How To Fix Flickering LED Lights

Investing into LED lights is a great way to save money, but sometimes those lights can cause a few problems. They are expensive to replace every time they flicker and those lights can flicker a lot! The good news is that this issue can often be fixed. Don’t run out to buy a bunch of bulbs because there’s a good chance they’ll all flicker. Take a look at these issues instead to eliminate the flicker once and for all.

Check the Amount of Current In Your Home

The most common reason why LED lights will flicker, especially if it is only an occasional problem, is because there are voltage changes happening within the wiring of the home. This is because there is a current flow in the wiring and the resistance of each wire uses some of the voltage. If you turn on a washing machine while the refrigerator is running and this is when you see a flickering LED light, then there’s a good chance you have loads turning on and off that change the voltage levels and this is causing the flicker.


High Surge Wattage

Many appliances will require more power when they first start than when they are running consistently. This is called surge wattage and the power drain required can cause LED lights to flicker. This is because there is a large drop in voltage in the home. Both problems can be corrected by moving the heavier load items to their own 240 volt circuits. This isn’t always a cheap option, but is often a necessary one because otherwise a voltage load could cause future problems that an insurance policy might not always cover. Even with proper loads, however, LED lights will continue to flicker, but often imperceptibly.

Loose Connections

Another common reason why LED lights flicker is because there is a loose connection within the circuit. Try screwing the light bulb in further to correct the problem. If this does not work, then dust or debris might be interfering with the connection to make it loose. Take a bottle of compressed air and just blow out the connection point to remove dirt. There could also be wiring at the connection point that has worked its way loose over time, which would mean needing to disconnect the power to the circuit and then tighten up the wiring.


Bad Switches

A lot of homes today have dimmer switches and many of these are actually incompatible with the modern LED light bulb. If you do have a dimmer switch, try replacing one or two of your LED bulbs on the circuit with traditional incandescent bulbs or the energy saving ones. This can correct the load issues and stop the flicker. Some issues can be self-corrected, like tightening a light bulb. If you need wiring changes, however, then you may need a professional. You might also need building permits to initiate the repair. Once completed, however, you should be able to stop those LED lights from flickering once and for all.

How To Kill Mold on Drywall

As Winter turns into Spring, many homeowners find themselves with an unpleasant surprise lurking on the drywall around their windows: mold.

Mold can also form in any environment which sees a consistent moisture level.Bathrooms can be mold incubators all year long.

Because you have a much higher risk of developing airway inflammation and infections when mold is present, you’ll want to know how to kill mold on drywall.

The good news is that if you kill the mold right away, you can usually save the drywall.

If the mold has been lingering there for awhile, you might need to replace the contaminated section.

Your best option is to be proactive and create less of a moisture-rich environment by keeping condensation to a minimum and running dehumidifiers in bathrooms or other high risk environments.

If the mold is already there, then you can kill it with these useful options.

1. Use a Bleach/Water Combination.

Using a mixture of 0.5 cup bleach to 1 quart water, take a scrub brush and lightly brush the drywall until all of the signs of mold disappear.

You’ll want to wipe off the surface once it has disappeared, but make sure you don’t rinse the surface. By leaving the bleach on, you’ll be able to kill the spores which may be in the drywall.

Expose the drywall to sunlight if at all possible.

2. Use Borax To Scrub Away The Mold.

Borax has a higher pH than baking soda or vinegar, which makes it the best option for killing mold. You’ll want to use 1 cup of Borax for every gallon of water you use.

Take a vacuum and remove as much freestanding mold as you can.

Then scrub the mold with your Borax solution until the signs of it disappear from the drywall. Wipe away any excess moisture and allow the drywall to then dry.

Don’t rinse off the mixture.

Vinegar is an even safer option, but it only kills about 80% of household molds that may form.

It may be non-toxic, but it may also be ineffective.

If you do use vinegar or baking soda, make sure you leave your preferred cleaner on the mold for several minutes before scrubbing it away to achieve best results.

You’ll then want to apply vinegar on the affected drywall every few days for a couple months to make sure no spores decide they want to grow.

3. Ammonia Can Kill Mold As Well.

Ammonia should be considered an option of last resort if the mold is on your drywall.

It is a rather toxic chemical and it doesn’t absorb into the drywall very well.

Never use ammonia on a wall that you’ve already cleaned with bleach because the combination of these two chemicals creates a gas that is toxic.

Always use clear ammonia if this is the method that you prefer.

4. The Pros And Cons Of Using Hydrogen Peroxide On Mold.

Hydrogen peroxide is about as effective on mold as bleach.

The problem is that it can even cause white paint to fade or alter its color.

Before you clean a wall with this option, you’ll want to spot test a surface that is out of sight to make sure your drywall won’t be affected.

You’ll want a 3% solution that you can apply directly to the mold, so that’s good news because that’s the solution you’ll find at most department stores.

Spray the hydrogen peroxide onto the mold directly and then allow the surface to sit for at least 10 minutes.

Scrub the area to remove the mold and then wipe it down to remove any residual mess.

