The Do’s and Dont’s of Renting with Roomates

There are problems aplenty between landlords and renters, but imagine the problems you would have if you shared the rent with a roommate or two?

More people means more possibility for problems. Okay, who are we kidding, even among the best of friends there will be problems. However, a lot can be prevented if you follow these do’s and don’t of co-renting.

Do:

  • Make sure your roommates are responsible with their money. This is probably the most important part of roommate hunting. You may not have the same interests, but at least you’ll know that you won’t get stuck with their portion of the rent.
  • Try to find roommates with the same lifestyle, if you can. Although this isn’t key, it will impact how much you like your roommates and how long you will or won’t be staying in the same place. You don’t want to end up resenting your roommate because they are a slob or like to party more than you do.
  • Decide how to split the rent before signing the lease. If the bedrooms and amenities are pretty much equal, then it’s easiest to split the rent equally. However, if they are not equal, you’ll want to make sure that a roommate with a small bedroom and shared access to a hall bath is not paying the same rate as the roommate with the master suite. To avoid bias, it can be helpful to assign a rent value to each room and then assign rooms based on financial capability. If you would like more ideas about how to split the rent see the usnews.com article, “The Best Ways to Split Rent with Roommates.”
  • Designate one person to pay the bills. Assign a responsible roommate to be in charge of the utility, internet, cable, and renter’s insurance bills. They can collect money from the other roommates and make sure the bills are paid on time. As it is a big responsibility that will take time and effort, consider offering some sort of compensation (perhaps a small discount.)
  • Create a roommate contract. Although it may not be legally binding, creating a roommate contract can help set some ground rules and prevent problems from happening. Be as specific as possible. You might want to include in the contract what is expected from each roommate in regards to chores, food policy, payment specifics, guests, overnight guests, quiet hours, shower times, moving notice, etc. You want as few surprises as possible, so discuss everything that might cause problems. There may still be problems at times, but at least this way everyone is on the same page and knows what is expected.

Don’t:

  • Jump into a lease with people you don’t know. Not only do you know if you can get along with them, but you also don’t know if they are responsible. Renting is serious business and can have a big effect on your credit, so don’t take this lightly.
  • Pay your portion of the bills before seeing the actual bill. Don’t just take your roommates word for it, look at the bill to make sure that you are paying your equal share of the bill. Roommates have been known to scam their roommates by not splitting the bill evenly.
  • Go to your landlord to solve problems between you and your roommates. Your landlord is not your parent or your mediator. If you have a problem, you have to sort it out between yourselves. Even if your roommate doesn’t pay their portion of the rent.
  • Forget that everyone is responsible for the entire rent amount. If one of your roommates decides to flake out and stop paying rent, the landlord must still be paid the entire amount, otherwise he will have grounds to evict. When you co-sign a lease everyone is responsible for the entirety of the rent.

There can be dire circumstances if you get stuck with some lousy roommates. Sometimes all you can do is try to get out of your lease and move on. Take your time, and look for responsible roommates that you get along with—renting is hard enough without all the extra drama.

4 Myths You Should Know about Renter’s Insurance

Thinking about skipping renters’ insurance? Think again.

There are some common misconceptions about renter’s insurance that you might want to reconsider before you opt out.

Myth #1: I don’t own enough stuff to justify paying for renters’ insurance.

Reality: You’d be surprised. It’s not so much about how much you own or even about the quality of what you own, but how much it would cost to replace what you own. Even if you have a very modest possessions, secondhand furnishings, and a so forth, it could cost you thousands to replace everything if you lost it all in a fire, flood, or robbery.

You must also consider how much you care about your belongings. For example, if you are just out of college and renting a fully furnished apartment with few personal belongings that you care about, perhaps renters’ insurance isn’t a necessity. However, if you are more established in your place, with more things that you care about or that belong to you, renters’ insurance is something to highly consider.

Myth #2: Since I am a renter, my landlord will cover my property if something happens.

