5 Ways Landlords Save Money By Making Homes Eco-Friendly

Many individuals, landlords included, are opting to “go green.”

By making a property more eco-friendly, a landlord reduces the environmental impact of that home, but in addition to this benefit, there are a variety of ways it can also save them money.

1. Utilities Savings
While some landlords leave it to their tenants to have all utilities turned on, many also offer certain utilities, such as water and gas, as part of the rental agreement.

By installing water-saving technologies, such as low-flow shower heads and toilets, landlords can greatly reduce their water costs.
Similarly, investing in better insulation and new furnaces can reduce natural gas costs.

These are only a few options, as there are numerous home energy audits a landlord can perform to reduce a property’s environmental impact.

2. Tax Breaks
Although tenants are the ones who will inhabit a property, they’re not the ones who will have to pay taxes on it.

Because of this, it’s important for landlords to try to reduce their tax burden in any way possible, and fortunately, it’s easy to do this by simply going green.

The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) offers a resource that lists federal, state, and local tax incentives for home upgrades that are more environmentally sustainable.

3. Reduced Supplies Costs
Even seemingly minor costs can quickly add up for landlords who maintain more than one property. Paper waste, for instance, can quickly add up over the years.

Fortunately, a fair amount of this waste can be eliminated by simply using property management software that allows tenants to pay their rent online and landlords to perform background checks right over the internet.

4. Lower Repair Costs
Making a few eco-friendly changes around a property can also greatly reduce the repair costs that landlords see during a typical rental agreement.

Installing efficient insulation, for instance, will provide a home with better temperature regulation.

By doing this, HVAC systems will experience less strain from trying to maintain a comfortable temperature in a home.

Reduced HVAC running time equates to less wear and tear, and in the end, this means longer periods of time between necessary repairs and replacements.

5. Savings on Waste Removal
It’s also possible for landlords in certain areas to save money by reducing the amount of waste generated in their rental properties.

Many cities and counties, for instance, actually charge for waste removal based on the weight or volume of what’s removed from the property.

This means that, by simply eliminating some of the garbage created by tenants, landlords who cover waste removal can save money.

Unfortunately, it’s not easy, or sometimes even possible, to force tenants to reduce the amount of waste they produce.

It is possible, however, to increase the likelihood that they’ll do their fair share.

By providing composting areas for tenants, for instance, it’s possible to eliminate some of the waste generated in the average home by 25 percent.

Additionally, providing recycle bins can reduce waste even further.

In the end, these measures can result in substantial cost savings for landlords who pay for garbage collection by weight or volume.

There are countless environmental benefits of going green, but that’s not where the benefits end.

Whether a landlord is focused on saving money or saving the world, taking eco-friendly measures in their properties will help them succeed in their goal.

Reasons a Landlord Could Lose in Court

Regardless of how well landlords vet their tenants, situations will still sometimes arise that can land them in civil court.

This could be anything from eviction procedures to suing for damages or unpaid rent.

Unfortunately, there are a variety of mistakes that novice property managers often make that can leave them on the losing end of these cases.

Identifying and preventing these potential mishaps can go a long way in a court of law.

Self-Help Evictions
One common reason that landlords lose in court against tenants is reliance on self-help evictions.

These are evictions performed by the landlord without going through the appropriate legal channels.

Self-help methods include changing locks, removing a tenant’s belongings from the property, threatening the tenant, or allowing utilities to be cut off in the home.

These methods are illegal and can leave landlords open to lawsuits for wrongful eviction, illegal removal, trespassing, and even emotional distress. It is imperative to file the appropriate paperwork to keep an eviction legal.

Generic Lease Forms
Far too many landlords simply type “lease agreement” into an online search engine and use the first one that pops up.

Unfortunately, rental laws vary by state, and a generic form that might be valid in California likely won’t be enforceable in Florida.

Instead of researching all applicable laws and picking up legal documents from local authorities, it’s often a better idea to use online property management software that provides appropriate legal documents that adhere to each state’s laws.

This will prevent a landlord from losing a case in court due to improper lease forms.

Excessive Late Fees
Charging late fees is one of the tried and true methods of ensuring on-time rent payments.

These fees can help cover costs related to the inconvenience of not having funds in the bank on the expected date. In some instances, however, these late fees can prove excessive.

One property manager in California was recently taken to court by tenants due to excessive late fees.

