Category Archives: Curb Appeal

Listing Photo Do’s and Don’ts

cozy-winter-bedroom-lightsMaking your rental eye catching is the most important aspect of reaching out to prospective renters online. Your rental must stand out from the rest, and give people a reason to want to know more. Here are a few Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to capturing the essence of your rental.

Do: Take a shot from the curb

Showing off your home’s curb appeal should be one of your top priorites as potential renters often decide within a matter of minutes whether they want to keep looking or move on to another listing. Make sure you get the whole house in the shot, and don’t have cars or other objects blocking your line of sight.

Don’t: Make your rental look deformed

When taking a shot from the curb, be mindful of your camera’s angle. The roof line should be parallel with the photo’s frame to make it look level- not look like there is a landslide on the property.

Do: Welcome visitors

An attractive front door and entryway go a long way in setting the tone for the rest of your home. Leaving the door open in one of your photos can also send a welcoming message.

Don’t: Create an unwelcoming feel

Make sure you do a walk through in your rental before hiring someone to take pictures for you, if that is the path you take. You want to know that the property looks exactly the way you want it to before you pay someone to photograph your rental.

Do: Consider a bird’s-eye view

Taking a photo from above is a great way to show off a large property or a waterfront location. It is best if you can get close enough so the home is visible without having to draw an arrow or a box around it.

Don’t: Consider a fish-eye lens

Some use a fish-eye lens to make smaller spaces appear larger. However, they often have the opposite effect, making the space feel smaller and distorted. As a general rule of thumb, stick with a traditional lens for listing photos and make updates to rooms to make them appear larger if need be.

Do: Capture your home’s selling points

You may think it’s best to skip the bathroom when taking listing photos, but if yours was recently update, show it off! You would be surprised how important the bathroom actually is to potential renters. Think about showing off anything that is unique to your rental that makes it different and desirable.

Don’t: Capture yourself in the mirror

Adding a mirror to a room is one way to add more light to a room. And while a vanity can be a home’s selling point, you want buyers to picture themselves in the mirror-not you. Stay out of your listing photos by avoiding angles where you or the flash or your camera may be reflected.

Do: Stage each room

While there are several options to consider when staging your home, the key is to put your best foot forward in your listing photos. Try a simple vase of flowers: it freshens the space without hiding the countertops and is homey and welcoming.

Don’t: Stage a mess

If there’s one absolute “no” when it comes to listing photos, it’s capturing a mess. To check if your level of cleanliness is the right amount, do the “grandma test” by asking yourself if your grandma would feel at home here.

Do: Play up the season

Even if your rental has sat on the market for a while, it will seem up-to-date if the photos reflect the season. If it’s summer, take a sunny photo of the backyard. If it’s winter, create a cozy feel with a fire and a warm blanket.

Don’t: Play up your holiday décor

Over-the-top holiday décor can be a turn-off, especially if buyers don’t celebrate that holiday. Instead, consider ways to decorate for the season as a whole and take photos of rooms without themed décor.

Do: Show off the view

If the view is one of your home’s selling points, you’ll definitely want to show it off. It is best if you can capture it with a part of the house, like the deck, in a shot. That way, renters can tell where the view is from and more easily picture themselves there.

Don’t: Show off your pets

It’s best to focus on the parts of your home that will be there when a renter moves in. As much as you may love your pets, showing them off can come across like false advertising.

Do: Consider the backdrop

If a room in your rental has an incredible backdrop, try to capture it in your photos. Rearranging the furniture can also have a dramatic impact on a space.

Don’t: consider a screenshot

It can be tempting to take a screenshot of an online street-view of your home, but do not do it! Even if you don’t want to hire a professional, your own exterior photo is likely a better option for your listing.

Do: Show off architectural details

Archways, nooks and crannies may be hard to photograph, but they are what give your rental character. Try to capture a few of the architectural details if you can.

Don’t: Show off architectural blunders

Every home has its blemishes, but that does not mean you have to capture them all in the photos. The listing is the time to put your best foot forward; the open house and inspection are when the buyer can take note of the imperfections. You may also want to consider making a few small improvements, like updating the bathroom, before listing your rental.