Reality: This is just plain false. The landlord is only concerned about their property, not yours. Their insurance covers the land, the house or apartment, and liability insurance in case they are sued. Were a fire to occur or a robbery to take place, the landlord would be responsible for the broken windows and damaged floors, not the fact that your $2500 computer is gone. You cannot depend on your landlord to cover your property after an incident. In fact, most leases explicitly state this and encourage renters to carry their own insurance.

Do you think that’s what these people thought as well?

renters-insurance

Myth #3: Renters’ insurance only covers my property.

Reality: Happily, this is also false. Renters’ insurance can also provide liability coverage for the renter as well, much like homeowner’s insurance does a homeowner. For example, if your tub were to overflow and damage property in your downstairs neighbors apartment or your dog were to get loose and chew apart all your neighbors award winning roses, your renters’ insurance could cover you up to your liability limits.

Myth #4: Renters’ Insurance is too expensive.

Reality: Probably not true, depending on what you consider expensive and where you buy your insurance. Unlike other types of insurance, renters’ insurance doesn’t add a huge additional monthly expense. Depending on the provider, the cost could be as little as $200 a year or less. Many companies also have multiple policy discounts so combining a car and renters’ insurance with the same company could save you some money. Be warned though—not all renters’ insurance policies are treated equally. Shop around and make sure you know what you are getting and what is covered before you buy.

EDeposit Can Make Your Life Easier

One of the toughest parts of moving into a new rental property is coming up with that big lump sum security deposit.

Consider: renters are already paying for moving vans, which could be anywhere from $50 to $250 to rent and that doesn’t count the gas for the van; moving supplies, such as boxes, tape, dollies, and vacuum pack bags; and possibly multiple rents if they’re moving out early from their old rental and are having to pay rent for both that place and the new one. That’s not to mention the bother of changing addresses on all their bills and their driver’s licenses, unpacking an uncountable number of boxes, and trying to learn their way around the new community.

Attract more renters

Having been a renter myself, I know the pain of coming up with hundreds of dollars out of the blue. We once moved between apartments when I was 8 1/2 months pregnant and we were leaving our previous lease early, which meant we got nothing back from our original deposit anyway. Coming up with multiple rents and multiple utility bill payments was nothing compared to coming up with $400 for a security deposit, considering we were both college students at the time. This program would have made the whole process much easier for us, and could help many more such families who want to move but don’t have the means necessary to do so.

Reduce the multi-state hassle

This service is especially helpful when landlords own complexes or rental properties in multiple states. The Realty Times interviewed Mark DiCamillo, a spokesman for one such security deposit insurance company, and he said, “If you’re a multi-state property owner, it’s much easier to deal with than the various regulations for security deposit escrow accounts, interest bearing accounts. If you have properties in eight states it’s a headache to deal with all the regulations.”

Small amounts for renters rather than lump sums

Right now, ePremium Insurance is offering this service to apartment communities interested in signing up for security deposit insurance. Their renters pay a small amount each month and the apartment complex is insured for some amount of money in case repairs need to be made. The amount can vary widely depending on where the apartment is, what its property value is, and how expensive the rent is.

Great advertising campaign

With all this in mind, it is clear that large security deposits can be just a little too much to bear. That’s why ePremium Insurance offers eDeposit, a way to get rid of that chunk of money. It’s great for the landlord–imagine advertising your property with the caption: “No security deposit.” And it’s great for the tenant–that’s a lot less money to pay all at once.

 

 

Landlord’s Can Take Vacations Too

While it may take some preparation, landlords and property managers can take some time for a little R&R too. The following checklist will help you prepare for a stress free vacation.

Find a replacement property manager

The first thing you need to do is find an interim property manager. They must be trust worthy and responsible. Preferably, find someone who is an experienced landlord or property manager—they will understand better what is expected of them. We all hope that nothing will go wrong while away, but there probably will be something, so choosing someone who has experience will definitely pay off.

Inform your tenants

Let your tenants know that you are going to be gone and give them the contact information for your substitute. But don’t give out your vacation contact information unless you want to be disturbed.

Hand over necessary supplies

Make sure your replacement has all the tools and information that they may need at their disposal.