The landlord charged between $50 and $100 for payments that were one day late, and tenants were charged additional late fees if they had an outstanding balance – even if that balance consisted solely of unpaid late fees.

The important lesson to take from this is to always ensure that late fees are modest and actually reflect the monetary damages caused by the late payment.

This is vital since courts may require landlords to justify their fee amounts.

Improper Security Deposit Behavior
Security deposits are meant to cover unpaid rent, necessary cleaning and damage that goes beyond typical wear and tear.

Keeping deposits to upgrade appliances or refurbish the home is illegal.

It can be illegal to keep the security deposit solely because a tenant breaks the lease.

If a two-month security deposit was required, but the unit is rented out to a new tenant within just one month, the landlord is required to return one month’s deposit to the tenant.

Finally, not abiding by a state’s deposit return laws can result in serious financial burdens for a landlord.

Each state has its own rules dictating when reductions in the deposit must be itemized and the remaining balance returned to the tenant.

Failing to abide by these laws can result in legal damages that are far greater than the initial security deposit.

Though it won’t happen all of the time, property managers should always be prepared to go to court.

Fortunately, following the aforementioned rules can increase the likelihood of navigating the legal system successfully.

In many cases, these tips will help keep you out of court altogether.

How to Repair Screw Holes in Drywall

Even though you told your tenants to only use hanging nails for pictures, there are always going to be tenants that use screws to hang up shelves, cabinets, and other items that they later take off the wall when they move out.

This can leave 2.5 inch wide holes, or larger in the drywall.

Here’s the good news: it’s pretty easy to fix this problem.

1. Pick Up Some Joint Compound, Spackle, and a Putty Knife.

A small container of joint compound, pressurized spackle, and a plastic putty knife will cost less than $20 in most locations.

Grab these supplies and take them home.

Make sure to mix the joint compound if there are fluids on the top after opening the container.

2. Press the Joint Compound Into the Hole.

You’ll want to take a small amount of compound and press it directly into the hole.

Continue doing so until the entire hole has been filled.

Take a little more, make the compound flush with the wall, and then allow it to dry.

Use a wet rag to wipe away an excess compound. Clean your putty knife. Repeat this step after the compound dries if necessary.

3. Sand Down the Patch.

If the surface of the patch is rough, then sand it down smooth.

A simple drywall sanding brick can do this in a few seconds after the compound has dried.

Brush away any dust.

4. Spackle the Repair.

If you don’t put texture on your repair site, you will be able to see the outline of the hole caused by the screw.

Match the texture with what is currently on your wall and spray a thin layer.

Repeat if necessary.

Allow it to dry overnight for best results.

5. Paint Over the Repair Site.

If your walls aren’t white, then you’ll need to paint the repair site.

Match up paint colors and then cover the texture.

For extensive repairs, you may need to paint the entire room or create a new accent wall.

Following these steps is the easiest way to repair screw holes in drywall.

Even for extensive repairs, it generally takes a weekend to do the job properly and no one will ever know that the wall had been damaged when you’re finished.

How To Repair Basement Wall Cracks

The basement wall is one of the most important structures of every home and building.

It supports part of the weight of the home, protects against water damage, and works to keep pests out of the building.

Cracks can begin to form for a wide variety of reasons, so it is important to understand why a basement wall is cracking so an appropriate repair can be made.

 

 

Fixing Vertical Basement Wall Cracks

Vertical basement wall cracks are one of the most dangerous situations that a basement wall faces.

These cracks usually begin forming when there are outward pressures on the wall that are caused by the foundation shifting.

It can also be an indication that there is too much direct pressure being applied to the wall.

If the pressure is not relieved, then repairing the crack in the wall will only be a temporary fix instead of a permanent solution.

Vertical cracks can often be sealed with a simple caulking or epoxy method.

You’ll want to make sure the product you use can fill in the crack completely.

To do this, you’ll want to use the “V” method of stabilization.

Make one end of the crack wider than the other so that it can support itself appropriately.

You may need to scrape the crack out, wash it out, and let it dry before starting the repair.

The issue with most vertical cracks is that there is a problem with erosion control.

When precipitation falls or when landscaping plants are being watered, the moisture is overwhelming the soil supports around the foundation.

A little moisture is fine, but too much will erode the soil base and cause place pressure on the foundation.

Look at the drainage patterns on the property and consider moving plants away from the home as external fixes for the basement wall cracks.