Do: Take a night shot with the lights on

While it’s easy to assume daytime shots are the best, a nighttime exterior shot can create the right amount of contrast to make your photos stand out. They key is to leave your home’s interior and exterior lights on while you take the photo.

Don’t: Take an interior shot in the dark

When it comes to interior photos, the more light, the better. Use lamps and daytime window light to make your photos as bright as possible, while still looking natural.

Mold in Your Rental Property

rop  Mold is one of the newest environmental hazards causing concern among renters. Across the country, tenants have won multimillion-dollar cases against landlords for significant health problems — such as rashes, chronic fatigue, nausea, cognitive losses, hemorrhaging, and asthma — allegedly caused by exposure to “toxic molds” in their building.

If you suspect there is mold in your Chico rental unit/property, learn what to look for. Even better, take steps to prevent mold before it becomes a problem.

Where Mold Is Found

  Mold comes in various colors and shapes. The villains — with names like stachybotrys, penicillium, aspergilus, paecilomyces, and fusarium — are black, white, green, or gray. Some are powdery, others shiny. Some molds look and smell disgusting; others are barely seen — hidden between walls, under floors and ceilings, or in less accessible spots, such as basements and attics.

Mold often grows on water-soaked materials, such as wall paneling, paint, fabric, ceiling tiles, newspapers, or cardboard boxes. Humidity sets up prime growing conditions for mold. Buildings in naturally humid climates of Texas, California, and the Southern U.S. have experienced more mold problems than residences in drier climates. But whatever the climate, mold can grow as long as moisture is present.

Mold and Your Health

  Mold is also among the most controversial of environmental hazards. There is considerable debate within the scientific and medical communities about which molds, and what situations, pose serious health risks to people in their homes. There is no debate, however, among tenants who have suffered the consequences of living amidst (and inhaling) mold spores.

Keep in mind that most mold is not harmful to your health –for example, the mold that grows on shower tiles is not dangerous. It takes an expert to know whether a particular mold is harmful or just annoying. And it’s very tricky to find out whether a person who has been exposed to mold has actually inhaled or ingested it. New tests that measure the presence of a particular mold’s DNA in a blood sample are the only way to know for sure whether the mold is present in the body.

Landlord Legal Responsibilities for Tenant Exposure to Mold

With a few exceptions, landlord responsibilities regarding mold have not been clearly spelled out in building codes, ordinances, statutes, or regulations.

State Laws on Mold

  Only a few states have taken steps toward establishing permissible mold standards. California, Indiana, Maryland, New Jersey, and Texas are among the few that have passed laws aimed at developing guidelines and regulations for mold in indoor air.

For example, California’s “Toxic Mold Protection Act of 2001″ authorizes the state’s Department of Health Services (now called the Department of Health Care Services) to set permissible levels of indoor mold exposure for sensitive populations (like children, or people with compromised immune systems or respiratory problems). The California law also allows the DHCS to develop identification and remediation standards for contractors, owners, and landlords and requires landlords to disclose to current and prospective tenants the presence of any known or suspected mold. For a preliminary report on the implementation of the Act, see the DHS 2005 Report to the California Legislature, Implementation of the Toxic Mold Protection Act of 2001.

Local Laws on Mold

A few cities have enacted ordinances related to mold. For example:

  In San Francisco, mold is considered a legal nuisance, putting it into the same category as trash accumulation or an infestation of vermin. Tenants (and local health inspectors) can sue landlords under private and public nuisance laws if they fail to clean up serious problems. For details, check the San Francisco Department of Public Health website.

Mold Caused by Tenant Behavior

  The liability picture changes when mold grows as the result of your own behavior, such as keeping the apartment tightly shut, creating high humidity, or failing to maintain necessary cleanliness. When a tenant’s own negligence is the sole cause of injury, the landlord is not liable.

Mold Clauses in Leases

  Some landlords include clauses in the lease that purport to relieve them from any liability resulting from mold growth. A smart landlord will try to prevent the conditions that lead to the growth of mold — and tenants should be the landlord’s partner in this effort. This approach requires maintaining the structural integrity of the property i.e. the roof, plumbing, and windows. You can help by preventing mold problems in your home in the first place and promptly reporting problems that need the landlord’s attention.

