Saturday

A Big Mistake: Moving Into an Incomplete Apartment

So your anxious about moving in.  You tell the community manager the date you want to move in the apartment and he/she promises you the apartment will be ready.  Unfortunately, you learn the hard way, like so many other renters, that sometimes promises aren't always kept in the apartment industry. 

The manager walks you to your new home only to find out that some things in the unit are simply not done!  You see outlet covers off the wall, carpet stains, wires hanging out of who knows what, and there is still some painting that needs to be done.  The manager is apologizing profusely and you are ready to blow your top because you know in a few days the electricity will be cut off in your old apartment!  Uh oh!

This scenario happens more often than you think in the apartment industry.  On one hand, you have over anxious apartment renters trying to speed up a move-in process on an unfinished suite that may take anywhere from one to three weeks depending on the condition of the unit.  Some are left with serious bug problems, electrical problems, pipe leaks, broken appliances, fixtures, and filthy walls and carpets.  Then on the other hand, you have over anxious leasing consultants and/or managers who quickly take cash and signatures from future residents while failing to stay on top of maintenance and outside contractors' duties.  What an unnecessary headache!

You can avoid the previous scenario if you do just two things:  don't sign or drop off cash unless you have seen the ready suite and have walked the suite with the manager or consultant--don't believe promises, believe what you see instead.  When a renter is anxious, excited or "just can't wait," mistakes will happen and that's when what once was up comes down quickly in the business relationship.  You may want to take a trusted relative or friend with you who isn't as excited about your potential new apartment.  He or she most likely will watch out for things that you may overlook due to your excitement.

If you do accept the keys and have handed money over to management and the suite is still not ready, you can ask that your first month's rent be prorated.  Basically what this means is rather than pay the full months rent, you are deducted the amount from the total due until you are able to officially move-in.  You can also request your first month's rent check back or ask that it isn't deposited until agreed upon maintenance issues are handled prior to move-in.  But whatever you do, don't hand over any more money, sign anymore paperwork, or bring any of your items to the apartment when work still needs to be done.  Otherwise, maintenance can say that they couldn't complete a job, because your belongings were in the way.  You don't want to give them any excuse not to get your apartment ready.  Also, if you have already received the keys to your place, take the time to take photos, video and note any significant wear in the unit.  Once the apartment is officially prepped, be sure to do a walk-through with management or a leasing consultant.

Nicholl McGuire

Monday

Don't Believe the Hype: Apartment Rental Books

The pictures are pretty!  The features and amenities are everything that you wished for!  Those apartment guide books are so impressive, but what's the catch?  If you haven't been asking yourself that, you should!  Don't let the pictures fool you! 

I have personally come across many properties that looked beautiful, but once I arrived to view them, they were hideous!  They forgot to mention the roaches, dead stink bugs, cracked paint, the water damage on the ceilings and walls from a leaky roof, the smelly, worn carpet in the entrance ways, and other things that would make you feel ashamed to bring your relatives over.

The prices aren't that affordable as one would like for you to believe in those rental books either!  There are usually a few left at your desired price, but once you arrive, you find out that there are a whole lot more available at a price you don't want to pay.

Be careful of those "too good to be true" deals as well.  Why would anyone practically give away an apartment before a resident moves in?  "Two months free!  No security deposit!  Fully furnished with no rent to pay the first month!  No security deposit or first months rent!"  Huh?  You better be asking questions and when you visit, go over that place with a fine tooth comb.  Also, check out the neighborhood.

Some alternative places you may consider looking, if you are having zero success with apartment rental books, would be:  newspapers--the free ones as well as the paid ones, fliers on college campuses, word of mouth, online social networking, and online classified ads.

Always remember to ask specific questions about the apartment and the community before visiting.  Why not also ask people in your social networks as well?  Consider using Google maps to check out the neighborhood.  Check police blotters (usually printed in newspapers) about the latest activities or conduct online research when checking out the nieighborhoods.

Nicholl McGuire  

Thursday

Moving in October, November & December? Good luck.

If you are one of the lucky ones that already secured an apartment you really like before the fall season, congratulations!  However, for those looking to get a place around that time, the pickings are slim!  As the weather gets cooler (especially on the east coast,) people do less moving.  Therefore, apartment availability, particularly in ideal locations, is slim.  College students are also settling in apartment communities as well, so it makes it a challenge to find a place.   

Be sure to leave contact information when visiting places you like and if there is a waiting list, be on it.  This way once a resident gives notice to leave, you will be one of the first to know.  Most apartment communities require a security deposit and first month's rent.  However, if your credit is not so good, expect to pay at least twice the security deposit.

Nicholl McGuire

Tuesday

How Important is Public Transportation When You Look for Housing?

Some apartment shoppers don't bother asking about public transportation simply because they know they will be driving their car.  But what happens when the car breaks down and you just can't afford to fix it?  Most will say, "Well, I will just call my mom, my dad or a friend."  As we all know, people are only generous for a limited time only.  When seeking an apartment, do consider one that does have nearby public transportation.  When you do, you will be glad you did especially when you notice how much it may cost you to drive into work each day from your new place.

Most apartment leasing offices do have bus schedules available.  You can also visit local grocery stores and bus depots to pick up a weekly or monthly bus pass.  Take a moment to use the Internet to search for bus stops in the area that you are thinking about moving into.

If you are moving your family and you have teenagers, think about the places they will want to go.  Public transportation will save money and time for a busy parent who isn't always available to transport his or her teen around town.

Nicholl McGuire

What's that Smell?

