Tag Archives: saftey

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.

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!

10 Ways to Make Your Chico Apartment Handicap Accessible

Wheelchair-ProgramsMillions of people in the United States have disabilities and often find that traditional housing options don’t meet their needs. Chico landlords can attract these potential tenants by converting their Chico apartments into handicap accessible apartments that are comfortable and friendly to those with special needs.

Wheelchair accessible and handicap accessible apartments are not very common, therefore disabled or elderly tenants are an underserved market. With a few modifications and changes, you could attract these potential tenants and keep your Chico rental property from sitting vacant.

What is a Handicap Apartment?

Modifying an apartment to be accessible for elderly or disabled residents simply means making some changes to fit someone who uses a wheelchair, scooter or walker or has limited mobility. Everything from doorways to counter tops can pose an obstacle for someone in a wheelchair, for example.

Converting an apartment to accommodate the prospective tenant with physical limitations makes it more accessible and therefore boosting his or her quality of life. Handicap apartments are often hard to find, so many disabled and elderly residents cannot find what they need.

10 Ways to Convert to Handicap Apartments

There are some basic changes you can make to an existing Chico apartment that would turn it into a handicap apartment and therefore more friendly toward the elderly or the disabled. Other approaches to convert traditional units to handicap apartments require more extensive remodeling.

Here’s a list of 10 ways to modify an existing apartment to cater to those with physical limitations:

1. Entrances to the apartment should not have stairs, but be replaced or covered with a wheelchair ramp. These can be made of wood, aluminum or even poured concrete. Check with your local building codes for ramp angles and other important specifications to ensure you are compliant.

2. Doorways must be wide enough to accommodate a standard wheelchair. From the entrance to the interior doors, this width needs to be at least 32 inches wide. Consider changing the hinge system on the doors to the swing-away style, allowing doors to open even wider to allow the chair to pass all the way through without hitting it.

3. Thresholds must be flat, not raised, in order to give residents with scooters, wheelchairs and walkers a smooth path all the way throughout the apartment. A ½-inch threshold can become a big deal to a disabled tenant who doesn’t have much mobility.

4. Faucets in an accessible Chico apartment should be changed out to single lever style. These are easier for people to grip and maneuver if they don’t have full mobility in their hands, arms or upper body. Single lever faucets are simply raised up to turn on, pushed down to turn off and moved right or left to control temperature.

5. Sinks are hard for people to access when they are in a wheelchair because of low vanity cabinets prevent the user from getting close enough. Consider installing pedestal sinks, wall mounted sinks or removing the cabinets altogether.

6. Moving from a wheelchair or scooter to the toilet is a challenge, but an accessible apartment should have a raised toilet in the bathroom. Installing sturdy hand bars by the toilet is another way to ensure that the disabled resident can safely and securely maneuver around when he or she needs to use the toilet.

7. Bathing and showering is a real challenge for residents who are wheelchair-bound or cannot lower themselves into a tub or stand for long periods of time in a shower. It helps greatly when landlords install a handicapped accessible tub/shower unit. This is a tall, deep tub with a door on the side that opens to reveal a seat inside. The tenant can sit on the seat and either bathe or shower. The tenant has no high tub wall to go over, and no slippery shower floor to worry about. These specialized units can easily be installed into existing tub/shower units.

8. Standard kitchen and bathroom counter tops are often too high for someone in a wheelchair or scooter—usually 36 inches for standard height. Lowering countertops to 30 inches makes all the difference and lets a disabled person reach all the way back, utilizing more of the surface space.

9. Floor level cabinets in the kitchen can hinder the maneuverability of a resident in a wheelchair, so take out some of the floor cabinets, leaving empty space, to allow them to get up close to the counter tops.

10. Many landlords who cater to elderly or disabled tenants install a personal alarm system inside the apartment. This is an electronic device that the resident carries around and can activate to summon help if they are sick, hurt or injured and cannot reach the phone. Some alarms simply make a loud sound, while others are linked to a medical services call center. Providing this as part of an accessible apartment will make it even more attractive to prospective tenants who are elderly or disabled.

4 Common Tricks Used by Desperate Rental Applicants

untitledAs a Chico landlord, you’re always on the lookout for the best tenant out of your pool of rental applicants. When you haven’t been a landlord for long, it’s important to be aware of some common tricks that desperate applicants try to pull on naïve landlords. These scams are designed to put you off guard and convince you to skip doing a thorough background check on the applicant. Usually, it’s because the applicant has something to hide.

While you should always strictly adhere to the Federal Fair Housing Guidelines and your own standards of tenant screening, there are a few red flags that may alert to you if an applicant who is trying to scam you.