  • Your emergency contact information. While you may not want to be bugged by tenants, make sure your replacement can reach you if they need to.
  • Contact information and keys for each rental property—you never know which tenant will lock themselves out.
  • Sufficient funds for any maintenance or repairs that need to happen while you’re gone.
  • Contact information for trusted repair professionals and your insurance representative—things will break whether it’s convenient or not.

Tie off any loose ends

The only way to ensure that you’ll have a stressful vacation is to make sure that you don’t leave any projects unfinished. Your replacement property manager won’t be happy if you leave him with a long to do list either. And you won’t be able to relax if you’re thinking about what you left undone.

It will take extra work before you leave, and you may be working up until the last second before you leave. But the idea is that once you’re off to leave it all behind. Being a landlord or property manager can be a high stress job, not only do you need a vacation to de-stress, but you deserve it. Rest assured that your replacement property manager will take care of things and you can deal with things when you get back. Now go and enjoy yourself!

How to Prevent a Liability Lawsuit

In today’s lawsuit-happy world you need to be prepared, and even expect to be sued for one thing or another as a landlord. One of the most common lawsuits against landlords and property managers is liability. The best and most sure way to protect yourself from a liability lawsuit is prevention.

When are you liable?

Fortunately you are not liable to compensate for just anyone who gets injured on your property, there are some stipulations. For you to be held liable there must have been dangerous or unmaintained conditions that you did not inform your tenants about and/or did not take action to fix.

Situations that may make you liable to an injury

There are many reasons and situations that could make you liable. Here is just a list of some of the possibilities.

  • Slippery floors
  • Cracks in sidewalks
  • Exposure to hazardous chemicals
  • Mold caused by lack of maintenance
  • Animal attacks
  • Unsafe building design
  • Poor lighting
  • Inadequate railings
  • Broken glass
  • Defective equipment
  • Dangerous debris
  • Uncontrolled Foliage
  • Appliance cords and other maintenance materials left in aisles
  • Lack of security

How to protect yourself

While this may seem like a daunting list, follow these simple rules and you shouldn’t have any problems:

  • Fix a dangerous condition in a timely manner
  • Fix a dangerous condition carefully and completely
  • Bring any dangerous conditions to the attention of the tenant
  • Strictly obey all safety laws
  • Maintain liability insurance coverage and encourage your renters do so also

The easiest and best way to protect yourself is simply prevention. If there’s a winter storm, shovel and put down ice. If there’s a water leak, fix it before mold sets in. If a bush overtakes the sidewalk, trim it. It can be time consuming to keep up with all the routine and unexpected maintenance issues, but if you don’t you risk a possible liability lawsuit.

For more information on liability lawsuits, read “Why Landlords are Liable for the Personal Injuries of Tenants” from landlordology.com.

12 Ways to Save on Renter’s Insurance

Many renters don’t know how important it is to have renter’s insurance. But when disasters and the unexpected happen, you don’t want to be caught without insurance. You can get basic coverage for as little as $10-20 a month. Follow these tips as you shop for the best insurance for the least out of pocket expense.

1. Compare Renter’s Insurance Quotes: Not all insurance companies will give you the same coverage for the same price. With just a few minutes spent online you can get free quotes and narrow it down the insurance companies that give you the best bang for your buck.

2. Good Credit Score: Although not something you can change quickly, having a good credit score will go a long way to getting you good coverage at a discount.

3. Higher Deductable: If you opt for a higher deductable you can get a better rate. This option can really work to your benefit if you never or hardly ever have to make an insurance claim. But just be aware that if when you do have to make an insurance claim, you’ll have to pay a little more before your insurance kicks in. Deductibles usually start around $250 and go up from there.

4. Package Your Insurance Policies: You can always get discounts if you get multiple policies from the same company. Insurance companies offer multi-line discounts for customers that get more than one insurance policy. It’s a win-win for everyone: it gives them more business, and saves you more money.

5. Safety Measures: Insurance companies offer lower rates for renters that take safety precautions that could help prevent a disaster and a potential insurance claim. Installing smoke alarms, carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers, dead bolts, etc will not only keep you safe, but result in savings because your security risk is low.