So you are walking down the hall of your potential new living space and suddenly you notice a strange smell permeating your nostrils.  Smells like a drug of some sort.  What might you say to the leasing consultant who is all too ready to get you into an apartment?  "I noticed a strange odor in the hallway.  I believe that someone might be doing something illegal.  How do you handle issues such as this?"  This is a good way to see what kind of management you may or may not be dealing with in the future.  Is he or she going to address the issue, make excuses or pretend like the smell doesn't exist? 

You never want to consider moving into an apartment building that is so big that if someone is smoking weed in 210 A the smell is going to linger for hours on end and just might spread to your suite.  You also don't want to move in a building where management is not going to do or say anything about the odd smells that might just affect your health one day either.

There are other odors in those hallways of that great looking building that everyone wants to move in and while you may really be excited about it, consider what you are willing to put up with.  Could you handle 310 B cooking greens almost daily and what about 410 C who doesn't believe in bathing her dog or cat?

Take a sniff around the next time you tour a property.

Nicholl McGuire

Wednesday

Do You Get a Good Look at the Windows?

You will be suprised at how many people will shop for a rental and not bother to look at the windows or even bother to open them. They assume that they work. However, what I have found in my personal experience looking at both houses and apartments, some have either one or two windows(in one case all windows) painted shut, broken, or very difficult to open and close. In a couple of situations, management had no plans on fixing them.



At first this doesn't seem like a big deal, I mean if you have central AC and heating you wouldn't care, right? But what if the heating and cooling systems are working well for some rooms, but not for others or worse it completely shuts down? You will want to open your window especially in the bathroom, phew! Now you are stuck in a hot, stuffy place--think a hotel room with the air conditioner turned off all day, bad, very bad!


Then you have those gorgeous odd-shaped windows that really add some personality to a room. However, you might learn that you will be paying a little more for electricity when the sunlight beams through them and keeps some of your rooms hot. They are often challenging to find treatments for if you desire a little more privacy, a cooler room and on a budget. Odd-shaped window curtains have to be customized. These windows can also be annoying when you or your family want to sleep in on weekends.

So take the time to check out those windows in that potential new place between all those compliments you give your leasing agent, "Wow, great place...I could put my desk here...love the windows!" That is until you realize those odd-shaped windows don't serve any real purpose, some windows don't open, and you may be responsible for the extra expenses to care for them.

Nicholl McGuire

Saturday

Move In Inspection: Walking the Suite

So you found a great rental place, but you notice some things that you didn't see before after walking your suite? Well, if the property management company or landlord didn't supply you with a move-in inspection sheet, then note your findings and/or video your new place before moving-in or soon after.

Take the time to go to each room and list the flaws that you see. There are many people in the property management industry who will simply put "ok" down the inspection sheet for everything they see; rather than being specific. What about those markings on the kitchen floor, the chipped paint on the wall in the master bedroom, a removed outlet cover in the bathroom, a cracked glass window in the hall, or stains in the carpet in every room prior to move-in? Don't ignore them, write them up. Ms. Sally or Mr. John, the leasing consultants, may not be working in the office any longer once you are ready to move-out, so you don't want to take their word that you won't be charged for anything once you move -out.

Note general wear and tear such as the worn areas of the carpet and markings on doors and walls. The "ok" on the inspection sheet is suppose to cover that, but be specific anyway. There may also be leaky pipes, cosmetic defects on the appliances, and signs of mold and mildew, don't attempt to fix anything or remove anything without noting your findings and asking permission first. If for some reason you make matters worse, you will be responsible for any damages.

Whenever possible, try to arrange for someone from the office to walk the suite with you. Also, as mentioned earlier, take video and/or photographs of problem areas both inside and outside your apartment, town-home, or house.

Nicholl McGuire

Friday

Dress to Impress When Apartment Shopping?

Maybe you are interested in a penthouse suite or maybe just a simple apartment whichever you are interested in, why not let your real-tor or leasing consultant know what kind of taste you have? You can do this not only by what you tell her or him, but how you dress too!

Unfortunately, no matter how many laws we have to keep people from being discriminated against, there is something within all of us that will make us work harder for that attractive looking person walking through the door. Maybe we smile a little more, shake hands a little harder, offer treats, or ask if there is anything else we can do, there is something about a person's demeanor who demands special treatment and respect that will always get top notch service and most of all what they want.

So you may have thought about going on your next appointment to view an apartment with kids in tote, a little sweaty and possibly a little dirty, think again if you are looking to get a luxurious suite with a magnificent view. There are those consultants who may favor one party over the other just on appearance alone. However, what if you are seeking a simple, affordable unit with not many amenities, then a not-so attractive appearance might help, the consultant might think, "Well, he really needs this place and his kids could use the room."

Dress the part and who knows where you might end up.

Nicholl McGuire

Thursday

Outside Your New Home: Your Responsiblity

When you first saw that nice rental home in the classifieds, you may not have anticipated you would be the one making any necessary improvements like: mowing the lawn or trimming the hedges that is until you read the lease contract on the day of signing. Now what?

There are a number of options that you could utilize based on your situation when it comes to maintaining your landscaping.

1. Rent garden tools.

If you know, that you don't plan on owning a home anytime soon and you aren't interested in purchasing garden equipment or using a landscaper, why not rent your tools? You can get everything you need for your landscaping tasks at stores like, a Home Depot or Lowes. Also, conduct a search for tool rental and include the city and state that you live to see what comes up.

2. Hire a professional landscaper.

You may want the best treatment for your property. Check with your neighbors to find out who they use to maintain their landscaping.

3. Ask a relative or friends.

What better way to keep some money in your pocket while helping a relative or friend who is frequently borrowing or asking others, give them a weekly job to do. To date, professionals can charge from $50 plus for weeding, trimming, and lawn care a month. They also will charge an additional fee for fertilizing. Think of the money you will save when you get someone you know to do it. However, you may acquire a headache if your relative or friend is unreliable.