Fixing Stairway Basement Wall Cracks

When the cracks on your basement wall look like a set of stairs, this is usually an indication that the entire foundation is settling.

Many times these cracks are just minor and can be sealed up right away to prevent moisture from entering through the wall.

If left untreated, however, it is very possible for the crack to expand and become problematic.

This type of basement crack tends to retain moisture within it more than vertical or horizontal cracks.

You can eliminate the moisture by running a hair dryer along the crack for several minutes before attempting the repair.

Wait about 15-20 minutes after running the hair dryer to see if the crack stays dry.

If it does not, you’ll need to wait for the area to dry out on its own.

Using an epoxy injection system is usually a best practice for this type of repair.

The epoxy helps to strengthen the wall and prevent moisture from getting in to become an ongoing problem.

You’ll want to let the epoxy cure for about 5 days before removing the injection ports.

 

Fixing Horizontal Basement Wall Cracks

Horizontal basement wall cracks are also considered a critical repair, but because they have outward pressures being placed on them.

This occurs from the expanding and contracting of the soil around the foundation of the home.

You can relieve this pressure somewhat by keeping the soil near the foundation fairly moist all year long, but once the cracks appear, it becomes necessary to immediately repair the wall to prevent it from buckling.

Because the crack indicates that the wall has already buckled somewhat, you may need to reinforce the wall before repairing the crack.

This may mean having a complete foundation leveling completed.

Only a professional contractor should be performing that part of the repair because the foundation itself may need to be lifted to provide materials that can help to stabilize the basement wall.

Once the wall has been stabilized, you can then fill in the crack with your preferred repair method and the wall should remain stable.

You’ll need to be proactive in the future, however, about changing outdoor conditions to prevent too much pressure from being on the basement wall in the future.

Not relieving the pressure and just repairing the crack can further increase the problem and it may void your homeowner’s insurance as well.

Knowing how to repair basement wall cracks can help to keep a home standing strong.

Examine the crack, clean it out, and make sure it is dry before repairing it.

If the repair doesn’t hold or there are several issues that must be addressed, then be sure to speak with a local contractor to discuss what your options may be.

How To Verify an Identity

Whether it is for a job, a rental property, or for a child care supervision need, knowing how to verify an identity is essential knowledge for today.

Identity verification helps to protect your interests because you’ll know the person you’re considering really is who they say they are.

The most common way to accomplish this is with a background check, but there are some other options available to you as well.

1. Request Identification That Can Be Validated.

There are several forms of identification that can be used to determine if someone is actually who they say they are.

In the United States, a Social Security card is one of the most common pieces of identification that are used.

A driver’s license, a military identification, or a passport may also be used to help determine the validity of an identity.

2. Use Reverse Email Searches.

If you have someone’s email address, even if it is a public email system like Outlook or Gmail, it can be used to trace down someone’s identity.

You’ll need to hire someone to do this task for you, but it can work when information is difficult to locate.

3. Look For Public Records.

There are many public records that are open for examination and many people don’t realize this.

Any time there is a judgment, there will be a public record of this.

Marriage records are also public records, as are divorce records.

Sometimes even birth records are public, although the specific data may be limited, such as the birth date.

4. Consider Ancestry Software.

Genealogy has exploded in popularity, which means access to public records that can trace a person’s movements are also easier to access than ever before.

If your background checks are coming up empty, try using the available data you have about someone and then match it up with the data from their application.

In most instances, if someone’s identity cannot be verified, then you do not have to hire them or agree to rental terms.

Follow these steps and you’ll be able to verify the identities of most individuals.

Are Tax Liens Public Record?

All tax liens are public record. Tax season might be a time for refunds and celebration for some households, but for those who can’t afford their tax payments, it can be a nightmare.

When a tax debt remains unpaid, a lien can be placed on the property by whomever is owed the taxes.

 

The tax liens will remain on the property until they are paid in full.

Sometimes the government agency that placed the lien will keep it, but at other times they may sell it to a tax lien investor.

Either way, the impact on a household’s credit is swift and negative.

A tax lien can be as damaging as a foreclosure or a bankruptcy.

It will not begin to work its way off a credit report in most circumstances until the debt is paid in full and then it will remain for another 7 years.

Avoiding a Tax Lien Is a Best Practice

Because tax liens are a public record, this means anyone can research someone to determine if there is an outstanding debt.

This can affect job applications, the ability to get credit, and create a negative impact on personal finances.