Here are four common cons that you should be aware of that may tip you off about the applicant’s ability to pay and how they will treat your property:

 

Trick #1: The Immediate Cash Offer

An applicant may approach you with an offer that he or she will pay the first month’s rent and the security deposit in cash if you can rush the move-in date to right away. This can seem very attractive—after all, you don’t have the property sitting vacant for very long and you’ll save time on tenant screening all the other applicants.

Another seeming advantage is that with cash, you won’t have to worry about bad checks or the tenant’s inability to pay.

While there can definitely be instances where paying cash and a speedy move-in request are legitimate, it may also signal that the applicant has been asked to leave a previous rental or is being evicted. You may be lulled into a false sense of security by an enthusiastic tenant waving cash and rushing to sign a lease, only to find out that they are running from a bad rental situation.

 

Trick #2: Challenging the Tenant Screening Process

Whether they complain about all the rental application fees, leave blanks on the application or act hurt that you want to investigate their background, applicants who question your tenant screening process may actually have something to hide. They may even act offended that you don’t trust them or that you are questioning their integrity. A naïve landlord might agree to waive fees or skip the tenant screening process to make up for hurting someone’s feelings.

While this could just signal inexperience in renting, it can also alert you to the possibility that the applicant hasn’t been through any legitimate screening process before or that money is tight because they are worried about the fee. An experienced tenant understands that the background check, employment and landlord verification and the rest of the process takes time and money. They won’t

mind waiting because they understand and appreciate what it takes to get good tenants and probably feel confident that their application will look good.

 

Trick #3: One of Multiple Adult Tenants

When an applicant offers to be the only one on the lease agreement, despite the fact that other adults will be living in the house, it can signal that the applicant may be the only one with a clean background. It’s always wise to run checks on everyone over the age of 18 who will be living in the Chico rental unit, but especially if the applicant is persistent about leaving someone out of the screening process.

Applicants who raise questions about the other adults in the home filling out forms and submitting information for screening may be trying to cover up the fact that someone won’t pass the background check, whether it’s for a previous poor rental history, criminal history or unemployment. Applicants with nothing to hide will have no problem with every adult undergoing screening.

 

Trick #4: Currently Living With Family

Some applicants will reveal that they are currently living with family members and have no landlord references. While of course this can be a legitimate situation based on personal circumstances, it’s not uncommon for people with poor rental histories or current financial difficulties to stay with family members when they have nowhere else to go.

The applicant may be reluctant to provide contact information for a past landlord or claim that it was long ago and they can’t remember. Without contacting past landlords, you won’t get a neutral reference on what kind of tenant the applicant is. Diligence in contacting a previous landlord is important, and the results will be worth it to get a clearer understanding of what kind of tenant this person was in the past and how that may impact your decision to accept the applicant.

Hopefully a few of these tips will help you avoid having the wrong tenants in your Chico property. Remember to always treat possible tenants with respect but too also keep your guard up in order to preserve the integrity of your business.

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How to Stop Your Chico Rental Property from Becoming Party Central

downloadWe are all aware that Chico is a College town, therefore- every apartment or house near the college and downtown is a prime location for student parties, and is also at risk of damage to the property due to alcohol induced behavior. One of the most frustrating parts of being a landlord is dealing with out of control tenants and their out of control guests. There is no more significant event that highlights this frustration than when a tenant decides to throw a party. Let’s be honest, summer is quickly approaching, which is the “golden hour” for parties with tenants planning to stay over summer; especially if they are just moving in.

When there’s a “kegger” on your property, the likelihood for damage, noise complaints and injury increase dramatically. In this article we’ll explain what you can do to keep your Chico rental property from becoming party central and drastically reduce the risk of damage and liability.

1. Restricting Drinking on the Rental Property

Drinking parties can lead to rowdy, destructive behavior, and violations of noise ordinances. A smart Chico landlord will make sure there are restrictions in place and the tenant knows them before moving in. As long as the lease agreement clearly states that the Chico rental property is a no-party zone, the tenant must comply or face eviction for failure to comply.

While you may not care if the tenant drinks responsibly in the privacy of the rental unit, you must be clear that full-fledged parties that serve alcohol are simply not allowed. Especially in college towns such as Chico, landlords should make sure that parties and “keggers” happen elsewhere, not on their property. Besides the potential for damaged property, underage drinking can be a concern and it is possible that a landlord can be held liable for it.

2. Use Specific Wording in the Lease Agreement

For Chico landlords that feel strongly about controlling large-scale drinking in their rental units, the lease agreement is the best way to keep things under control. Take steps to keep the environment quiet and friendly before it’s too late by including strong wording in the lease agreement

Wording in the lease agreement should address a limit on the number of guests on the property to a certain number (say no more than 10 without permission from the landlord). It should also stress that illegal activity, such as underage drinking or disorderly conduct, will result in immediate eviction proceedings.