The outside of the home is the first thing that anyone sees when driving by and therefore it must be well-maintained. Besides, it is a reflection of you and your family. Also, keep in mind that city officials may visit your home with a warning and possibly a citation if you fail to keep up the property.

Nicholl McGuire

Check the Plumbing!

Most people are so impressed with the basic appearance of an apartment before moving in that they fail to check the plumbing. They don't bother to let the hot water run. They don't bend down and open the cabinets to check for water leaks and they won't take a look at the kind of water heater that is in the unit. Unfortunately, some landlords are hoping that the potential resident doesn't check for these things. Sometimes they prefer to wait until money is in hand before they make any necessary repairs. If the landlord does make some improvements, it may be just enough to band-aid the problem, so that he or she can save money. When this happens, a resident finds out real soon that all that glitters isn't gold and before long he or she is disheartened about the unit.

Save yourself a headache or two and find out what the trouble spots are before signing a lease and if you have already done so, be sure that you note your findings, take photos, and mark the day and time you talked to your landlord about the problems in your unit. Review your lease contract to find out what repairs your landlord is responsible for. If you don't see any improvement after repeated requests, seek legal representation, your city office and/or health department.

Nicholl McGuire

Tuesday

Move Out Date

So you are looking to move out your current apartment, but when? If you give ample notice, your landlord will love you. However, too late and you may ruffle some feathers, not only that, you may find yourself paying prorated rent for an apartment you are not staying in.

Most lease contracts require at least a 30 day notice prior to the end of your lease. While others may mention a 60 day notice. The move-out date alerts your landlord, so that he or she will begin marketing the unit for the next resident.

Most landlords want a written notice, so there is no question about whether a resident is staying or going. They also would like to be made aware of any problems in the unit before a resident moves out. Conduct a preliminary walk-through with your landlord to be sure that you both are on the same page regarding what repairs need to be made before you leave. For instance, some residents like to paint the walls different colors. Most landlords require that a resident paints the walls back to their original colors.

Don't waste time thinking about "when and if I move," know what you are going to do in advance to avoid any unnecessary charges.

Nicholl McGuire

Monday

Got a New Job? Want Out of Your Lease?

You signed an apartment lease contract that won't make it easy for you to break it without paying out some substantial money. Losing money is the bad news, but knowing that there is a way to get out of the contract is the good news! Depending on what the contract says, how fast management can get someone in the unit, and how reasonable you are through the process, may get you out of some fees.

There are those contracts that may allow you to break your lease if you should get employment hundreds of miles away or outside of the state. Other contracts will outline the penalty for breaking a lease early. Whatever the contract says, consider working with management. Maybe a future resident will need to come to your home to view the place while you are still there, give permission to enter. Management may have noticed some problems in your unit that may need to be addressed by you, roll up your sleeves. Whatever the issue about your apartment, keep in mind that: you need to terminate your lease and management needs to rent your unit. Think about how you can offer your assistance. Who knows, your place may be rented before you leave?

Nicholl McGuire

Where's Maintenance?

You pay rent each month for the luxury of having things like a pool, courtesy patrol and most of all 24 hour emergency maintenance. However, what happens when maintenance isn't doing their job?

Sometimes there will be those property management companies that pride themselves on exceptional maintenance service, but this doesn't happen often. Unfortunately, more times than expected, a new renter experiences a rude awakening after the first month of living at an apartment complex. Maintenance isn't moving as fast as they did during the early days. A typical service call is not answered within 24 hours, maybe 48 hours, 72 hours or as long as a week later. Sometimes service issues are never answered. Before long, the resident is spending his or her own money to fix a problem in the apartment even though management doesn't want that to happen. They fear that a problem in the apartment may not be fixed properly, so they want their staff to be the ones to fix it. But what's a resident to do when maintenance isn't showing up?

When management and maintenance aren't doing their parts, sometimes a resident will contact outside help like the police, Health Department, file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau, or contact an attorney. This is so that a case may be built against management for a future lawsuit. Disgruntled landlords may retaliate by finding fault with a "trouble-making" resident in an attempt to legally evict him or her or provide an option for a resident to leave the residence if he or she feels there is no way to satisfy him or her. However, many landlords will eventually get someone over to see the problem in the apartment. However, if a resident was to contact a workmen, outside the management company, most repairs would not be done because permission must be granted by the property owner.

Nicholl McGuire

Cardinal Rule for the Renter: Don't Be Anxious!

You need a place, I need a sale. Between the two of us, we are both anxious. However, we shouldn't be, because when we act in this way, one of us might do or say something that might cause us to miss out on what we both want.

I think of all of the new residents who were eager to get a place when they walked in my office some years back, and I recall how later they were disappointed after moving in. Their disappointment may have been due to a lack of funds, the apartment location, a nosey neighbor, something overlooked in the contract, and other things that caused that once smiling face to turn upside down.

No one is to blame. Feelings take over and you just want that coveted place now. Sometimes desperation exuding from a apartment shopper would make me second guess whether he or she would be a good resident. Other times, I was the one guilty of moving too fast with the interview to close the sale.

A few words of caution: take the time to go over that vacant apartment with a fine tooth comb, so to speak. Read and re-read the contract. Bring a second set of eyes with you when you look for an apartment. Most of all, sleep on it. If it's meant to be, it will be there the next day.

Nicholl McGuire

Saturday

Resident Retention

In the apartment industry, the words “resident retention” are very important. To define it simply in my experience, it is a process to keep a resident happy in the apartment community, so that he or she will not want to move.