6. Look for Senior Discounts: Since seniors are low-risk, seniors aged 55 and older can often save up to 10% off their renters’ insurance premium.

7. Stop Smoking: Since smoking is a huge residential fire risk, many insurers offer discounts to non-smokers.

8. Group Coverage: Sometimes an employer or group you belong to offers group coverage. Group coverage usually comes at a discount, check to see if there’s one available to you.

9. Check Policy Annually: As your assets fluctuate and change annually, so may your insurance needs. Checking your policy annually to see if you need to make adjustments will save you money and make sure you have the coverage you need.

10. Continue to Shop Around: While most companies will give you low rates for long term loyalty, it is still beneficial to shop around on occasion. Some companies may take your patronage for granted. Shopping around will let you know if you are still getting the deal around. If you aren’t, talk to you current insurer to see what they can do for you, before you make any changes.

11. Electronic Payments: Since electronic payments help companies cut back on paper and mail costs, many insurers will offer a discount for opting for electronic payments and paperless billing.

12. Choose Low Risk Property: It’s no doubt that insurance companies will charge more for properties in a high-risk area, such as a flood zone or high crime area. If you can, try not to rent in a high risk area, it could save you a significant amount on your renters’ insurance premium.

Should You Consider Renting Furnished Apartments?

Typically homes and apartments are rented empty except for the basic appliances. However, if the rental is centrally located, you’re missing out on an untapped market. Despite what your initial reaction might be, renting furnished apartments can be very lucrative and are very much in demand.

Target Market

There are typically four groups of people who choose to rent furnished apartments: vacationers, college students, people who just moved into town and need a place while they home or apartment hunt, and professionals on temporary work assignments. They all have two things in common: they need temporary housing and don’t want to mess with moving furniture. While students tend to rent furnished apartments for longer periods—typically 8 months of the year, the others rent for as little as a few days. It may seem like risky business to have to find new renters all the time, but since you can mark up the rent for hundreds or thousands more than you would an unfurnished apartment, it will be well worth your time.

Location

As always, location is key. If your rentals are in a small town or outside of town, you’d be hard-pressed to find renters looking for a furnished apartment. Typically your rentals need to in a big city, close to public transportation, shopping, as well as in a nice area.

Furnishing an Apartment

You’ll need to put out some cash to furnish the apartment. Do what you can to look for deals, but don’t furnish the apartment with old, used floral couches. No one would want to rent an apartment with granny-like furniture. The furniture and décor needs to be modern and simple. Decorate with neutral colors, it will be much easier to accessorize and the colors tend to appeal to the masses. Make sure you fully furnish the apartment—remember it needs to be live-in ready, you can’t furnish the apartment halfway.

Here’s a generic list of items you will need (in addition to the big appliances typically included in a unfurnished rental):

  • Couches
  • TV console and nice TV
  • End tables
  • Nice wall decor
  • Dinner table and chairs
  • Basic kitchenware and simple appliances
  • Appropriate number of beds and simple bedding
  • Dressers
  • Lamps and rugs
  • Shower curtain and towels

You don’t want it to be too sparse or too full, but it does need to look well decorated and classy. Landlords who have furnished apartments, say that it costs as little as $3,000 to $5,000 extra to furnish-depending on how high end you choose to go.

The Investment

That may seem like a lot of money, and it is a lot of money to start. But the return is incredible if you can come up with the capital. You would charge differently depending on how long the renter chooses to rent. For long-term renters (6 months or more) you can easily charge $300 – $500 extra per month. So if a comparable unfurnished apartment in your area goes for $900, then you could charge $12,000 – $15,000 a month. For short-term renters you can easily charge thousands more per month. For vacation rentals you can charge several hundred per night—people will pay a premium for a furnished vacation rental. From these numbers, you can see how easy it would be to earn back your investment and then some.

Not to mention you avoid some of the problems that tend to happen the longer someone rents, such as hoarding, wall dings and holes from moving furniture and hanging pictures, and blatant destruction by tenants. Think about your current rentals and decide if you should give it a go.

If you would like to see more pros or cons of renting a furnished apartment, check out this article by Landlordology.com “Should I Furnish My Rental Property?