Repeat as necessary to remove any lingering mold.

5. Sandblasting The Mold Is Another Last Resort Option.

If the mold has penetrated through your drywall and into the studs or wooden wall supports, then you’ll need to cut out the affected drywall.

It will be wet and crumbly and there will be spores of mold that will come out as you are cutting.

Make sure you are wearing breathing protection for this task.

You can apply a bleach solution to wood to remove mold, but that won’t always get rid of all of it.

Sometimes sandblasting wood to remove mold is your best option. This type of work typically requires a general contractor to perform it in most jurisdictions.

You may also be required to apply for a building or remodeling permit in order to complete this task.

It is very effective and creates a safe foundation for your new drywall, but is expensive and labor intensive.

Knowing how to kill mold on drywall can keep you and your family safe from breathing inflammation and infections that mold can cause.

Don’t let your mold just sit there untreated. It will continue to spread and you will experience a higher risk of sickness when it does.

Use these options to kill it off today so that tomorrow your lungs can be much happier.

What Property Owners Need to Know about the ADA

People with disabilities often struggle with everyday activities that most of us take for granted. The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) was created in 1990 to help make life easier for disabled people.

The ADA applies to rental properties as well, and landlords should be aware of pertinent ADA guidelines. Some of the laws vary depending on when the property was built. Homes, apartment and condos for rent that were built before the ADA took effect (January 26, 1990) have slightly different requirements than those constructed after this date. All landlords should be aware of the ins and outs of the Americans with Disabilities Act in order to stay compliant.

Reasonable Requests for Modifications
At this time, every rental property, regardless of when it was built, allows for disabled tenants to make reasonable requests for accommodations and modifications to the residence related to their disability. Disabled renters may also ask landlords to make changes to the property policies or rules in ways that help to make life easier for them pertaining to their disabilities. An example of such an accommodation might be giving them priority for the most easy-access units, such as those located on the first floor.
Rental property sidewalks, doors, entryways, and hallways must be accessible to disabled persons. Both interior and exterior common areas must also be compliant. However, requests for special elevators, ramps, and financially expensive and difficult to achieve modifications by disabled tenants is not mandatory under the ADA. For example, a tenant’s request for a personal elevator would be considered unreasonable; however, designating a few “disabled only” parking spaces in the parking lot is both fair and financially viable for most landlords.

Properties Built Before the ADA Took Effect
Properties that were already in existence before January 26, 1990, abide by different rules than properties built after this date. The focus is on the public areas of multi-unit properties. These properties are required to remove any obstacles to access by disabled tenants wherever possible and readily feasible; that is, not requiring too much expense or undue difficulty for the landlord.

Properties Built After the ADA Took Effect
Rental properties that were built after ADA regulations went into effect in 1990 must ensure access for disabled persons to designated common areas such as on-site laundry facilities, the rental office, public restrooms, and lounge areas that are meant for residents and their visitors. However, the interiors of rental units are not subject to these requirements.

Financial Responsibility
When it comes to major personal interior modifications of units made by a disabled renter, the cost of these changes and updates must be taken care of by the tenant. They may also have to bear the costs of restoring the unit back to its original state if and when they decide to move out; however, this can be negotiated with the landlord, who may want to keep the modifications to the unit in some cases.

That said, ADA rules state that landlords must pay for the “reasonable accommodations and modifications” made after a request by the tenant. Anything beyond reasonable is the responsibility of the tenant. Again, while a handrail installed in the bathroom and non-slip paint on a porch are reasonable requests of landlords, a brand new elevator or stair lift in the unit would be the tenant’s financial responsibility.

How to Best Approach Maintenance Issues in Your Rental

How to Best Approach Maintenance Issues in Your Rental

 

  • DIY vs Calling a Pro – Many landlords chose to get into the business because they can handle many maintenance problems themselves. There will be some issues, though, that will require a professional that has been trained in that field.
  • Find Your Approach – Maintenance problems will happen, so it’s best to have a general idea what those major issues are most likely going to be and to have a game plan for if/when they happen.
  • Easy Solutions – There will be certain maintenance concerns that have very easy solutions that will not require a contractor to come out. If you can handle it easily on your own, why spend the money to call someone?
  • First Impressions and Exterior Maintenance – The first thing that a potential tenant will see when they drop by to look at the rental is the exterior. Make sure that what they see is neat, tidy, and well maintained or they may simply move onto the next rental and bypass yours entirely.
  • LeaksA small leak can be irritating, but a big leak can cause major problems in your rental. Water damage can be costly in more than just what it takes to repair the damage. If your tenant cannot live in the rental during the time the repairs are taking place, you may be out rent payments as well.
  • Mold
    • Avoiding Lawsuits – Mold can cause a variety of health problems, and if your tenants believe that you have not lived up to your duties as a landlord, you could be on the wrong end of a lawsuit.
    • How to Get Rid of Mold – If mold does manage to get into your rental unit you will want to know how to get rid of it.
  • Squirrels in the Wall – Squirrels may be cute from a distance, but you don’t want them taking up residence in your rental’s attic or in the walls.
  • Trustworthy Contractors – Finding a good contractor can make or break a repair job. You’ll want to find someone that is trustworthy and can get the job done.
  • Onsite/24-Hour Maintenance – If you have multiple units, you may consider hiring someone who can provide 24 hour maintenance and live onsite.
  • Avoiding Negligence Lawsuits – When you accept a tenant into your property you will (hopefully) sign a lease with them. This is a legally binding agreement between you both. If you fail to keep the residence in a habitable condition, your tenant may have a case for a negligence lawsuit.

