Just Moved In? The Maintenance Team is Ready to Help

Just moved in? Something might be wrong.

No, no, don't worry; it's natural. Your landlord or property manager does her best, but it's hard to get to everything on the checklist. The water runs, the toilet flushes, and the fridge is chilling that moving day beer, but does the ice maker work? Will the washer lid close?

Test everything out, write down your troubles, then schedule a timely maintenance appointment. Really, call within the first day or two — the landlord will be more than happy to put things right for a new arrival, and acting quickly protects you from disputes later.

The Eyes Have It

Really, we can't emphasize this enough. Use your eyes — and the camera's.

Inspect every inch of your apartment on move-in day. Everything should look great. If not, it's your trusty property manager's job to make it so.

But no matter how stuff looks, take pictures of it. Every corner, every inch. Make sure they're date stamped, then save the pictures as long as you live there.

When it's time to move out, conduct a walk-through with your property manager. Some states legally require this, but if the manager is reluctant, politely insist. Look around together and point out damage. Ask if she sees anything that will affect your security deposit.

If there's a dispute, you have pictures.

Wasn't that simple?

Want to Make a Personal Budget? Follow These Tips

Making a budget and sticking to it has many benefits. You can understand your income and spending, make necessary adjustments, and plan for the future. Don't know where to begin? Here are some tips to get you started.

  • Be honest about your income. Make an accurate and precise estimate of the money coming into your household. Base it on your net, or take-home, pay!
  • Understand your spending. Attempt to account for every single penny, including housing, utilities, food, gas, and other expenses. Use bank statements from the previous six months to get you started.
  • Find wiggle room. Once you can compare your income and expenses, you'll know how much disposable income you have. Cutting costs or increasing income will help you change that number.
  • Don't sweat unexpected expenses; plan for them. Family emergencies and medical crises happen. To keep them from breaking your budget, rework it and create a plan for getting back on track. An emergency fund kept in a savings account can help you deal with unexpected problems.

Got Renters’ Insurance?

Disasters can sneak up on you.

Perhaps you played a friendly game of cards with the Big Bad Wolf one Saturday night. He was a nice guy until he started losing, then he threatened to huff, puff and blow your apartment building down.

Lo and behold he tried. But he doesn't have the lung power he used to, and only a few shingles came off. Still, it rained on your stuff, and the smell of his breath got into your towels, carpets and bedsheets.

Your landlord's insurance policy will patch up the roof, but it won't pay to replace your collection of vintage Barbie dolls. Unless you have renters insurance, you're out of luck.

So get it. Today. And if you already have it, make sure your policy is current. Renters' insurance is offered by all major insurance companies, and it's usually quite affordable.

Enjoy the peace of mind, and good luck with the card game.

Your Property Manager Wants to Tell You…

SCENE: A street. It's a lovely evening. YOU are walking back to your apartment with an ice cream cone.
 
Suddenly YOUR PROPERTY MANAGER appears from the shadows.
 
MANAGER: Psst!
 
YOU:    Uuh …
 
MANAGER: I said, psst!
 
YOU:    Is something wrong?
 
MANAGER:    Listen…want to make some money?
 
YOU:  Um…you're my property manager. I'm supposed to pay you.
 
MANAGER:    True. But I've got a tip for you. Easiest money you'll ever make.
 
YOU:    I'm not sure I follow –
 
MANAGER:    You know your toilet?
 
       YOU blink in polite incomprehension.
 
MANAGER:    Your toilet! You know, where you –
 
YOU:    Yes, yes, I know!
 
MANAGER:    Well don't flush anything down it except toilet paper.
 
        Pause.
 
And your garbage disposal — I'm not sure if you have one — but if you do, make sure the food scraps are tiny. No chicken bones or whole cucumbers.
 
YOU:    Thanks for the reminder. But what's the poi –
 
MANAGER:    Your security deposit, silly! When things don't break you get to keep it. Now be honest — did you ever think toilet paper would make you twelve hundred bucks?
 
YOU:    I can't say I did.
 
MANAGER:    Precisely. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to attend an open house.
 
    The MANAGER disappears in a puff of smoke.
 
    The end.

How to Host a Summer BBQ at Your Apartment Community

Summer is a great time to get together with friends, family, and neighbors, but hosting an indoor party at your apartment can be challenging. With limited space and shared walls, having a large group over for a celebration can seem like it’s not an option — but, the warm weather means that you can move your gathering outdoors!

If you’re thinking about hosting a summer BBQ at your apartment community, keep these tips in mind to ensure that everything goes smoothly and everyone has a great time without disturbing residents.

  1. Do some prep and planning – Reserve a grill, let the property manager know that you’re planning on hosting a gathering in the common yard area, make sure your plans do not conflict with any property management policies, and let your neighbors know – or invite them!
     
  2. Have a start and end time – Send out an invite to let guests know about your outdoor party, and include a start and end time. Also, think about having a late afternoon gathering, instead of an evening party to ensure that you won’t disturb residents if the party runs past its end time.
     
