving problems. That’s right. This week we’re discussing disgusting dishes and washing them. Dishes are an integral part of the cycle of life. They get dirty and then you have to clean them. It’s part of being a civilized human, like cutting your hair and fingernails or brushing your teeth. You can choose not to do it, but eventually you’ll turn into this guy. Don’t do that.

As a property owner, manager or landlord, keep in mind that a dishwasher is one of the main appliances that people are looking for in a rental house, apartment or condo. It’s one of those modern conveniences that makes everything better in the kitchen, so if you want your rental property to be one in high demand, make sure you at least have a functioning dishwasher, if not a nice shiney new one. Not only will it be a selling point, but it’ll help your tenants keep the property spic and span so you have less upkeep to do when they move out.

As a tenant in any property, you’re going to be the one dealing with the dishes on a day-in day-out basis, and it’s your job to keep on top of it. Part of this is keeping on top of roommates who may not like to clean up after themselves, since one of the first places this tendency will manifest itself is in the sink. It’s ok to save some pots and pans for after you’ve eaten dinner, but you actually have to go back and wash them, or you’ll end up with a two week-old stack that’s got things growing at the bottom. Every new dish you put on top of the pile just compounds the nastiness for whoever has to buckle down and roll up their sleeves, which will probably be you eventually. Make it easy on yourself and clean up as you cook so you don’t have things to worry about later.

For events like thanksgiving, depending on the level of class you’re going for and the size of the gathering you’re hosting, you might consider getting disposable plates and silverware for the occasion. It’s not as sustainable, won’t look as nice and granny might be disappointed that you haven’t brought out the fine china, but it’ll save you a lot of time if you’re cleaning up after 20+ people’s post-feast messes. That might be a fair trade if you value your sanity and several layers of skin on your hands. You could also enlist the inevitable hordes of children that come around to be your indentured dishwashers for a few hours, though that might be easier said than done. Whatever you decide to do, have a happy holiday, and remember to keep it clean.

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

Garbage Day

Hey there all you Landlords, Tenants and Property Owners. This week, we’re talking about a certain special day of the week. No, it’s not Tuesday. Or maybe it is, depending on where your rental property is. Anyways, this time on the Hometown Rant, we’re talking about garbage day.

Western Civilization is founded on a few key principles, and one of them is that the municipality in which you live has a system for dealing with the refuse associated with the average consumer lifestyle. In order to keep a populace olfactorily satisfied, you need to deal with all the trash.

So what does this have to do with you as a Renter, Landlord or Property Owner? Well it should be pretty obvious. As a renter, unless you’ve created some sort of perfectly sustainable mecca within your rental property you’re going to have to get rid of stuff every week. As a Landlord or Property Owner, you don’t want your tenants to fill your property with trash, so you want to make it as easy for them as possible to deal with it themselves.

Cities and Towns often charge a fee for garbage collection, usually monthly. Landlords who have the option might want to pay for this up front and add the amount to the tenant’s rent. This will create less individual bills for the tenants to worry about, reducing the chances that a bill goes unpaid and your rental property becomes a dump that you’ll have to clean up later. Whatever you decide though, make it clear in the lease who is supposed to take care of trash so there can be no confusion later on.

Renters are like it or not the people who will be dealing with the trash on a week to week basis. Gross, we know, but get over it. If you don’t like it, be cleaner. The main difficulty of waste disposal for you is going to be separating trash from recycling, and glass from that. Most cities have those categories, and some even have compost. Check out our earlier article for more on responsibly letting stuff rot in your yard.

The easiest way around the issue is to separate your trash as you throw it away, so that when it comes to garbage day you aren’t stuck digging through your own mess, or worse, left with a full can the morning after because you didn’t separate things right. Good Garbagemen and Garbagewomen don’t play–if your trash isn’t right, they won’t touch it. Get yourself a few of these guys to make your life easier, and know that you’re doing the world a favor by not letting people bury your used yogurt cups for the next hundred million years.

Do you have rental questions of your own? Comments? Concerns? Love letters? Hate mail? Don’t be a stranger:  Hometownrant@hometownrent.com

 

Beat the Heat

Depending on where in the country your rental property is, temperatures are now ranging from toasty to sweltering, and all over people are looking for ways to keep cool inside their house, apartment, condo or duplex. Methods vary both in terms of effectiveness and safety for those trying them, so here at the Hometown Rant, we’ve compiled a handy guide to keep you chilling out no matter how hot it gets outside.