Lower credit scores almost always translate to higher interest rates.

Sometimes, however, a tax lien may be withdrawn, but still be on a credit report. In this circumstance, the individual with the tax lien on their report will need to dispute the item in writing.

A withdrawn tax lien cannot usually be paid in full, which means it will always stay active.

 

The best outcome is to pay a tax responsibility before it becomes overdue.

If you know that you’ll not be able to pay the amount in full, then pay as much as you can and then make payment arrangements for the remainder that is outstanding.

There may be fees and penalties involved, but those are better than a tax lien.

Take charge of your finances today.

Avoid having a tax lien on your public record so that you’ll be able to have an easier path toward the strong financial future you want.

When Tenants Go Rogue: The Problems Tracking Tenants Who Didn’t Pay

When a tenant skips town while owing you money for past rent or damages, you may have a real challenge finding them, especially if they’re slippery enough to have dodged other debts, as well.

Trying to reach a former tenant by phone is practically impossible in today’s world of disposable cell phones and call blockers.

This means you’ll likely need to up your game by taking serious measures to locate your negligent ex-tenant. Here are three alternative methods you can use to find a deadbeat tenant who owes you money:

1. U.S. Postal Service
Sometimes the post office can help you track down a former tenant.

However, due to privacy laws, you may not be able to get the new address by simply asking for it.

Luckily, there is a perfectly legal way around this dilemma.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Before you take action, wait until the mail carrier puts a “vacant” card in the mailbox or the tenant no longer receives mail at your rental property. This usually means the mail is being forwarded to a new address.
  • Once the tenant’s mail dries up, send a notice in an envelope addressed to your rental property with the words “Address Service Requested” written under your return address.
  • If the tenant has filed a change of address with the post office, your envelope will be forwarded to the new address. Plus you will receive a separate notice from the USPS that lists the tenant’s new address on record.

Keep in mind the post office charges a nominal fee for this service and it usually takes a few weeks to get the tenant’s new forwarding address information.

If this method doesn’t work the first time around because the tenant hasn’t yet filed a change of address, wait and then try again.

2. Collection Agency
Another way to locate a former tenant who owes you money is by hiring a collection agency to find them.

Since collection agencies keep a percentage of any money collected, it may not be worth the effort if you are owed a small amount.

Also, before you make an attempt, you must have a legal judgment against the tenant before a collection agency can help you.

Once you obtain a legal judgment against your former tenant, a collection agency or judgment recovery agency can have their wages garnished and bank account levied.

For a bank levy, you’ll need the tenant’s bank account information; hopefully you kept a copy of any checks they used to pay rent in the past.

Of course, the bank account still needs to be open for this to work.

Also, there’s no guarantee that the tenant won’t close the account once a levy is in place.

3. References
You may also try contacting the personal and professional references listed on the tenant’s original rental application to obtain his new address.

This process can be hit-or-miss, but it’s worth a shot.

If you go this route, be very careful about what you say because the tenant could try to sue you if you say anything about his character that could be interpreted as slanderous.

If the tenant can prove the statements you made about them have somehow injured his reputation, you could be found liable for defamation of character in court.

Locating a deadbeat tenant is no easy task, but these three alternative methods should help you eventually get results.

Before you take any drastic steps to track them down, speak with a legal professional to ensure your actions comply with the letter of the law and won’t cause future problems.

What is a Tax Lien Certificate?

A tax lien certificate is a certificate of claim against a property.

They are issued when there are unpaid taxes, usually property taxes, that are directly associated with the structures and land in question.

These certificates are issued by most counties in the US and some individual municipalities also offer them.

Instead of pursuing delinquent taxes, these certificates allow a governing body to collect needed tax revenues by selling the certificates to investors.

Tax Lien Certificates Are Sold In Many Different Ways

Most homeowners are going to pay their taxes, even when those taxes are overdue.

The lien on the property gives the certificate holder rights to collect money when the home is sold.

If there is a tax lien for $2,000, for example, and it remains unpaid until a property is sold, then the cash from that transaction would be deduced the outstanding amount plus interest that the lien certificate holds.

The term of a tax lien certificate is generally 1-3 years.

The tax rates are generally between 8-30%.

If the property owner doesn’t pay the bill and collection efforts have been made, then the certificate holder may also choose to foreclose upon the property to take possession of it.

What Is the Key To Making a Good Investment?

Tax lien certificates have higher returns, but they also have a higher risk.