 

How to Manage Your Rental from A to Z

Learning how to manage your rental properties through trial and error can be costly in the property management business. Even if you’ve been in the business a while, there are always new problems that may pop up over time and ones that you will want to find a way to avoid long before they become a possibility. We’ve compiled ten tips below to hit the high points of managing your rentals beginning to end.

  • Make Sure you’re Ready – If you are looking at buying your first investment property or adding to your portfolio, you’ll want to make sure you’re financially ready to take that step.
  • How to Start – Starting out as a landlord can be overwhelming. There are so many small things that you should know, and possibly more that you don’t even know that you should know. Take a look at this article to make sure you’re covering what you need.
  • Tools of the Trade – When you’re getting ready to put your rental up for lease, you’ll want to make sure you have done the appropriate amount of research to ensure that potential tenants know that it’s the best option on the table for them. There are some great tools to help you in that research.
  • Tenant Privacy -During the application and tenant screening process you may gather quite a bit of information from your applicants. Some of this information will be very sensitive, such as social security numbers and other identifying information. You will need to make sure it is safe and protected.
  • Understanding Landlord Harassment – There may be times when a landlord needs to contact the tenant for something or even enter the home, but be careful that your actions aren’t viewed as harassing the tenants or keeping them from enjoying their home in peace, or you may find yourself in trouble.
  • Preventative Maintenance – From time to time a repair will need to be made on the rental home that you own, and you should have an arrangement with your tenant so that they know that they need to alert you to this. Even so, preventative maintenance can save you a lot of money in the long run.
  • Major Repairs – Preparing for major repairs on an occupied rental can be troublesome, but sometimes you have no choice. There are several things you will need to decide, but it’s best to work with your tenants to make sure that everyone is on the same page and you cause them the smallest amount of inconvenience possible.
  • Negligence Lawsuits – When you accept a tenant into your rental home it is likely that you both sign a contract, agreeing to a set of rules between you. If you purposefully neglect something in that agreement, you may find yourself at the other end of a lawsuit.
  • Outgoing Tenant Checklist – Tenant turnover can be a very rushed time, but you don’t want to let your outgoing tenant fall through the cracks just because you’re focused on your incoming tenant.
  • Selling a Rental Property – There may come a time when you decide it’s time to sell your rental property. If so, there are several things you should think about before putting it on the market.

How to Choose the Best Management Option for Your Rental

When you choose to invest in a rental property, one of the many decisions that you will need to make is how you will manage it. Some of that will depend on the location of the property versus where you live and how actively you wish to be involved in your investment. The decision between hiring a property manager and managing the property yourself is one you will need to weigh carefully, and to help you with that, LandlordStation has gathered some helpful articles for each scenario to help make sure that you have all the information in front of you that you’ll need to get you on your way to making an informed decision.

Hiring a Property Manager

  • Timing – You may be having trouble deciding if you need a property manager or not. There are pros and cons to hiring someone to help and to choosing to tackle the project on your own, but a lot of it boils down to timing and knowing when it’s the right time to hire a property manager.
  • Individuals vs Comapnies – If you decide that you want or need to hire someone to help, one of the next decisions that you’ll need to make is if you would prefer an individual or a company to handle the day-to-day work of property management.
  • Know What to Expect – Part of deciding if it’s time to hire a property manager is knowing what you should expect from a property management company. Not only will this help you decide if you need help in these areas, but it will help you understand what you should be looking for in a property management company if you start interviewing them.
    • Knowing How Much a Property Management Company Will Charge – A property management company or single property manager should be able to provide you with the details on how they charge for their services, but this article should give you a general idea what is commonly charged.
    • Make Sure They’re Insured – If you have never run a property management business for yourself, you may not know what they should be insured for. Make sure that any company that you hire is covered.
  • Social Media and Property Management
    • Social Sites Property Managers Should Be On – Social media is a great way to do some checking into a property management company before meeting with them. You can get a general idea of how they do business and what they focus on.
    • Online Reputation – If the property management company is online, you may find out a bit about their reputation by looking through that information and what others have said about them. Keep in mind that one disgruntled customer does not necessarily mean that they run a bad business.
  • Know When It’s Time to Switch – When you hire a property manager, the assumption is that it will make your life a little easier. If tenants start reaching out to you or you have trouble contacting your property management company, it might be time to look about hiring a different one.
  • Legally Terminating a Contract – It’s a good thing to remember that a property management company works for you. Even so, you likely will have a contract with them, so if you decide that you need to split ways, make sure to do it legally.