When discussing resident retention goals, behind closed doors, management and staff are brainstorming on ways to keep residents at their apartment communities. It costs much money to the landlord when a resident moves out. He or she is losing profits daily when the apartment remains vacant not to mention the expensive marketing mediums the landlord must pay to get people to come see the unit.

So when a resident gives a notice to move, then another, and another too often and too soon in between, someone should be paying close attention to this and looking for ways to slow these numerous departures.

One way is by surveying the residents. The apartment management may host a meeting, post surveys on doors with a small incentive, or walk door to door asking residents if there is anything they need done in their apartment and/or like to see changed in the apartment community.

Based on feedback, management and staff will accommodate their residents needs; therefore, keeping them around a little longer. Some apartment management will usually pay closer attention to resident needs during lease renewals which I personally feel is too late. Resident retention efforts should be made daily.

At least once, sometimes twice a week, there is always something going on at one apartment community I worked, because I was the one who initiated it. I wanted residents to feel like we cared and many with tears in their eyes, mind you, was most appreciative. I didn’t just keep the previous managers’ punch and cookies routine, but what I did do, was work with local businesses to get the residents the things that they needed. It was a win for everyone. Residents got discounts from local businesses, businesses got exposure, apartment visitors got to partake in some of the festivities as well. Eventually people were telling others, “My apartment community has really changed. There is a lot going on around here.”

I believe as I write that if it wasn’t for the support of management when it came to my ideas regarding resident retention we would have lost a lot of people. The previous landlords were not good and left many residents with a sour taste in their mouths. The resident retention numbers of those leaving the community were bad (in the double digits) when I came on board. There were more people going then staying and someone had to do something.

By Nicholl McGuire

When the Landlord Has to Enter Your Apartment

Those days will come where one's apartment dwelling will be visited by management. State laws require that a landlord give notice before entering one's unit. But unfortunately I have heard my share of stories of apartment management, maintenance and others not always giving at least a 24 hour notice. Most often when this happens it is due to an emergency.

Emergencies may occur in a resident's apartment such as: a water leak, electrical problem, rodent or insect nuisance, or some other problem. When this happens, usually a resident will need to clear the problem area. He or she should also pack up valuables.

There are usually sections within the lease contract that outline when staff may enter a unit including when a resident gives notice to move, so pay close attention to your lease during signing and periodically review it. Some residents are taken by surprise when their unit is already being marketed to the public before boxes are packed and they are already moved out. The inconvenience of having a stranger walk through your apartment can be irritating. One way around this is to compromise on when apartment staff can come view the apartment or simply refuse when staff show up.

I have been on both sides of the fence, the one showing the apartment and the one living there; therefore, I have mixed emotions, but I usually make the right decision when it comes to getting things done in the apartment unit. I tend to be more empathetic for staff then I would have ever been had not worked as a leasing consultant and apartment manager.

One of the biggest issues that maintenance has with residents is when they either don't report a problem or wait until it is so bad that they complain. Whenever there is a leaky faucet, watermarkings on a ceiling, a crackling sound behind a wall, lightbulbs having to be changed often, a bad odor, or frequent visits from bugs, there is a problem. Don't wait simply because you don't want to be inconvenienced, make a phone call, then another until something gets done.

Nicholl McGuire

Thursday

How Soon Are You Looking to Move?

There are people right now busily surfing the Internet for a new apartment home or duplex, yet haven’t bothered to look at the calendar to find out exactly when they will give their landlord notice, schedule packing days and secure a moving date, and most of all know exactly when they will be arriving at their new location.

Too often a leasing consultant is sitting down with the potential resident helping he or she and family figure it all out. When the leasing consultant picks up the phone to answer a prospect’s question about apartment availability, he or she is also trained to ask the most important question of all, “How soon are you looking to move?” When the prospect stammers and stutters about it, the consultant will most likely help the person settle on a moving date. This is important because he or she doesn’t want the prospect to miss out on a desired apartment. What usually happens at this point is the prospect will say, “I’ll call you back.” But if the consultant is a good salesperson he or she will not let the prospect off that easy. A few more questions might be asked about one’s preference and a contact name and number is usually written down to be called again nearing the future move-in date.

Some apartment shoppers will ask if the desired apartment can be held. Most communities may hold the unit for about 24 hours without any money placed on the home. However, there is a little disclaimer that goes along with the granted request, “I can’t guarantee you that the apartment is yours, because if someone walks in here ready to put money down on it, I will have to give it to that person.” I have personally seen the disappointment in a variety of faces showing up 72 hours later or longer expecting to see the available unit and rent it the same day. There is nothing to do at this point, but show potential residents other suites which usually aren’t what they wanted. They were sold on what the person told them over the phone.

Apartment shoppers should try their best to know exactly what their needs are in an apartment home and when they would want to move-in. Without such important information, it can be frustrating for both the consultant and the shopper. It can also be annoying for the shopper to find something and not have the money to hold the apartment. This happens frequently as well. The shopper is so excited about finding a desired apartment only to be told, “You will need to put down a deposit to hold the apartment which this money goes toward your security deposit. The remaining security deposit amount and first month’s rent is expected within two weeks prior to move in which at this time you will sign your lease.” Unfortunately, some potential residents can’t afford to come up with the money so quickly. They also aren’t expected to pay twice the amount of a security deposit when it is discovered that their credit is bad.

Apartment shoppers may want to plan to save money prior to calling a consultant to schedule a tour. This way they won’t miss out on possible specials. Sometimes there is a discount given to those who sign a lease within a certain period of time. There are also discounts an apartment shopper may not know about. Some communities offer employer discounts for residents who will be working in the local area.