Preparing Your Rental Before Winter

WinterThere’s no doubt that in most parts of the country, winter weather is just around the corner. As a Chico landlord, you may think of fall maintenance at your rental properties as raking leaves and tending to flower beds. However, fall is the best time to prepare your rental property for winter weather. Winters here in Northern California may not always be the worst, but still it is smart to take the time now to prepare for the upcoming winter season.

If you don’t deal with potential issues now, before they actually happen, you could end up with some significant repairs to work through that could have been prevented. Here are 13 ways that landlords can prepare their rental properties now for the coldest months of the year.

Clear rain gutters. It’s important that you don’t skip this fall task, because it could have a big impact on the rental property in the winter. Clear out leaves, sticks and other debris so the gutters can easily drain water from the roof. If the gutters are clogged, the roof could suffer damage from poor drainage and excessive rain.
Inspect the roof. It’s much easier to repair or replace shingles in the non-winter months and that ensures your rental property roof will be strong enough to withstand even the biggest winter storm.
Winterize yard sprinklers. If the rental property has a sprinkler system, you can empty them of any leftover water to ensure they don’t freeze and burst. Whether you do this yourself or hire a service, it’s a small task that could have a big impact if not done.
Seal sidewalk and driveway cracks. Water gets into cracks in sidewalks and driveways and expands them via freezing and thawing. What was a small crack in the fall can turn into an eyesore or a safety hazard by spring. Use a concrete sealer manufactured for just this purpose to stop the process.
Take care of the A/C unit. If your rental property has an A/C system, fall is a wonderful time to safeguard it for the winter. Clean out any debris and cover it up, especially if you live in an area of heavy snow or ice. Protecting the A/C unit will ensure that it will be ready to kick on next year when it is needed.

Inspect doors and windows. Locate areas around doors and windows where heat is most likely to escape, such as loose caulking, torn weather stripping and gaps where doors and windows meet frames. Take the time to repair these areas now before the cold weather arrives, because it is easier and will save your tenants money on their heating bill.
Wrap pipes before winter. Look for un-insulated pipes and wrap them with foam sleeves to ensure they won’t freeze when temperatures drop. Frozen pipes can easily burst, causing all kinds of water damage. By getting a jump on it, you can prevent this kind of catastrophe. Don’t forget to detach garden hoses from spigots and draining those lines as well.
Inspect the heating system. Turn the heater on to ensure that everything is working properly so you can get a service person out before it’s the middle of winter and the waiting list is very long. Also, replace the furnace filter and make sure vents open and close properly.
Arrange for a furnace tune-up. Many professional services offer winterizing tune ups for furnaces, and it’s always a good idea for a professional to perform maintenance on the furnace than it is to wait for it to break.
Check alarms. Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are a critical part of keeping tenants safe, and it’s your duty to ensure that they are all in proper working order. Carbon monoxide detectors are particularly important in winter, as people tend to keep windows closed.
Clean ducts out. Every few years, it’s a smart idea to get the ductwork of the rental property vacuumed out. Debris can build up, restricting the flow of air and putting strain on heating and cooling systems.
Inspect the chimney. If your rental property has a fireplace and chimney, make sure it is taken care of before tenants use the fireplace for the first time. Arrange for a professional to inspect and clean the chimney, clearing it for debris and checking to make sure no other repairs are needed. A faulty chimney can become a health hazard as well as a safety and fire hazard.
Consider adding more insulation. While there is a cost involved, many home owners add insulation to the attic in the fall to help with heating and cooling. Adding to the existing insulation can make a big difference in how well the rental property stays warm or cool.

Sooner than you think, winter will be unleashing its full fury, and it is up to you to make sure your rental property is ready for the serious frost, rain and cold that is being predicted. The time to prepare is in the fall, well before the first winter storm arrives in your area. While your rental property may not be able to withstand every single winter-related disaster, by being prepared you can minimize the damage and problems, thus saving yourself time, stress and money.