  3. Prep food in advance – Make as much food as you can in advance so that you can remain outside with your guests for as much of the party as possible. Need some tasty, simple-to-make recipe ideas? How about Root Beer Baked Beans, Southwestern Pasta Salad, Make-Ahead Salsa, or Peanut Cole Slaw.
     
  4. Clean up – Ok, this may seem like a given, but make sure that you completely remove all party items, and make certain that all trash makes it into the proper receptacles. This is just common courtesy, plus it will ensure that all residents will continue to be allowed to host celebrations in common areas of your community!

 

5 Tips for Container Gardening

If you’re short on outdoor space, that doesn’t mean you have to forgo the pleasure and enjoyment of gardening – it just means you have to get a little creative! Below are five tips that will help you cultivate a thriving container garden on your balcony or patio.

  1. Before you go out and buy plants, notice how much sun and/or shade your outdoor space gets. This will help you purchase the right plants for your setting.
  2. Container gardens need to be watered more frequently than traditional gardens. To check if your plants need water, press your finger into the dirt, if it sticks to your finger, the plant has adequate water, if it doesn’t, water it!
  3. Use a potting mix that has real soil in it – preferably a mix of topsoil and compost.
  4. Plant everything in light colored pots. Dark pots retain heat and can scorch the roots, especially if your outdoor space gets a lot of direct sun.
  5. If you’re hoping to grow vegetables and fruit, choose plants that produce a lot for the size of plant, such as peas, beans, tomatoes, or plants that grow quickly after cutting like salad greens such as lettuce, arugula, chard, and kale.

Renter Tip: Get Your Security Deposit Back

Over the years, you’ve likely heard a story or two about security deposits being withheld for strange or unknown reasons. Though it’s not that common, it’s also important to protect yourself — and your money – to the best of your ability. Read through the tips below that will help to ensure that you get your security deposit back at the end of your lease.

Do Your Research. Google the apartment community, the property manager, and/or the landlord, and see if there are an inordinate amount of complaints. The best defense is a good offense, and knowing this information ahead of time can help you choose the right place to rent.

Take Pictures. On move-in day, take pictures of any noticeable marks, stains, or anything else that you think you could be held responsible for when you move out. This will ensure that you won't get blamed for them once you move out!

Read The Fine Print. Be aware of what your lease says, so that you don’t violate it. Too many renters fail to read the "fine print", and then lose out on their security deposit in the end because they overlooked what they would be held responsible for. Read your lease cover-to-cover, and ask any questions that you have prior to signing.

Keep It Clean. Your rental is your home, so treat it well. Just because you don’t own it, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take some responsibility for its maintenance. Clean up scuffs and spills quickly, and take extra care if you have a pet.

Schedule A Walk-Through. When it’s time to move out, clean your apartment well, and schedule a walk-through with your property manager or landlord. After the walk through, request that they sign an agreement stating that you left the unit in fair condition.

Follow-up. If you still have not received your security deposit back 30 days after moving out, follow-up with your landlord. If they continue to withhold it without reason or cause, you can always seek legal assistance. The reality is that landlords are required by law to return security deposits in a certain number of days, with interest, so check to see what your state law says.

Hopefully you’ll never have your deposit withheld from you without cause, but it’s best to remain vigilant to ensure that you don’t set yourself up for a problem. In general, scrupulous landlords know the law and will do their best to get it back to you.

Chill Out at Home

Home should be a place to relax and forget the outside world. But how does that happen? Between clutter, computers, and kids, our apartments can often feel as peaceful as Times Square. Here are some tips on how decorating can help you create a low-stress environment.

Cool Colors. Where possible, use blues, whites and greys. You may not be able to paint your walls, but even hints of soft tones will put your mind at ease.

Let There Be Light. Use natural light whenever possible — a strategically-placed mirror or two will put the sun in every corner. Overhead bulbs can be harsh, so place a few good lamps in every room.

Use Nature. Fresh flowers and live plants are a great way to boost your mood and create an indoor sanctuary. Match them to your apartment's color scheme or bring in whatever strikes your fancy.

Decorating 101: Mix Classic & Modern

Want to give your apartment a makeover? Don't match colors and textures — mix and match! A room that's excessively matched has the sterile feel of a hotel. This is your home, after all, so put your stamp on it by mixing colors, patterns and furniture styles. It's easy to do, and it works with any budget — but it takes planning. Here are a few ideas.

Vintage Photo Frames:  Mixing old and new frames creates depth and versatility in your wall display. Try varying the look within a color palette — like silver and black — or stick to a certain style of photo, like black and white. Gorgeous frames are surprisingly cheap; just check out your local thrift store or drug store.

Repurpose Family Furniture: Does Grandma want that chair from the 1960s? If not, display it! Remember, what's old is new again. Chances are your friends will be bowled over by classic pieces.

Mixing Modern and Classic: Work with what you have. Keep big items like your couch to simple, soothing, neutral colors, and then infuse personality with smaller items. Bring in stylish pillows, lamps, and attractive art work. Don't purchase all your furniture in one spot — acquire over time, and keep your eyes open when you visit thrift, antique, and second-hand stores.