Managing Your Own Property

  • Full-Time Property Management –  Many landlords choose to manage their rental properties on the side of their main job, but there may come a day when you consider jumping into property management full time. Make sure you’re ready.
  • Being Your Own Property Manager –  If you choose to tackle the property management side of your rental business alone, there are a few things you should be aware of.
  • Build Your Understanding – While you will learn many lessons simply by managing your rental property, you will not want to neglect the research that goes into taking on this responsibility. There are several great books written on the subject of property management that can help you find your best approach.
  • Research – Part of taking on the property management side of your rental business is doing to research for a new property. If you handle the research correctly and detail out what you need to know about the area surrounding your investment, you can take your property management business to the next level.
  • Accounting – Proper and detailed bookkeeping is a must for any landlord and property manager. Check out these five tips to help you keep everything in order so that nothing slips through the cracks.
  • You Don’t Have to Do Everything – Just because you choose to take on your own property management doesn’t mean that you have to tackle every single job yourself. There are certain things that may be a bit easier to delegate out.
  • Think about Property Management Software – One way to ease the burden off of yourself as a single landlord and property manager is to invest in property management software. This can help you in everything from tenant screening to marketing to rent collection.
  • Network With Other Property Managers –  Learning from your own mistakes can be expensive in the property management business, but if you choose to network with others that have been in the business longer you may find ways to avoid more common mistakes.

4 Fantastic Ideas to Landscape Your Rental Properties on a Budget

In many locations, the rental market is highly competitive with many people choosing to become landlords, investing in properties to rent. Of course, vacant properties don’t translate to income, so the landlord’s goal is to avoid vacancies.

Fortunately, there is an easy way to attract tenants to your property over other choices … landscaping the gardens. A beautifully landscaped piece of land will make your property desirable, giving it ideal curb appeal enabling you to maintain your rent price at a reasonable rate, so you don’t miss rental opportunities over the months. And, the great news is that it’s possible to landscape affordably!

This article will cover the four main ways you can landscape your rental property, that will bring the most value to your investment without breaking the bank. Plus, we know how valuable your time is, so these options will require minimal maintenance, and will stay looking great for years to come.

Landscaping Option One – Covering Ground Space

Image courtesy of minimalisti.comOne of the things that can detract from the overall appeal of a property is a wasteland of bare earth surrounding it, especially if junk has accumulated there. It is essential to clear any rubbish from around your rental property – hopefully that goes without saying!

Empty ground space can be covered in a number of ways, and the landscaping suggestions below are easy to maintain, affordable and attractive:

  • Ground can be covered with upcycled paving stones, which can be placed in a mosaic, irregular or systematic pattern, depending on what you have available and the look you would like to achieve.
  • Seams between the pavers can be filled with moss, to give the space a finished look.
  • Gravel is an inexpensive way to fill an empty space of ground to give it a more finished look. You can choose various colors to suit your style.
  •  If you prefer the look of planted ground, lawn is generally not the most cost effective choice, as it can be expensive and requires a lot of water to maintain as well as maintenance requirements to keep weeds under control.
  • Try thyme or lamium instead of grass, as they are inexpensive to purchase, spread quickly and look great … thyme smells wonderful, too.
  • If you’re opting for a planted space, add a layer of mulch to save money over time. Mulch helps the soil retain moisture, plus it cuts down on weeds and requires less watering.

Landscaping Option Two – Choosing Plants, Trees and Shrubs

Annuals vs Perennials

When choosing plants to include in the landscaping of your rental property, it makes sense to look for perennials, which return to flower every year, without any additional time, money or work from the tenant (or landlord!). They are generally more expensive initially, but over time, this investment pays for itself.

Many landlords also choose to include annuals in their landscaping, as this reduces the initial expenditure and you can, therefore, create a lush garden full of color for less. If you decide to incorporate annual plants in the garden of your rental property, why not look for those that drop seeds which will potentially provide you with more plants the following year, with no effort! Ideas include poppies and sweet peas.

Trees and Shrubs

If you would like to include trees or shrubs in the garden of your investment property, start with younger, slow growing varieties, which are far cheaper than established options. It makes sense to include trees, as they can add value to your property, beyond the aesthetic appeal.

“One of the non-aesthetic ways a tree can improve the quality of life on your property is by saving you money. A good “shade tree” can dramatically impact a home’s air conditioning requirements by blocking direct sunlight in the summer. The American Power Association estimates that effective landscaping can reduce a home cooling bill by up to 50%. Then, in the winter, your trees (especially Evergreens) can help block the wind, saving those precious BTUs.

American Forests claims that trees placed appropriately around one’s house can reduce the need for heating by 20% to 50%. Other benefits of a tree-lined property include their ability to keep erosion in check by virtue of their extensive roots, although you’re unlikely to appreciate the value of this service like you might from the energy savings. Trees also absorb carbon dioxide, converting it to sweet, sweet oxygen. Two mature trees alone put out more oxygen than one human being consumes.” [source]

Don’t Forget….