Are Bad Neighbors Driving Your Good Tenants Away?

neighborsYour Chico rental property may be a well-maintained, cozy unit with universal appeal and you might be the world’s greatest landlord, but what happens when a bad neighbor makes it hard for you to attract or keep decent tenants? While landlords have some control over what their own tenants can and cannot do in a rental property, there’s not much that can be done about bad neighbors on their own nearby property.

 

Here are three of the most common bad neighbor practices and some ideas on how you can minimize the effect the neighbor might have on your current and future tenants.

 

Bad Neighbor #1. Unattractive Property

 

Ugly House, its piles of junk, inoperable cars or a poorly maintained home and yard, an unattractive neighboring property can really drag your rental property’s appeal down.

 

Even if your rental property is well-maintained and landscaped, it doesn’t take much for prospective tenants to glance next door and wonder what kind of person they will be living next to if they choose to move in. Seeing bad neighbors and ugly property every day may be one of those things that prospective tenants feel like they simply can’t live with.

 

Cosmetically, you can minimize the view from your own rental property by using some creative landscaping methods. Consider installing a privacy fence between your property and the bad neighbor. Many cities allow fencing as tall as between 6 to 8 feet in the backyard. Try planting fast-growing trees that will soon be tall enough to screen out the trashy yard. If a view from one of the rental property’s window overlooks the neighbor’s bad yard, try installing dual blinds that only open at the top half, allowing light and a view of the sky while blocking out a downward view of the mess.

 

From a legal standpoint, see what kind of regulations the city has in place for yard or lot maintenance standards. Many cities have outlined minimum requirements for residents that include maximum grass height, keeping trash and junk on a property, inoperable motor vehicles, outdoor storage rules, maintenance for dead trees and other vegetation and keeping commercial equipment on private property. Get the law on your side and let officials know that the neighbor is violating city codes.

 

Bad Neighbor #2. Big, Loud Dogs

 

Dealing with the noise from a neighbor’s dogs can be one of the most frustrating things as a landlord because it can be a deal breaker for otherwise qualified tenants who love your rental property.

 

Similarly, neighbors who allow their big dogs to roam around the neighborhood can scare off prospective tenants who don’t want to risk living next to animals that are potentially unpredictable. Whether it’s the dog’s barking or merely the presence of big dogs next door, these bad neighbors probably don’t realize the difficulties they are causing you.

 

Most cities have regulations in place to deal with dogs who bark excessively or who are allowed to roam free. Check with the city to determine the standards for unreasonable levels of noise and especially how they pertain to dogs. Generally, louder noises are allowed during the day with a quiet period outlined for evenings and nights. Know what the law allows before you head next door to discuss it with the dog owner. If bad neighbors are unwilling to make changes, you and your tenants are well within your rights to call the police or animal control. With enough warnings and fines, the dog owners will either comply or lose their animals.

 

As a landlord, you might consider changing your rental agreement to allow prospective tenants with a dog. The reason for this is that current dog owners have a hard time finding rental properties that allow pets, so they may be less likely to turn up their nose at the neighbor’s animals. Also, current dog owners may be a little more tolerant of neighboring dogs because they have one of their own.

 

Bad Neighbor #3. Excessive or Late Night Noise

 

When your rental property’s neighbor has a habit of blasting loud music, hosting rowdy late night parties or working with power tools early in the morning, it can drive current and prospective tenants crazy. If you confront the neighbor about noise problems, it’s helpful to have knowledge of the city’s noise ordinances to back you up.

 

Similar to the dog regulations, cities generally have noise ordinances in place for certain times of day. Noise above a certain decibel level in the evening and night can be a violation, and therefore enforced by law. First, remind bad neighbors about the restrictions and politely inform him or her that you’ll encourage your tenants to report excessive violations. Then, give your tenants the information they need to make the reports to the police if and when the neighbor ever generates excessive noise during off hours.

 

You can also take certain steps to minimize outside noise from within the rental property. Windows are the primary entry point for outside noise, so make sure that all the caulking and weather stripping is intact and making a tight seal. You might consider installing multiple pane windows in the spots that face the neighbor’s property to better block acoustics from next door. Putting up soundproofing window covers, like shutters, window blankets or noise reducing curtains can further muffle outside noises for your tenants.