Tuesday

10 Hot Household Items You May Need this Summer

What typically happens during the summer? The children are out of school and complain of boredom, unexpected relatives show up, and the sun shines more brightly in your home exposing one’s dirty carpet, outdated curtains, stained furniture, and other ugly yard. It may be time for a thorough house cleaning and not the kind where you take a paper towel and wipe off a table kind either!

Look around your home and what do you see? Are there some old, broken items that have to go? Have you been putting off buying some things to get your children yet another toy? It’s time to put the bored children to work and give your home a makeover with some of these hot items that are often on sale year after year!

Outdoor patio furniture

The major discount stores have all kinds of sets. From rust free aluminum frame dining sets to in expensive resin patio sets. Whatever your taste or budget, it’s time to invest in some outdoor furniture for those upcoming parties!

Pool and Beach towels

Your children may be climbing the walls, worrying you about going to the pool! They will need towels for the community pool. But you may have a small yard behind a duplex, you may be allowed to include a simple blow up type on the property. Ask your landlord first.

Flowers & Plants

Make your home an inviting, happy place! Decorate the indoors with everything from plastic plants to real indoor houseplants. Then go outside and start planting some seed! Many of your packaged flower seeds are inexpensive. If you don’t want to get down and dirty purchase flowering hanging baskets.

Indoor furniture

Those uninvited guest just might pop over for a visit and if you have furniture that you are ashamed of, this might be a good time to pitch it! Love-seats, sofas, and recliners are always on sale. Some of the cheaper furniture is a bomber jacket style, soft as suede microfiber. Of course if you have more money to spend, you may want to decorate your living-room with durable, stylish wood furniture in a variety of colors. A little more money add a storage ottoman to complete your set.

Airbeds

When out of town guests come you may want to save them some hotel money by offering to let them stay at your place. If so, you may not have an additional bed. However, there are ways around spending a wad of cash. Airbeds are good to sleep on for overnight visitors. They are comfortable enough for a short visit, any longer and they will send anyone packing!

By Nicholl McGuire

Thursday

10 Things Residents See Apartment Staff Do But Don’t Report

Have you ever noticed suspicious behaviors of resident managers and maintenance crew and wondered whether or not they should be doing what they do? Although some things are not written in your lease contract, there are rules that staff are suppose to follow internally and you wouldn’t know it unless you knew someone who worked on the inside. When you see any of the staff at your property doing the following things, notify corporate headquarters or the property owners. However, if you rent from a private owner, they may not have any specific protocol, but you should make them aware anyhow. Sometimes the owner is the one at fault and if so there are states' laws that every landlord is to follow. You will need to contact your local government for a handbook that lists those laws and your rights.

One. The on-site laundry facilities, gym equipment, business center, pool, or other areas being used by management for personal reasons.

You may have seen your property manager firing up the grill for a party, maybe swimming in the pool with friends, or washing his or her clothes in the laundry room, unless he or she is an on-site manager that lives at the apartment complex, they shouldn’t be doing it. You are paying for those amenities and they are meant to be enjoyed by the residents not the staff. It is an inconvenience to the residents living onsite that need to wash their clothes or have a celebration in the party room and the staff are using them. Do everyone a favor in your building and report them to corporate headquarters when you see them doing it.

Two. Managers and maintenance entering your apartment without residents knowing about it.

You are away at work not suspecting that anyone would be looking around in your apartment. Then one day you come home to discover that something in your apartment is out of place. You call the main office and they tell you that one of the maintenance men were checking for leaking faucets that day. Proper protocol should have been to leave a note by the one who had entered your apartment. Even better, some companies will notify you with a letter at least a week in advance letting you know that someone will be entering your apartment for routine maintenance. However, for emergencies there is no time to let you know in advance, but staff is still expected to leave a note letting you know when they came into your apartment and what they did while there.

Three. Management and maintenance staff inspecting residents’ trash.

Sometimes residents will leave trash in places they shouldn’t have, if you are one of those residents stop it. But if you do, maintenance is not allowed to go through your trash to find out who left it, remove plastic containers, or look for some hidden treasure. There are always those cases where trash will tip over, break, or come open and will need to be cleaned up. However, you are responsible for properly disposing of trash. Some managers will issue warnings then later serve evictions to residents for property damage.

Four. Management or staff removing packages or mail placed by the mail carrier from a resident’s mailbox or front of their door.

This one is tricky. Let’s say you have a good relationship with management and he or she was concerned about your package sitting out in front of your door for days at a time, they may remove it and take it to their office. You may have been away for awhile and your mailbox is full, so management may remove your mail at your request. However, many will not touch your mail or packages no matter how full your mailbox gets or how long a package stays outside of your door. The reason for this is that they do not want to be held responsible if your mail or package is damaged, stolen, or lost. When you are out of town it is better to designate a loved one, friend or neighbor to clean out your mailbox for you if it should overflow. The mail carrier may give the overflow of mail to management, but not always. He or she may leave a note indicating that you will have to pick up your mail at the post office.

Five. Staff showing up announced at a resident’s apartment for personal reasons or entering it unannounced such as helping themselves to some food or watching television.

When you moved into your new apartment, the last thing you expected was to be harassed by management or maintenance about going out on a date, attending an event, joining a business opportunity, visiting a church or whatever other reason they felt it was necessary to knock on your door almost daily. You also didn’t expect that someone from the staff would abuse their privileges of entering the apartment without you being at home. In situations like this, you will want to notify the corporate office and if they persist, contact your local law enforcement.

Six. Management failing to acknowledge a resident’s requests within a 24-48 hour period.