The most obvious and simple way to keep cool in the summer is to turn on your air conditioning, but this only works if your rental property has air conditioning. Landlords renting out air-conditioned properties would do well to advertise that, since it’ll become a major selling point in the next few months. Renters of air-conditioned properties should probably turn on the AC now if they haven’t already, at least to make sure that the system is in proper working order. If you have to get someone in for repairs, you’ll want to do it now rather than in a few weeks when the heat is reaching unbearable levels and you’re too sweaty and angry to deal with it.

Keeping the place air conditioned can be expensive, so if you do turn it on, make an effort to keep the cool in. If you have the AC on, you don’t want to open the doors and windows, lest your precious cool air escape into the yard and beyond to be lost forever. People who really want to save money also might consider waiting to crank the AC until the absolute zenith of the summer heat, but until then, you’ll want to employ some other tricks to keep your house or apartment liveable.

Without centralized air conditioning, there are a few options. Window mounted AC units can help quite a bit, and landlords of rental properties that don’t have central AC might consider providing a window unit or two as a selling point. Window units tend to bee less efficient than central AC though, and they’ll run up your electricity bill, especially if you try to cool your whole house with them. If you’re only going to use one or two, put them in the rooms that get the hottest–probably the upstairs in a two-story house. Especially if you’re putting the unit in an upstairs window though, make absolutely sure that you’ve installed it correctly, so you don’t end up like Kramer.

If you aren’t going to use any sort of air conditioning, your best bet for keeping things cool is probably a system of fans positioned in key windows throughout the property. Keeping inside doors open as well can help create an air current that runs through the house and cools everything off. Remember–areas of stagnant air are your enemy, so if you any room seems particularly stuffy, see what you can do to get that air flowing again. Also remember that electronics create a lot of heat, so don’t leave your TV or stereo on longer than you have to, and keep your computer off when you aren’t using it. As a matter of fact, once you finish reading this you should probably shut her down and go play in the sprinkler. Trust us, it’s still fun, even if you aren’t a dog.

Do you have rental questions of your own? Comments? Concerns? Love letters? Hate mail? Send it on over: Hometownrant@hometownrent.com

 

The Subletter Letters

Summer is always a complicated time for everyone in the world of renting. People are moving out, moving in, going on vacation or just buckling down to make some extra cash at a Summer job. Often renters are looking to either find or fill some space just for a few months, and the most common way to do that is to sublet a room in the house, apartment or loft. However, if not done right, subletting can be a nightmare for renters and landlords alike, so this week on the Hometown Rant, we’re learnin’ you all on how to fill your extra space without causing you extra headaches.

So what exactly is a sublet, or sublease? For those of you who don’t know, it’s an arrangement whereby the original tenant on the lease allows a third party to lease the space from them, assuming all or a part of the financial responsibility of the first tenant. In other words, it’s when you let your friend stay in your room and pay rent while you’re back home for the summer. Lawdepot.com has a good FAQ for anyone still confused, but you shouldn’t be. The concept itself is pretty basic. The problems almost always come in with the implementation.

As a landlord, you should decide before you even find original tenants if you’re open to the idea of letting them sublet your rental property. Allowing tenants to sublet a room in the house or apartment will make your property more attractive, but it’ll also require a little more oversight from you, since in doing so you’re trusting your renters judgement about who to let stay on your property. That being said, the original tenant is still responsible for fulfilling their terms on the lease regardless of what the subletter does or doesn’t do, so if you’ve written your original lease properly, you’ll still have someone legally liable for the damage or the unpaid rent.

The people who really have to be careful subletting are the renters who are taking on the responsibility of becoming a sub-landlord themselves. When you let someone else take over your lease, you have to trust them to be able to hold up their end of it, since your name and money are still going to be on the line. Subleases are a great way to find out who your real friends are when they go sour, which is why you always want to draw up a contract have your subletter actually sign a sublease, even if you think they’re your best friend.

If they actually intend to follow through then they shouldn’t have a problem signing, and if they don’t want to, they’re probably actually a sketchball trying to put one over on you. Sorry if we forced the realization upon you, but trust us, it’s better you find out now than after they leave questionable stains on your mattress and let their junkie friends pawn off your furniture for drug money, then disappear without paying you thousands of dollars they owe. Hopefully you’re a better judge of character than that, but people can be deceptive. Make sure you have it in writing that they’ve agreed to pay you so you’ll have a leg to stand on if you do end up in court.

As a subletter, understand that whoever you’re subletting from has put their name on the line so you can have a roof over your head, and respect the house, apartment, loft or condo twice as much as you would normally. There’s a special place in renter hell for people who abuse the sacred trust of the sublease, and it’s not a place you want to be.