Landlord Guide to Written Notice Letters

you've been servedBeing a Chico landlord means you’ll have to communicate with your tenants frequently about a range of topics, from repairs to rent notices. While phone calls may be easier, you’re leaving yourself open to disputes unless you communicate in writing.

When you must communicate something serious to your tenants, like a pay or quit notice or lease termination notice, not only must it be written properly, but you must deliver it by the appropriate process outlined by your state.

Create Written Notices to Tenants

Written documentation is critical when you are communicating with tenants about terminating a lease or starting the eviction process. State laws require these notices to be done in writing, with variations from state to state on the details of the process. Landlords can lose disputes in court simply for failing to follow their state’s laws that outline the landlord/tenant communication process.

It’s also in your best interest to keep written documentation of other types of communication besides notices, such as conversations about landlord repairs, notices to enter the rental property and follow ups on lease violations. If you end up with a tenant dispute that goes to court, such as over a repair or a security deposit, your written notices are evidence showing your side of the story. Written notices also confirm dates, times and situations that may be hard to remember several weeks, months or years after the fact.

Proper Delivery of Written Tenant Notices

In most states, there are three ways that you can officially leave written notice with a tenant.

1. Personal Delivery

You can hand the written communication to the tenant, either at the rental property or at the tenant’s workplace. Even if the tenant refuses to take the letter, you can leave it near him, such as on the front step or on his desk at work. Make a note of the delivery time and date on your copy of the notice

2. Substitute and Mail

You can leave the written communication with someone who lives with the tenant, such as another adult or an older teenager. Make a note of the deliver time and date on your copy of the notice, as well as the full name of who you left it with. That same day, you must send a copy via certified mail to the tenant’s address. Note the day on your copy.

3. Nail and Mail

If the previous methods don’t work, you can affix the written notice to the door of the property. That same day, send a copy via certified mail to the tenant’s address. Record all the steps on your copy of the notice.

Storing Tenant Notices

If your written communication has to do with evictions, repairs, leases or disputes, it’s wise to keep copies in a folder in your office. Start a file for each one of your tenants and add to it as needed. You may never need the correspondence, but if you do, having written documentation of a tenant episode may just make things easier for you, in or out of court.

5 Ways to Make You a Better Chico Landlord

logoEveryone focuses on making personal and professional goals aimed at looking at the past and applying those lessons toward a better future. As a Chico landlord, it’s a good opportunity for you to make some changes to improve how you run your business.

Here are 5 tips for landlords that you can do to really make a difference in becoming the best landlord you can be:

1. Take time and spend money to find good tenants

Good tenants are the critical component of making your business a success.

Taking the time to find ones that will respect the property, pay on time and stick to the rules is imperative. Make the commitment to perform thorough tenant screenings on applicants to reduce the risk of getting into a contract with renters who won’t work out.

If you haven’t been happy with your current tenant screening process, it’s not too late to make some changes starting now. Also, don’t forget to make sure you do your homework when choosing a tenant screening company to handle your background checks.

2. Say goodbye to bad tenants

Make the decision to stop tolerating bad tenants.

Tenants who are a drain on your resources, cost you money and bring down your business don’t deserve any more breaks. Getting rid of bad tenants will solve a lot of your problems, so be assertive and commit to action when they violate the lease agreement. Choose between non-renewal of the lease, notices to pay or quit when they are late, or notices to comply or quit when they cause trouble.

3. Streamline landlord tasks

Your time is valuable, so stop wasting it.

Technology allows landlords to streamline many of the processes that used to take lots of time or lead to mistakes.

Maybe you are currently driving to the bank all the time to deposit checks. Instead, set up electronic deposits from the tenants to your bank account.

Maybe your residents are filling out maintenance requests by hand and dropping them at the office. Instead, update your website to include an electronic maintenance request.

Maybe you are still holding on to that cell phone you bought 5 years ago that is slow to text and doesn’t include handy apps like calendars, appointment reminders and GPS mapping. Instead, get a smart phone and simplify dozens of tasks immediately.

Choose at least one new way to harness the power and convenience of technology and make your life a little easier.