It should never take any longer than three days for anyone to get back to you about a work order request. Efficient staff will respond either that same day depending on how early you called or by the following day. Residents should never have to wait weeks at a time for a request to be granted. If you find that no matter what you ask for management just doesn’t seem to be on top of your requests, you will have to notify their boss or better yet, check your local business directory for an organization that handles tenant and landlord disputes.

Seven. Managers threatening or harassing a resident about rent.

Most states will give you a thirty day notice before they evict you. If you find that you notified management a week in advance about paying rent late and they are calling you a week later about the rent, you will want to remind them that you are aware of your rights and that you will have the rent as soon as you can. The reason why they want you to have it on the day you may have promised is because they know they have a deadline to meet when it comes to filing court papers against you. You will want to re-read your lease to find it if there are any points you may have missed regarding the payment of rent. Also, find out what your state’s laws are in regard to late rent payments.

Eight. Managers failing to make residents aware of rent increases, lease renewals, changes in management and other things related to their lease contract.

You should not be suddenly told that the property is being bought, your rent will be increased next month, and other similar things without receiving a formal notice from management. Anything that may affect your stay should always be made in writing. Never assume anything without contacting management for yourself or requesting to speak with someone at corporate headquarters. Managers are supposed to give you this information if you request it.

Nine. Managers allowing outside contractors to come into resident’s homes while they are away without staying with them or letting them know they have been there.

You may have a problem with your phone line, need cable turned on, or some other issue, management is never suppose to give outside contractors your apartment key for them to let themselves into your home. Rather, someone from the staff should be escorting the contractor through the property and unlocking the door for him or her. Most staff will leave your apartment door open while they are in your home as a safety precaution and so that you are not startled if you should come home early. They are also expected to leave a note or call you to let you know that they were in your apartment.

Ten. Managers copying master keys and leaving them with a resident’s family or neighbors.

If you as a tenant choose to leave a copy with your family or neighbor that is your business, but managers should never leave copies of your keys with anyone without your written request to do so. If there is some kind of lock out program enforced, then there may be a reason why someone onsite needs to be available to let people into their apartments. Otherwise, if there is no such program and you are not made aware that someone other than staff has a copy of your apartment key, then they are violating your rights. Once again, notify corporate headquarters, the property owners, or your local police about the matter.

When you live in an apartment complex, know what is going on with management and your neighbors. Read the company newsletters, if they have any, and know about any upcoming changes that may be happening in management and on the property. Also, be friendly with at least one of your neighbors by waving, helping them carry something, knocking on their door if mail was mistakenly placed in your box or you noticed something strange. Keep your ears open to rumors and call management to confirm the truth. When you make attempts such as these to get to know the people in your community, they may be helpful to you in the future by watching your property, assisting you when you need help, and keeping you informed of the latest happenings.

By Nicholl McGuire

Tuesday

Property Management Marketing Schemes

Sometimes there are those people in the property management industry that are less than honest. They will do just about anything to get people into a rental unit including lie.

The following are some things you may want to pay close attention to when speaking to a leasing consultant over the phone as well as once you arrive to see the unit.

Description.

What you hear isn't always what you see when speaking to property representatives. So with that said, ignore the adjectives about the property and get straight to the matters that concern you. A consultant may say, "We have spacious bedrooms, vaulted ceilings, a beautiful community room, and a wonderful staff." But leave out, the peeling paint on the front and sides of the building and how the children are often seen running rampant around the property without their parents.

Apartment descriptions sound real nice over the phone, but aren't you concerned about the exact size, how many bedrooms and bathrooms and whether or not you have a garage for your car? Don't let the consultant dominate the conversation with fluff (even though some are trained that way); rather, state what you need and how soon.

Also, don't forget to drive to the property after hours and on weekends when you want to get a good look at the people who live there and the upkeep. Property managers are forbidden by law to tell you the ethnicity of residents, whether they have a lot of children staying there, and other things related to the people who live on the property. If you are concerned about criminal activity on the site, do the following: check with local police, visit the local newspaper website and review their local crime reports. Finally, search for community forums that talk about the property online.

Availability.

Let's say you are told a unit is available upstairs, but once you arrive you find out there is no apartment available upstairs. The remaining units are all downstairs. Now one of two things may have happened, someone in the office didn't update their notes on available units or someone rented the unit before you could make up your mind to drive over and see it. These are honest issues that come up--nothing deceptive about these. However, there are those property managers who already know a certain unit is not available, but due to pressure placed upon them from their corporate office to rent more apartment units, they may not be totally upfront about what is available. Therefore, when you arrive you may be told something like, "Well the one you wanted is no longer available. But, we do have another unit like it coming available next month. How about we take a look at one downstairs so you can see the floor plan? It is identical to the one upstairs." This tactic does two things: forces you to come to the property with your contact information (so the manager can follow up.) The other is to open your mind up to taking another unit--even though it isn't the one you originally wanted.

Location.

Anyone who is renting an apartment is concerned about how near or far the apartment community is to everything. When you call seeking information about the surroundings, the property manager is going to focus on the glass half full every time you ask a question. Therefore, he or she is going to talk about how easy it is to get on the freeway from the apartment complex, but he or she will leave out how most major shopping malls are not within walking distance. In fact, you will need transportation in order to visit. The manager may not say anything about the absence of a bus-line, the driving distance of local schools or other things that may keep you from visiting the property. Sometimes what isn't said is just as deceptive as what is said.

Price.