Another thing to keep in mind when choosing plants and trees, is to look for native species, which are naturally more suited to your climate, and will require less care. If you would like to install a watering system to protect your investment in plants, consider installing a soaker hose which will keep your garden watered with ease. Plus, they use less water than watering cans or sprinklers.

Finally, be sure to shop around when looking for plants, as different nurseries will offer different prices and you may be able to save a considerable amount of money through negotiation, especially towards the end of the season. However, make sure you plant your purchases at the right time to give them the best possible chance of thriving.

Image courtesy of gardenbuilders.co.ukLandscaping Option Three – Creating Additional Living Space

A superb way to add value to your rental property via landscaping is to create additional living space, bringing the outdoors, indoors. This can transform a home for a tenant, and keep your property highly desirable.

Robust seating areas with a fire pit are one option, otherwise dining spaces with outdoor tables and chairs are also useful, if your climate allows for it. These extra touches will provide tenants with an idea of the type lifestyle they can enjoy on your property. If there is already a porch, a pool or a patio, be sure to make the most of that.

Landscaping Option Four – Adding A Designer Touch

You can also transform the outdoor spaces of your rental properties easily – adding touches that can look as though a designer has come along and waved their magic wand. Enhancements can be done for far less money than you might imagine and can look highly effective. Here are our top three designer touches that you can include in your landscaping to add value to your investment property, keeping tenants knocking at your door:

Choose One Color

Sticking with one color, or a limited palette throughout the design of your investment property landscaping is an easy way to create a designer effect. The color can be echoed throughout the planting, gravel, pavers, planters, edging and so on … the only limit is your imagination. This can look absolutely fantastic, and costs no more than choosing multicolored options.

Image courtesy of cdn.gardenloversclub.comMake Unique Planters

Planters can look great in a garden, and are useful to manage the spread of certain plants, and are the only option in some limited spaces. The problem is that planters can be quite costly and are generally all the same kind of style. However, with a little creativity, many discarded items can be upcycled to make great looking planters. Wine barrels, tires and pallets are just three options that can be sourced cheaply from reclaim yards. The following instructions from Crafty Little Gnome show just how simple it can be to create beautiful planters from tires.

Materials:

  • Old tires
  • Knife
  • Paint (optional)
  • Potting soil
  • Plants

1) Get several tires. If you don’t have any old tires lying around, try Craigslist. People will be begging you to take their old tires or you could call auto shops. They will  probably have tires they can give you, too .

2) Take your tire and cut away the inner part of the rubber. Use the natural grooves in the rubber as a guide. If you ever bought one of those fancy Ginsu knives that claim to cut everything from steak to slabs of marble, now is the time to dust if off and put it to good use. Please be careful. Nothing ruins a fun DIY project faster than a trip to the emergency room!

3) Now, you are going to flip your tire inside out. This is more difficult on tires without rims. Use your feet for support and pull the trimmed edge up. Consider calling a friend with big muscles over to help. The older the tires are, the easier this will be.

4) Tires with rims are slightly easier. Flip the tire upside down so the trimmed side is face down. Sit in the middle and pull the sides up with all your might.

5) Now that your tires are inside our give them a good spray down with the hose and clean off all the gunk.

6) If you want to paint your tires, now is the time to do so. Make sure they are very clean and dry before painting. I like my tires rather plain which is why I left them au naturale. A Google search will bring up numerous ideas for inspiration for bright, fun colored tires that look like flowers and such.

7) Place your tires where they will have a permanent home. The tires without rims won’t have bottoms, so they will not be easily moved. Tires with rims have a bottom, so the dirt won’t spill out completely. They will however, be quite heavy.

8) Fill your tire planters with potting soil and add your favorite plants.

[source]

Plant Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental grasses are an inexpensive and modern way to bring a designer touch to areas that would benefit from planting. Blue oatgrass, flax or Image courtesy of thosbakerblog.comzoysia are all beautiful choices that are very easy to maintain.

Summary

With increasing competition in the rental market, one way you can increase the curb appeal of your investment property is with attractive landscaping. This is yet another role for you to play as landlord, but it can be easier than you think!

With these simple ideas to fill empty space, choose affordable plants, create additional living space and add designer touches and you will find that you are never left with a vacant property. Plus, our suggestions are low-maintenance, so your investment in time and money will pay dividends over the years.

Top 10 Amazing Ways to Protect a Rental Investment

Protecting your rental property can take many forms. There are mistakes to be avoided, scams that you will want to stay clear of, the possibility of damage done to the property, etc etc… Your best bet is to get ahead of the issues before they happen, and make sure that you know how to properly protect your investment.