4. Review relationships with services and contractors

You need service companies and contractors you can depend on. When you have a problem with your rental property, the service companies you work with need to be prompt, affordable and flexible. Whether it’s the plumber, exterminator or carpet cleaner, take the time to evaluate your current contracts, rates and other aspects. Then, make appointments as needed to renegotiate so that both of you are getting the best out of the relationship.

If you haven’t been happy with a service but are holding on out of some kind of loyalty, get tough and start shopping around for something better.

5. Plan for quality upgrades

Never let your rental properties look run down or outdated.

Take a look at each property and determine what kind of an upgrade your property needs. Keeping your rental properties updated and comfortable has many benefits, such as attracting higher quality tenants and maintaining the property’s value.

Depending on your budget, you can look at new carpet, upgrading an appliance, invest in landscaping or something else that will boost the property value and each tenant’s overall happiness with the unit.

Hopefully these tips are helpful in your venture to become the Chico landlord everyone wants to rent from!

Common Staging Misakes

Home staging is a useful tool to control the message as you market your property. By taking the livingroomtime to declutter and rearrange furniture, you’ll position yourself to attract the largest pool of potential renters possible. Improve your listing photos, showing success, and quality of applicants by staging your property to play to its strengths. Here are some common staging mis
takes that can throw off the look and feel of a space, and easy solutions to fix them.

There’s not enough light.

Good lighting makes a space look inviting, attractive, and comfortable. Bad lighting also results in low-quality listing photos. Improve the look and feel of the rooms on your property by making sure there light sources in each room. While windows that let in natural light are ideal, you can improve the lighting in the room by adding an overhead light or a smaller lamp.

The furniture is the wrong size.

Oversized furniture in a small room will make the area look even more cramped and awkward. Prevent the room from looking off-balance by measuring the space before bringing in the furniture. In large rooms, don’t be afraid to place couches and chairs away from the walls and grouped together to make the room look cozier. If you have dark furniture, using light-colored slipcovers makes large or heavy items seem smaller. You can also remove a piece or two to lighten up the space.

Weirdly positioned artwork

Hanging artwork on the walls is an easy solution to keep a room from feeling too bare and sterile. Similar to having furniture in listing photos, the placement of artwork gives viewers a better feel for the size of the room and the amount of space relative to the objects. However, art that’s in the wrong place can look strange or even give a false impression of the space. A large frame in a smaller space, such as a bathroom wall or narrow corner, can make the room feel even more cramped. Art that’s hung too high or isn’t large enough (like a frame above the sofa) can make the space look awkward.

Instead of going out and buying a large canvas, hang your art displays to scale by decorating with a gallery wall and making sure the size of the artwork is the right scale for the items around it. Help your art blend in and add to the décor by hanging the canvas so that the center of the piece is at eye level.

There’s no texture.

Keep your rooms from looking dull by adding color and texture. Remember that not everything needs to match. A fruit bowl on the counter, throw blanket on the couch, or basket on a shelf adds texture and dimension. Focus less on everything ‘matching’ and being from the same period or style – instead, don’t be afraid to mix things up and go with what you think looks good.

How to Get Rid of Ants in Your Chico Property

Ants-II-iStock_As a property owner, you are always looking for ways to reduce your expenses to get rid of ants.  Some landlords are way too quick to just call for help when they could very easily do it themselves or find an alternative solution.

Here’s some helpful advice when it comes to dealing with ants:

Ants Don’t Like the Heat

Ants tend to make their way indoors during times of excessive heat, so there’s not always a whole lot you can do at this point.  Spraying for ants might not work since nature will continue to drive them inside.Normally, you get ants because they are looking for a food source or water.  But if the heat is what’s driving them inside, they’re going to keep coming and there’s not a lot you can do to get rid of ants.

Keep Your Food Sealed

This might seem like an obvious one but if you’re experiencing trouble with ants, make sure that you put all your food in plastic containers or ziploc bags around the kitchen area.  Ants especially love sugary substances so make sure that you wipe down and clean up any juice spills or dirty dishes.