What you are told over the phone may be different upon your arrival especially if certain apartments have been recently discounted. For example, some managers will discount certain units because they don't have as many windows as others or maybe they are near something in the apartment building that may be considered a nuisance like elevator doors or a storage room for residents. However, sometimes a price that should be discounted isn't. There also may be one price said over the phone to get you to come visit the apartment and a totally different one once you arrive. Keep in mind that the lower price units are usually efficiencies, one bedrooms or units that lack certain features. That "sounds too good to be true" price quote is just that--too good.

There you have it, some tips to keep in mind the next time you call a company seeking an apartment. To your success in finding a good apartment!

Monday

The Waiting List


So you call an apartment community only to find out that there is a waiting list--bummer! Now what to do?

One. Ask the leasing consultant when will an apartment be made available.

Sometimes the waiting lists are short, some people on the list may no longer qualify and other factors tend to come up that may move applicants up on the list quickly, so don't get off the phone without getting this important information.

Two. Find out how you can get on the waiting list.

You could request an application be sent to your current address. Once it arrives, review it, fill it out and then await a possible reference number or something that indicates what place you are in line for the next available unit. Some communities may respond with a letter confirming your place; however, others will not and may not have such a system in place.

Three. Ask about referral properties.

Sometimes property management has other locations that have suites available. Find out where and call them to schedule an appointment. However, keep in mind they may have waiting lists too.

Four. Make a note on your calendar to call at a later date.

As with any office, some managers get very busy, you may not be able to get all the details in one phone call, so make a note on your calendar to call again. Also, you will want to pen when you should call back to see if any apartments have since become free.

By N. McGuire

Sunday

Things You Need to Check When Being Shown an Apartment or Town Home

While walking or driving down a street you see a move-in special! You can't wait to see how much you are going to save and whether the living space will accommodate you and/or your family.

Sometimes we are in such a rush to find a place to stay that we overlook the little things when being shown our new home.

Whether you are moving into an apartment, townhouse (also known as a duplex), or home, consider the following things before you sign that leasing contract and hand over your security deposit.

One. Underneath cabinets.

Look for pipes with signs of rust and leaks. Check inside of cabinets for molds and mildews. If you don't know what signs of water damage and molds look like, search the Internet for photographs.

Two. Floor along baseboards and crevices.

Those unidentifiable black crumbs just might be dead bugs on the floor. Those dirt specks on the window seal or bubble patches in the paint might be signs of termites. Look closely for evidence of a previous insect and rodent problem. If the issue still exists, you might even notice an odor.

Three. Toilet.

Badly worn sink fixtures, low water pressure and other issues when using the sink, shower and toilet aren't always obvious; therefore, they might be problematic in the future. However, it doesn't hurt to turn on a faucet, flush a toilet or run the bath and shower to see if all are operable.

Four. Sinks.

When filling the sink with water, does the water stay filled up when the stopper is in use? You can check on this while looking elsewhere in the apartment then come back to see if there is any change. Is the water hot and stays that way? Run it for awhile to see. Check the cold water as well. Does it work? Is there a slow leak under the sink? Listen and look for problems in any room that has water fixtures.

Five. Showers and Tubs.

Test the shower and tub. Sometimes rust particles will come from old fixtures and pipes. The last thing you want to discover upon move in is that you can't take a bath. Shower heads sometimes get clogged and will need to be replaced. You don't want to have to spend unnecessary money once you move in trying to get these things fixed.

Six. Odors.

Landlords will use all sorts of cleaning agents and air fresheners to mask the smell of mold and mildew inside an apartment, odors from a nearby garbage can, dead rodents behind a wall, fumes from a car garage across the street, or a neighbor who has an interesting taste in food or isn't that fond of keeping his or her house clean.

Open up cabinets and sniff. Crack open a window and smell the air. Don't take this sort of thing lightly if you are a person who has environmental allergies.

Seven. Unsightly damages, stains and missing items.

You might notice something is broken, missing, has a weird stain or a hole. Think about this for a moment, if maintenance didn't take care of this before the apartment was shown, there is a good possibility that they won't once the lease contract is signed. Don't sign anything until your needs are met!!

Now that you have seven tips to keep in mind when looking at a place, do understand that not everything will be to your liking especially when numerous people have lived in a place prior to your arrival. However, this doesn't excuse the fact that your basic requests should be granted. If a property manager can't handle them, avoid doing business with them.

By N. McGuire

Wednesday

Simple Moving Advice: Large Apartment to Smaller One

It's that time of year again to determine whether you will be living in your current apartment or moving. The rent has become unaffordable now that you are no longer receiving the income you once had. As you look around your apartment, you have to make the painful decision of what you will pack and what will be sold, given and thrown away. This is a personal time for you that may be best spent alone before you invite the family over to help you pack.

Begin to make a list or sort the items that mean the most to you by thinking, "If there were a fire what would I absolutely become depressed about it if I lost it?" Pack those things first. For some people it may be their treasured photos, diaries, family videos, certificates, awards, and jewelry. Include important insurance and tax information in boxes or suitcases that will be easy to find and unpack later.

Next, you may want to start with your collection of media removing all items that you don't watch, read or listen to anymore. Try to sell what you can through classifieds, fliers, yard sales, flea markets, and the Internet. What doesn't sell you can offer it to a media exchange outlet that will give you money for your used goods or give it to a donation center. Perform the same sorting method with clothes, shoes, kitchen appliances, living and dining room décor and furniture, and unopened beauty and cleaning products that you never bothered using.