5 Ways to Improve Your Neighborhood Reputation

If renter’s dislike the area they aren’t likely to stick around long.

If no one shows a little TLC, a neighborhood, apartment complex, or area can quickly look battered, and its reputation will soon reflect that.

A bad reputation can mean you’ll have a hard time getting and keeping renters. Not to mention, when there’s an attitude of neglect, new tenants will show less regard and care for your property. Unfortunately attitude is catching.

If you are concerned about the neighborhood’s reputation, appearance, or friendliness, the answer is a simple one—start showing pride in the neighborhood and others will follow. It may take some considerable effort, but the fruits of your labor could definitely pay off.

5 Things You Can Do to Improve Neighborhood Curb Appeal

1. Attend events: A lot of neighborhoods will hold neighborhood or community events like Easter egg hunts, summer movies in the park, blood drives, etc. Make yourself present at some of the activities. But more importantly, make sure these activities are happening. For a good atmosphere, neighbors need to be friendly and get to know one another.

2. Plan activities: If the activities are happening—get a committee started to get things rolling. If the neighbors know one another, the less chance of contention or bad feelings.

3. Donate to local causes: If a tenant or local girl is selling Girl Scout cookies—buy some. If the community is raising money to improve a local park—donate. Supporting the community will show that you care beyond getting a paycheck and will ensure that the area stays nice or improves.

4. Have an online presence: If you don’t already have a Facebook page for your properties or individual apartment complexes then you should. This helps keep tenants abreast of situations and activities. A lot of communities and neighborhood have Facebook pages as well. Contribute to those pages as well with any pertinent information. This will also keep you informed of what’s going on.

5. Neighborhood cleanup: Every neighborhood could do with some cleaning and sprucing up—plan and make it happen. Getting the neighbors involved in taking care of their neighborhood will inspire them to take better care of it in the first place.

You don’t have to go overboard, but every now and then, making your presence known, helping out, and showing that you care will go a long way. Sometimes people just need a catalyst to help them keep the neighborhood a nice place—it’s a win-win for you, your tenants, and the neighborhood.

Should You Rent a House or an Apartment?

It’s time to upgrade, or maybe you just moved for a promotion—but whatever the reason, you’ll need to once again consider if you want to rent an apartment or rental house.

There are pros and cons to both, but it comes down to what you want and need from your living space. Carefully weigh your options as you consider the following:

6 Things to Consider When Renting a House or Apartment

Space: If you need lots of space you may have an easier time finding it in a rental house as opposed to an apartment. Not always, but typically apartments are smaller, have next to no outdoor living space, and are limited in storage.

Location: Locality can be a make it or break it point for some people. Depending on your job and lifestyle you may need to live as close to town as possible. While you may be able to find a rental home close to town, the chances that it will fit into your budget may not be as likely. If being close to town is a priority for you, you may have to forgo a rental house.

Maintenance: Some people enjoy taking care of a home, while others don’t want to deal with any maintenance. The upside of renting is that your landlord and property managers will take care of most maintenance issues. But if you choose a rental house you may have to step it up and mow the lawn, as well as some other regular maintenance issues that are taken care of for you at an apartment complex.

Amenities: Which amenities are included will vary from house to house and complex to complex, but typically an apartment complex provides more amenities. Again, it comes down to what kind of lifestyle you want. With a house you’ll get a yard and most likely a garage, but with an apartment you may have a community pool, fitness center, and playground. With an apartment you’ll also probably pay less for utilities as they are usually worked into the rent.

Privacy: We’ve all had to deal with those neighbors who are too loud, party too much, or have a crying baby—but it’s just a part of apartment living. You definitely lose some privacy and quiet in an apartment.

Customization: You’ll need to consider how much customization you want to do. If you’re a longtime apartment dweller you may be ready to finally paint some walls and make a place your own. Of course you’ll have to check with your landlord, but those who rent homes are much more open to letting their renters make minimal changes.

Now that you know the pros and cons to home and apartment living, you’ll need to weigh your options and make some decisions. Good luck on the apartment or house hunting!