  • Avoid Common Mistakes – In real estate investment, some mistakes could cost you quite a bit of money. There are more common mistakes that would be best to avoid.
  • Know What to Expect – The difference between success and failure can boil down to preparation. Part of that is knowing what to expect and knowing how to avoid any common mistakes.
  • “Real Estate Guru” Scams – It’s always a good idea to seek out advice so that you can make the best decisions possible in your real estate investments, but be careful that you are looking to the right places and people for that advice.
  • Safely Applying for a Mortgage – When you apply for a loan you will be providing very sensitive, personal information. Check out these tips on how to protect yourself from identity theft during this time.
  • Protecting Your Vacant Property – There will often be a bit of time between an outgoing tenant and an incoming one, and this will leave your property sitting vacant. You will want to make sure that it will be protected.
  • Uses of a Security System – Security systems installed in a rental can help protect both your property and the tenants that are living there, as well as make your rental more profitable.
  • Renters’ Insurance – As a landlord you will have your property insured, but you may consider requiring renters’ insurance as well so that your tenants and their belongings are covered and protected.
  • Protecting Your Property With a Lease – When you accept an applicant as a new tenant you will want to sign a lease with them. This is meant to protect both parties involved and detail out what is expected.
  • How to Handle Late Payments – If your tenant doesn’t pay their rent on time you may have trouble paying the mortgage on the home or the upkeep. Make sure that you know how to handle late payments.
  • Protect Your Property During an Eviction – An eviction can be a stressful time for both landlord and tenant, but you’ll want to make sure that your rental property is protected.

Is Your Landlord Insurance Worth the Monthly Premium?

Landlords, we know you have a great deal to contend with. Maintaining a property, paying the mortgage, keeping the tenant happy … these are just three items on a very long list. Most landlords have a career and even family responsibilities to handle, too. So, when it comes to landlord insurance, it might be tempting to simply find a well-priced deal and sign on the dotted line.

We are here to tell you that by spending even a brief amount of time researching the particulars of the insurance policy, is an absolute must. Don’t be fooled into thinking that all policies are the same.

Many people don’t realize that landlord insurance is completely different compared to standard homeowner policies, where the policyholder actually lives on the property, but rentals are considered to be a greater risk for insurance companies. It’s simple: Tenants are not invested in a home in the same way the owner is; therefore, they may not treat it with as much respect.

Oftentimes homeowners have been caught when they fail to notify their insurers that they have moved out of home and are now renting it. The problem is, if you fail to distinguish your insured home as a rental property, the policy may not pay out when you may need it to. So, be sure to protect your investment and know that you are covered with adequate insurance.

To save you unnecessary headaches and cost, we have compiled a list of the five critical clauses that your rental insurance absolutely must cover.

Dwelling Coverage

Image courtesy of architectureartdesigns.com/Dwelling coverage, sometimes called “dwelling insurance,” is the part of your homeowners insurance policy that helps to pay for the rebuilding or the repair of the physical structure of your home if it’s damaged by a covered hazard.”

This is the main purpose of your housing insurance, and protects you in the case of structural issues, major plumbing problems and acts of nature (including hurricanes, earthquakes, riots, fire, break in, vandalism). The specifics will depend on your policy, so take the time to determine exactly what is covered. Various locations may exclude coverage during certain strong weather situations, for example.

The key point to look for here is whether you are receiving a guaranteed replacement cost, or GRC. GRC means that your property would be replaced and rebuilt in the event of structural damage, as opposed to you only receiving the depreciated value of bricks and labor, for example.

You should also be aware of the terms DP1 (basic), DP2 (broad) or DP3 (special), which identify the level of dwelling and fire coverage that a policy offers.

The DP1 is a “named perils only” policy which only insures those limited perils specifically named in the policy. Unfortunately, a covered perils list that only includes fire, lightning and internal explosion is not much of a policy at all. To broaden the list, the DP1 allows an insured to add an Extended Coverage (EC) perils endorsement to increase the number of covered perils to a total of 12. These nine additional EC perils include Riot, Civil Commotion, Explosion (external), Vehicles, Smoke, Aircraft, Hail, Windstorm and Volcanic Eruption.

The Broad DP2 form, like the DP1, is a “named perils only” policy and contains all the perils provided under the Basic form. The additional protection you will find on the DP2 form include coverage for damage from Burglary, Weight of Ice and Snow, Collapse of Building, Falling Objects, Freezing, Artificially Generated Electrical Current, Glass breakage, Accidental Discharge of Water and Steam,  and damage from Sudden and Accidental Tearing, Cracking, Burning or Bulging of steam or water systems.

Special form or DP3 has the same “named perils” coverage as on the DP2 form for personal contents but adds open perils coverage on the dwelling and other structures. Open perils means that coverage will be provided, unless it is specifically excluded in the wording of the policy. This significantly expands coverage on the real property compared to the DP2 and, coupled with losses paid on a “replacement cost basis,” makes the DP3 policy the most comprehensive of the three dwelling forms.

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2. Water DamageImage courtesy of architectureartdesigns.com

Research the level of coverage you are offered for water damage, beyond that of the pipes and heating system. Excess water can cause catastrophic damage to your home, so this is something that should be carefully considered. Flood water, heavy rains and even backed up sewage may not be covered by your base policy … find out how to add this to your insurance depending on your location.

All it takes is a few inches of water to cause major damage to your home and its contents. This interactive tool shows you what a flood to your home could cost, inch by inch.”