Don’t be afraid to use specific language in the lease agreement that clarifies that use and possession of alcohol is permitted in the privacy of the rental property. Specify that “keggers” and parties involving large amounts of alcoholic beverages and include large numbers of people and an excessive amount of noise are strictly prohibited.

3. Follow Through on Lease Violations

When you discover that a large party has taken place on your Chico property or is currently in
progress, you can take action to ensure that the tenant will reap the consequences.

If the party is going on at the moment, you can call the police and they will come and take care of the situation. If there is any underage drinking going on or other illegal activity, the police can put an end to it and you can start eviction proceedings. Make sure you document the events, from the first phone call complaining about noise to what the police officer tells you.

If you decide to handle it yourself, make sure your tenant knows that you will call the police immediately if they and their guests do not stop immediately and leave the premises. Let the tenant know that this is an official warning and if it happens again you have no choice but to start the eviction process. Write up a few paragraphs of what happened and what you did about it and put it in the tenant’s file as a warning.

When you’ve decided that your tenant has violated the lease agreement, you can create an official notice for the tenant to vacate the property due to violation the lease agreement. Post the notice on the tenant’s door and also mail it to the tenant’s address. Begin the eviction process through the proper legal channels.

Using leverage of legitimate written threats of police action or eviction, you’ll send a message to partying tenants that you are serious about maintaining the quiet enjoyment of the property for neighbors and other tenants. You also show that you are interested in protecting your property from potential damage due to excessive partying.

8 safety tips: Avoid these common holiday mistakes!

christmas_lights-01Safety is the best gift to give your family this time of year. Keep their holiday season safe, merry and bright with these simple tips.

  1. Look into the lights. It pays to spend at least as much time looking at your holiday lights as you do looking for them. Once you pull your holiday lights out of the attic or that dusty storage closet, give each string a careful inspection. Look for frayed wire, broken sockets and signs of significant wear. When in doubt, toss them out. Also, check for the UL symbol from Underwriter’s Laboratory or a similar tag showing the product has passed the safety tests of a national lab. Finally, before you hang a string of lights, plug it in to make sure everything is working properly.
  2. Three’s company, four’s a hazard. Stringing strands of lights together is a lot like golf–a lower number is better. Connecting too many strands can overload circuits, so play it safe and follow the rule of three: connect no more than three strings in a row. Also, avoid tucking cords under rugs (which creates a fire hazard), and keep them away from walkways where they can trip someone or be stepped on and damaged.
  3. Right lights, right place. It’s natural to want to showcase your holiday style with a brilliant outdoor display. Just be sure to use lights and power strips that are approved for exterior use. And remember, outdoor equipment is sturdy, but not invulnerable. Use common sense and keep connectors off the ground, out of gutters and away from downspouts.
  4. Turn off the show before you go. When you pull out of the driveway at night, it’s tempting to leave your house glowing in full glory, like a beacon to guide you home. But if safety and savings are top priority, turn off holiday lights whenever you hit the road. Want the best of both worlds? Set up a timer to turn lights on and off automatically. That way, you can enjoy the spectacle when coming and going, and never worry about forgetting to shut down the show after hours.
  5. Prevent forest fires. When you bring an evergreen indoors, the same precautions apply to your forest of one. Campers know that dry pine needles are great for starting fires, so keep live trees far from candles, heaters, stoves and fireplaces. And make an effort to keep the greenery green. Water your tree as diligently as you would a pet–up to a gallon of water per day will help keep your tree safe and fresh. After the holidays, or if your tree becomes dry, don’t wait to take it down and take it outside.
  6. Don’t skimp on safety. Artificial trees are gaining in popularity, but don’t sacrifice safety in the name of style or savings. Before you decide which tree to bring home, make sure it’s been tested and labeled as fire–resistant. If the tree comes with lights, look for a sticker showing it’s been safety-tested by Underwriters Laboratories or a similar national lab.
  7. Keep cool with LEDs. There’s nothing wrong with blending time–tested tradition with cutting–edge technology. When shopping for indoor or outdoor holiday lights, consider light–emitting diodes (LEDs). These high–tech, high–efficiency bulbs are shatterproof, shock–resistant, and cool to the touch, which greatly reduces the risk of fire. Even better, they can reduce energy consumption by up to 90 percent. They also last up to 25 times longer, which means they can be part of your holiday celebration for years to come.
  8. Look up and live! Before stringing lights on outdoor trees, make sure tree limbs haven’t grown into or near power lines. Branches, entire trees and even the ground adjacent to a tree can become energized when trees contact power lines. Never place yourself or any object — like a ladder — in a position where you or it may come in contact with a power line — the result can be fatal. Keep at least 10 feet away from overhead lines.