They often can’t be sold to another investor.

The issuer of the certificate may recall it at any time due to an internal error at current interest rates instead of the maximum allowable.

This means making a good investment often requires a lot of research.

The benefit of owning a tax lien certificate is that this debt is often given a first priority over other liens, like contractor liens.

If the property sells, then you get the first chance to collect the cash that is owed.

The value of the property must be worth the potential legal proceedings necessary to claim them.

Worthless properties don’t often have property taxes paid on them because they are of such a low value.

By tracking which properties offer the best chances for success, a tax lien certificate can be a good investment.

If you can afford the initial purchase of the tax lien, then this could be a good investment.

Perform your due diligence, check for local certificates and their value, and then begin collecting a return that can often beat what stocks and bonds can provide.

How To Repair a Fiberglass Shower

A fiberglass shower is a lightweight addition to install in a bathroom, but over time and frequent use it can begin to develop some wear patterns.

It may even crack. Instead of replacing the entire shower unit, however, most cracks can be effectively repaired.

Here is how you can make that happen.

1. Clean Out the Fiberglass Crack.

The fiberglass needs to be completely clean so it can be repaired.

You’ll want to wash it out, then sand it out, then blow it out with a can of compressed air, and then wash it out one more time.

Allow to air dry or use carefully use a hair dryer.

2. Apply Fiberglass Mesh if Necessary.

When a crack is more than 0.25 inches wide, then it will need to be reinforced in order to be properly repaired.

Pick up a piece of fiberglass mesh to place over the repair site.

For deep cracks or actual holes in the shower, multiple layers of mesh may be necessary.

Fiberglass cloth is also a viable solution.

3. Mix Together a Tinted Epoxy.

You’ll be mixing the sealant for the repair, which is usually an epoxy mixture.

Most are tinted to match the color of the shower fixture already.

Press it into the crack or cover the fiberglass mesh.

Smooth it down to create a seamless repair.

Allow to cure up to 24 hours.

4. Sand Down the Repair.

Once the epoxy resin has completely cured, you will need to sand down the repair site until it is flush with the rest of the shower.

Use a damp cloth or compressed air to remove any dust.

Now apply a second layer of the resin, but without any thickener. Allow to dry and repeat this step.

5. Buff It Out.

Once the final layer has been added, using a buffing compound to restore a glossy appearance to the shower.

This may take two or three attempts to restore the luster of the shower.

For darker fiberglass units, one pass is usually enough to get the job done.

Don’t spend $1,000 or more to replace a cracked fiberglass shower.

Purchase a repair kit and follow these steps today to quickly repair the shower over the course of a weekend.

How To Repair Hardwood Floor Scratches

Hardwood floors look beautiful, but over time they can take quite a beating.

Dropping items, sliding chairs, and dog claws can all wind up scratching the wood surface.

The end result is quite unsightly. Instead of replacing the entire floor, knowing how to repair hardwood scratches can have the floor looking like new in no time at all.

1. Try Filling Them In.

If the scratches are minor, then you may be able to fill in the scratches with a filling compound, such as paste wax.

Make sure the color matches.

You may also be able to remove the appearance of the scratch with something like a furniture pen.

If the paste wax is used, be sure to buff out any excess to bring back shine.

2. Gouges Can Benefit From Paste Wax Too.

Although gouges are deeper than scratches, they can still benefit from some paste wax.

A crayon or a filler stick on the bottom of the gouge may be necessary to bring the gouge up to the surface of the floor.

You may need to sand down the gouge as well since there will typically be a raised lip around it.

3. Fix Deep Gouges With Wood Putty.

You can fill a deep hole with wood putty that matches the floor color.

Sanding dust from the floor can also be mixed with epoxy to create the same effect.

Once the compound dries, sand it down so it is flush with the rest of the floor.

Once the repair is flush, use a clean cloth to wipe away any dust.

Use a breathing protector to avoid epoxy dust as needed.

4. When In Doubt, Polish It Out.

If you can seem to find the right wood putty or furniture pen, then consider shopping for some shoe polish.

Just make sure to wipe away any extra polish away from the floor before it dries to avoid damaging the floor in another way.

No matter which repair method is used, a thin coat of hardwood floor’s finish will often be necessary to complete the look.

If an entire board is damaged, it may be easier to pull the board and replace it.

Follow these steps and you’ll be able to have that hardwood floor looking like new in no time at all.