Dry Them Out

If ants can’t eat or drink, they will tend to die off or move on.  One tip that really works well to get rid of ants is to make sure your sink area is completely dry once you’re done cooking or cleaning dishes.  That way, the ants won’t have anything to drink and they’ll have to find water somewhere else, hopefully outside of your house.

Ant Traps and Spray

Ants are pretty dumb but apparently not quite dumb enough to walk right into an ant trap.  Bug spray works pretty well but you have to be careful spraying that stuff around your kitchen area. Try and avoid spraying on surfaces that you will be eating off of.  Spraying in cracks or corners where you won’t ever place food is always best.  Find the entry and exit points and try to spray there too.

Hopefully, all these efforts will combine to help you get rid of ants in your Chico rental property!

Frequently Asked Questions About Security Deposits and California Law

security_depositMost Chico residential leases and rental agreements in California require a security deposit. This is a dollar amount, usually one month’s rent, that’s intended to cover damage to the premises beyond normal wear and tear, and to cushion the financial blow if a tenant skips out early on the lease without paying. Here’s a summary of California landlord-tenant laws that cover the use and return of security deposits.

Q: Does California law limit how much a landlord can charge a tenant for a security deposit?

A: Yes. Under California landlord-tenant laws, a landlord may charge a renter the equivalent of two months’ rent for the security deposit if the residence is unfurnished, and three months’ rent if the residence is furnished. California landlords can also add an extra one-half month’s rent if the tenant has a waterbed. Landlords may not charge nonrefundable fees in California.

Q: What about when a renter moves out? What is the deadline in California for returning a security deposit?

A: Under California law, a landlord must return the renter’s security deposit, with an itemized statement of deductions, within 21 days after the renter has surrendered the rental property to the landlord (that is, returned the keys and vacated the property).

Q: Is there additional information that California landlords must provide to renters when it comes to security deposits in California?

A: Yes. In addition to complying with California laws on security deposit limits and how (and when) the deposit must be returned to tenants, landlords in California must provide renters with advance notice before taking any deductions out of the security deposit, such as for the cost of repairs for damage to the property.

Q: Where can I look up California law on security deposits?

A: If you want to go right to the source and look up the California laws on security deposits — or if you’re writing a letter to your landlord or tenant and want to cite the applicable law — the relevant statute(s) can be found at California Civil Code  1950.5 and 1940.5(g). Your city or county might have different landlord-tenant and security deposit laws than those at the state level in California, especially if your rental property is covered by rent control.

Check out our blog on repair costs and security deposits for more information!

 

Water Preservation and Lawn Upkeep for Summer Months

garden-hoseChico summers tend to bring with them high temperatures and ample humidity—both of which can take their toll, not just on homeowners but on their lawns and gardens, to say nothing of their utility bills. In fact, many homeowners throughout the country find that their water bills increase significantly over the summer months, especially if irrigation systems are in use to keep lawns lush and green. However there are some simple yet effective steps homeowners can take to reduce water waste.

One way to conserve water during the hot summer months is to implement the correct lawn and garden tools. For instance, a standard hose and nozzle will lead to copious amounts of wasted water—including water that’s lost as mist or as runoff. Instead, homeowners should water their grass and their plants with a soaker hose or a sprinkler wand.

Of course, overwatering is another cause of wasted water. Generally speaking, lawns need about an inch of water each week to survive, though in Chico a full two inches might be more appropriate. The best rule of thumb is to keep the soil lightly moist, and also to keep eyes open for signs of wilting—but to avoid simply watering the lawn past the point of necessity. A related tip is to avoid soaking the plant’s leaves or watering past its root zone; this is simply a waste, and does little or nothing to help the plant stay hydrated.

Mulching is encouraged, as it helps plants to retain moisture—homeowners should regularly inspect mulch for crusting-over, breaking up these crusts with a rake. Crusted mulch actually prevents moisture from reaching the soil, which can in turn lead to wasted water.

A final tip for homeowners eager to keep their lawn and garden water waste to a minimum: Water in the mornings. Watering when it is still relatively cool outside prevents there being too much water lost to evaporation. Watering in the evenings or at night is also acceptable, but runs the risk of fungus formation.