3. Legal Liability

Image courtesy of careerjunction.co.zaIt can be easy to overlook just how vulnerable you are as a landlord when it comes to the law. Your agreement with your tenant means that you have certain legal responsibilities for their safety, as described by NOLO below.

Under most state and local laws, landlords must offer and maintain housing that satisfies basic habitability requirements, such as adequate weatherproofing, available heat, water, and electricity, and clean, sanitary, and structurally safe premises.

Local building or housing codes typically set specific standards, such as the minimum requirements for light, ventilation, and electrical wiring. Many cities require the installation of smoke detectors in residential units and specify security measures involving locks and keys. Your local building or housing authority and health or fire department, can provide information on local housing codes and penalties for violations.

If a tenant feels that you have failed to meet any of these responsibilities, they may choose to sue you, which can be a very costly experience. Therefore, it’s wise to check, in advance, that your landlord insurance covers you in these instances, with legal fees, settlements and even medical costs.

4. Fair Rental Income Protection

Image courtesy of i.forbesimg.comFair rental income protection is something that you can choose to add to your basic landlord insurance. This will cover the cost of lost rental, in the event of repairs or an emergency. This does not protect rental income in situations such as eviction or non paying tenants, however.

If you can’t rent out your property because it’s damaged, you’re losing valuable rental income. With Fair Rental Income protection, if your property becomes uninhabitable because of a covered loss, you’ll receive compensation for the rental income you would have received. This covers the time required to either repair or replace the rental unit — up to a maximum of 12 months.Allstate.com

While this is a very useful safety net, it is important to balance the increase in premium against the potential benefit you will receive from this.

5. Personal Property Protection

Image courtesy of howtofurnish.comPersonal property protection is a great addition to your landlord insurance if you are renting a furnished property. The majority of landlords rent empty units, but it is still useful to consider if you are supplying carpets and curtains, as these are covered in addition to any furniture. Again, it is wise to examine how much this clause will add to your monthly premium before you make any firm decision.

If the tenants are renting the property unfurnished, it is advisable for them to take out tenant insurance to cover their property, as well as any protecting their liability for any damage that they may accidentally cause to your property. The National Fire Protection Association found the average loss from a house fire was $19,500, which could drive your tenant into significant debt, rendering them unable to continue paying rent, even after the property is habitable again.NFPA.org

Tenant insurance is so useful to landlords, that many include it as a condition in their tenancy agreement, as there is no legal requirement for tenants to have this insurance otherwise.

Summary

When it comes to insuring your rental property, it’s best to take the time to ensure you are sufficiently covered. The amount of time, energy and, of course, money that you have dedicated to this investment must be protected in the case of accident or emergency. Here we have covered five key areas in your coverage to be aware of, and as policies are not created equal, it is prudent to dig further than the headline when you are choosing a policy. Levels of insurance coverage vary, as explained regarding the differences between DP1, DP2 and DP3, for example.

Determine whether you will receive the cash value or replacement value for any damage. It’s vital you understand the finer details of any policy in which you are enrolling, before disaster strikes. The average cost for landlord insurance on a small unit is only $500 per year, and this may be classed as a business expense. It is a small price to pay to protect your investment, and the right insurance could prevent the kind of loss that damages your financial future.

Cut Property Maintenance Down to Size With These 5 Steps

Purchasing a rental property and finding a suitable tenant is only the beginning of your journey as a landlord. With such a large investment it is important to keep your property in great shape – you should be in this for the long haul after all. The 2 main keys to building a successful rental business are:

  • Maintaining your investment property to keep its value steady
  • Keeping your tenants happy and the rent coming in

You can, of course, choose a ‘reactive’ approach where you wait until an issue arises, and you receive a harried phone call from your tenant with an urgent need to fix something. However, this is not something that we would recommend if you want to avoid gray hairs and large unexpected bills.

The best option is to treat your investment property like a car. Inspect and maintain it regularly, dealing with small repairs as they arise. It may sound like a lot of work, but it will ultimately save you time and money in the long run. Here, we share our 5 simple ways to keep the maintenance of your rental property under control.

Step 1 – Regular exterminations to prevent infestation of insects and rodents

Image courtesy of www.illhostinginc.comWhen it comes to pest control, the best case scenario is to prevent infestation. This can be achieved with regular treatments, which some professionals suggest should be done monthly, although quarterly treatments can also be very effective. If you choose to enlist professionals to complete the regular exterminations these visits are often affordable, although it is possible to conduct them yourself with a little research.

The costs involved are minimal compared with dealing with an actual outbreak of rodents or insects, which could, in the worst cases, damage the infrastructure of the property or chase away your tenants.

The Bug Man demonstrates the best control tactic for bugs with available options depending on your budget.

“The best way to get rid of bugs and keep them under control is to invest in regular treatments. If you want complete elimination of bugs, choose our monthly plan. If you need treatment for pests like spiders, ants and millipedes that you see less frequently, choose a bi-monthly plan.