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

Be The Beast of the Lease

The beginning of the summer is a hot time to move into a new house or apartment, and along with that comes every every landlord and renter’s favorite thing: signing binding legal contracts! Hooray! In a perfect world we’d be able to just say hey man, I’ll give you some money if you let me stay here for a while, and that would be that, but unfortunately people aren’t always as trustworthy as they claim to be on the internet. Who knew? Luckily, the Hometown Rant is here to help both renters and landlords make sure that renting is the mutually beneficial, almost symbiotic relationship that it should be.

If you’ve been a landlord for a little while, you probably already have a standard lease drawn up that you use with your clients. That’s great! If not, you should probably get on that before you agree to let people live in your house, apartment or loft. The ever-useful wikihow has a nice step-by-step guide for writing your own from scratch, and a quick Google search will yield you more sample leases than anybody could ever sign. Find one that works for you, and if you can’t, edit one until it does.

The bare minimum you need is a document that identifies the names of the parties involved, the location of the house, apartment or loft in question, when rent payments and deposits need to be made and how much they cost, the responsibilities that each party assumes for maintenance and upkeep, and the penalties should either party violate their end of the bargain. Also, a place to sign. But you knew that.

The section where leases tend to differ is the section outlining the responsibilities of both the landlord and the renter, and it’s also the section that tends to be the most often broken by one or both parties. This is the section where you’ll specify who pays for garbage, who’s responsible for calling (and paying) the plumber when the toilet explodes, who is responsible for maintaining the yard, whether or not pets are allowed, and all sorts of other benefits and stipulations that will make or break the deal, so it has to be done right.

Landlords writing leases need to be clear about what they will provide as well as what they expect tenants to do in order to maintain the property. DON’T BE AFRAID TO USE BOLD PRINT IF YOU WANT TO MAKE SURE SOMETHING GETS SEEN! Don’t go overboard though, or you’ll lose the effect. As the owner or manager of the house, apartment, loft or condo, you have the final say about what can or can’t be done there, but remember that you want your rental property to be attractive for potential renters, so don’t get too ridiculous with your rules. If you do have policies that people might not like, maybe provide some services in exchange.

In this day and age, we agree to things all the time without actually reading them, but RENTERS, IF YOU READ ANYTHING EVER, READ YOUR LEASE! IT ACTUALLY MATTERS!  If you don’t, you won’t know what you’re supposed to do, and you won’t get what you deserve! That’s no way to be!

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

 

Going Hard in the Garden

Spring is upon us, and at Hometown Rant, that means getting our hands dirty. With like, actual dirt. Growing things is a great way to pass the time, and improving your yard can improve the value of your property and make it more appealing to potential renters, or make you more appealing to that cutie next door. Trust us, people doing yard work look unbelievably sexy.

As a landlord or property owner, take a look at your house and the yard outside. A good place to start might be a few raised beds. They’re usually no more expensive than the wood to build them, and plans are easy to come by. You can fill these with dirt from the rest of the yard, or let renters get their own more fertile soil.

As a renter, it’s probably best to check with your landlord before taking the spade to the lawn, but as long as you come at them with a plan beyond I just wanted to dig, man, they’ll probably be reasonable. Go to your local nursery and see what they recommend for your climate and your growing situation. A good list to start could be:

green beans -  fresh or cooked.

tomatoes – Fresh salsa? Home-grown pasta sauce? What more do I need to say.

peppers - You can go as sweet or spicy as you want. Where are you on the scoville scale?

arugula – the workhorse of the salad that grows like nobody’s business.

basil – get yourself a bit of garlic and some olive oil and you’ll have the pesto that’s the best, yo!

If you live in an apartment, condo, loft, house-boat or any other dwelling without access to a patch of dirt, you could look into growing some herbs indoor. Settle down Cheech, not that kind of herbs. That’s definitely a violation of your lease. Your setup can be as fancy as this, or as simple as this. As long as they get light and water, they’ll do their thing, and if you get in any iron chef challenges, you’ll kick the taste-buds off anyone using their old, shriveled store-bought herbs.

Get your grown on and then get your home cooking on and invite the neighbors over to your house or apartment. Nothing is more baller than eating something that you actually made from start to finish, and people will think you’re some sort of magician if you can literally make something out of nothing. What are you waiting for? Get out there!

Do you have rental questions of your own? Comments? Concerns? Love letters? Hate mail? Holla at us, we’ll holla back:  Hometownrant@hometownrent.com