Need affordable control? Try our bi-monthly seasonal plan to eliminate seasonal pests like wasps, ladybugs, box-elder bugs and more. Finally, if you only have pest issues in spring and fall, try our bi-annual treatment. Or, if you don’t mind the occasional pest but have flea, rodent or bat issues, check out our one-time plan.” [source]

Step 2 – Check for leaks and water damage

Image courtesy of www.debkelly.comRegularly inspect your investment property for leaks and water damage, both internally and externally. Particularly after heavy rain, ice and snow, you should take the opportunity to inspect the drainage around the house to ensure that water is flowing away as it should. Take a look at the masonry for cracks and other signs of weather damage. Regularly identify any potential issues with the gutters around the house – something so simple that can prevent a host of issues. Take a look at what Patch says about the importance of maintaining clear guttering.

“Clogged gutters can wreak havoc with the natural drainage of water away from your home. This can result in damage to fascia, soffit, roofing or even begin leaking into your home. Additionally, water damage can ruin the very foundation of your home – something you NEVER want to happen.

Some of the many benefits of gutter cleaning include:

  • Prevent water damage to your home
  • Avoid nesting areas for termites, birds, mosquitoes and other insects
  • Prevent destruction of expensive landscaping
  • Maintain value and beauty of your home

After rain, you should also take a look inside the house for soft spots on the roof, ceilings and walls, which could indicate there is a leak. Additionally, your regular inspections should include checking around windows, showers, toilets, basins and boilers for signs of water. These are the typical spots that can spring a leak, and it is best to be aware of them as soon as possible.

Ongoing leaks can be very costly from 2 perspectives: the cost of increased water usage as well as the hidden damage that water may cause. This can be anything from mold (which may require a removal specialist) to issues with the foundation of the building.

Image courtesy of www.housedoctors.comStep 3 – Examine the integrity of grout and caulking

Grout and caulking are what you will find in the joints between tiles and the cracks between the trim and siding or masonry. Unfortunately, these products do not last forever. Due to the nature of their work, they are regularly exposed to water and lose effectiveness over time. Be sure you don’t overlook these seemingly small details when you inspect your rental property. In order to keep the seals watertight and prevent leaks, you should include caulk and grout in your regular maintenance checklist and refresh whenever necessary.

Step 4 – Test all safety equipment around the houseImage courtesy of www.paragonstl.com

As a landlord, you have a legal duty to uphold your tenants’ legal rights to live in a safe environment. This means that you must install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors as well as fire extinguishers. Installation is not the end of your responsibility, though; it is important that you test the safety equipment on a regular basis to ensure they are working properly.

Such maintenance can save lives, so make sure you don’t skip this step. In the event the equipment fails when needed, you may even find yourself facing legal action. So, don’t drop this ball!

Step 5 – Regularly maintain filters, coils and closed water systems

Image courtesy of www.homestructions.comDon’t neglect the unseen parts of the systems keeping your rental property ticking. This includes cleaning the filters in forced air systems, such as air conditioning, and vacuuming refrigerator coils. Also, flush out closed water systems annually to clear any sediment that could cause problems over time. Of course, you can enlist professional help with this if required.

Keeping everything in good working condition is usually a simple task and can help appliances last for years longer than if you neglect them. When they are running efficiently, it often helps to stop bills from creeping up, too.

Don’t forget the garden

While you are inspecting your rental property, don’t overlook the garden. While it may seem superfluous to the essential running of your landlord business, there are legitimate reasons we suggest it.

Keeping the patio and walkways clear and free of tripping hazards not only keeps the property looking neat and tidy, but will also prevent any potential legal issues should the tenant fall and injure themselves. If the yard is kept trimmed, you can reduce the likelihood of infestations; keeping garages clear also removes safety hazards.

This is not an area to be taken lightly. Landlords are frequently found liable for injuries that occur on their premises even if it is a guest of the tenant that is hurt. Take a look at what Nolo.com says on the subject:

“To be held responsible for an injury on the premises, the landlord or property manager must have been negligent in maintaining the property, and that negligence must have caused the injury. All of the following must be proven for a landlord to be held liable:

  • It was the landlord’s responsibility to maintain the portion of premises that caused the accident.
  • The landlord failed to take reasonable steps to avert the accident.
  • Fixing the problem (or at least giving adequate warnings) would not have been unreasonably expensive or difficult.
  • A serious injury was the probable consequence of not fixing the problem (the accident was foreseeable).
  • The landlord’s failure — his negligence — caused the tenant’s accident.”

Summary

Protecting your investment through regular maintenance of your rental property is a sensible strategy. With frequent, continual, small repairs and preventative measures, you can keep your asset standing strong and holding value for years, which is essential if you intend to make a good profit a few years down the line. Of course, in the immediate term, regular property maintenance will keep your tenant happy (and paying rent) as well as protect you from any legal issues.

If it feels like too much of an effort, you can even hire property managers who will inspect the properties on your behalf and keep up with the repairs for you. Whichever option you decide on, protecting your investment in this way is a good business practice and should not be overlooked.