Once you have emptied out shelves and cabinets, be sure to throw away unnecessary papers, pens, damaged magazines (but try to sell the good ones,) and miscellaneous parts that are broke and you don't have the need for anymore. Oftentimes, companies will specifically make a part for a certain item that can't be used on anything else. Loose change may be found in peculiar places as you pack, jar it and take it to a coin center that will count your money. Most of these machines can be found in grocery stores.
After you have parted with some of your belongings and got rid of the items you considered useless, you will want to decide on whether your new apartment will be able to accommodate the large sofa and chairs or the huge entertainment center you may have bought not that long ago. If you choose to sell it, then you will have additional space in your new place that you may need. However, if you don't, you may have to sacrifice something else. Some people will invest in storage, but is it really worth paying to store items that you just don't know when you will be able to get out? If you are renting furniture then you won't have to bother with storing or selling anything; however, you may want to consider losing the additional expense if you don't have any of the furniture nearly paid off (such as 3 to 6 months left on your bill until you own it.) If saving money is a priority, then avoid storing or renting items.

Think about turning off any unnecessary luxuries and keeping them turned off temporarily such as the cable package with all the extra movie channels or the Internet service. Allow yourself some time to get caught up on other bills before you have your service continued. Check your cell phone plan is it better than most? Could you save money by switching? Make the time to shop at stores that offer rewards for being their customer and use coupons at grocery stores that will double them. These attempts at saving money will provide you with the additional money to get caught up on bills, make small purchases for your new home, and save for emergencies. Make a promise to yourself that you will be more careful with how you spend your money in the future so that you may never have to downgrade to a smaller apartment again, because you can't afford the rent.

The last thing on your "to do" list once you have sorted and packed all the items you decided to keep, should be to purchase the items you will need to help you live organized and clutter free. The following list will help you decide what you will need to buy based on what you may or may not have.

Anything that can be mounted to the wall, get the mounts to do it. If you have no free storage room at your new apartment complex and you have a bike, mount it to a wall to make more room and keep the tires off the floor. Also, purchase a TV mount with a VCR or DVD section like the ones you may have seen at the doctor's office. They aren't cheap, but they will definitely provide you with the additional space that an entertainment center takes up.

Any books, CDs, or DVDs that you kept can be set on a wall shelf. Collectibles can also be placed in a curio cabinet or something similar that suspends to a wall. Photos in boxes may be sorted and placed in large picture frames and hung on walls. Keepsake mementos can be framed allowing you to get rid of old shoeboxes and photo albums. You can also create more space for your media by purchasing a traveling CD case and getting rid of the CD stand along with the jewel cases.
If you don't have a bed rail or box frame with drawers for a bed, then consider buying one. They will provide the extra storing space you will need for your bedroom items. For the bed rail frames, they will set your bed higher allowing space for plastic containers to be stored.

Don't cramp any of your rooms with useless whimsical furniture that can hold or store any additional items. Keep only the tables that can hold a lamp and some magazines or have drawers.

Don't go overboard with décor. Too many collectibles and décor will make your apartment feel crowded. If you aren't use to a lot of décor, don't start. In time you will have to dust those items and if you don't like to dust, don't get them.

Avoid the temptation to unpack anything that you know you don't need to use on a daily basis. Any large boxes that aren't being unpacked, you can always drape them with a pretty fabric (such as curtains) and make them as a corner table or nightstand in your bedroom. Another way to hide unpacked boxes is to suspend a curtain from the ceiling and hide items behind the curtain, now you have just created your own mini storage room.

Consider back of the door organizers for the bathroom and bedroom. Since drawer and shelf space may be limited, you may want to place your smaller items in the pockets. In the bathroom, if there is space over the toilet, use that space for additional shelving to store towels and washcloths. If you run out of drawer room above the sink, use shoebox containers to store additional items or a drawer organizer or bin for easy access to your grooming supplies.

The most chairs you may need for entertaining is two reading chairs in the living room, if you don't have the space for a large couch. This will also provide the space for your computer desk and office chair. Unless you must have a coffee table, keep it only if it has drawers they would be helpful to your storing needs. It isn't necessary to keep end tables unless you have the space for them. They can sometimes be more of a problem then a solution. When guest come over the tables tempt them to want to eat and drink in your living room increasing the risk for accidents that may stain the owner's carpet that you will have to eventually pay for out of your security deposit.
You may or may not have a dining room. If you do, then you will need at least one large cabinet that you could place your collectibles if it has a display case. If you don't have any collectibles to display, then

purchase a cabinet with doors that you could store coats, umbrellas, hats and other outdoor apparel and sporting equipment.

Consider packing all of your keepsakes in those empty suitcases you will be storing in your bedroom. Since you won't be doing a lot of traveling, why have them in your closet empty? Organize your shoes with a shoe organizer. As for bulky items, the space saver bags that have been advertised on TV in the past will definitely come in handy.

In the kitchen, wall space can also be best used for large skillets and pans. Purchase hooks that can hold items inside the cupboard. The space over the sink could use a nice shelf to hold lighter items. Purchase shelving for seasonings if there is an empty wall near the stove. Extra kitchen utensils can be placed in casserole dishes or other large containers if you run out of drawer room. Keep only your best cleaning products, the ones that can be used on a variety of surfaces. Too many cleaners that only work for specific tasks can take up a lot of space in the bottom of your cabinet. Buy a very large plastic bowl, basket or rack to organize those items. You will need something that can remove all of your items under the sink at one time in case there are ever any leaks.

As you visit various stores, you will come up with more ways to make your apartment more organized and efficient. Remember to take this time to enjoy your new life and appreciate your new home no matter how small it may be. Think of the money you will be able to save in the future, hopefully for a down payment on a new home!

By N. McGuire

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About Me

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Over 20 years office work experience, six years completed college coursework, background in print media and communications, recognized for exceptional attendance and received merit increase for past job performance, self-published author and part-time entrepreneur, Internet marketing and social media experience. Interned for non-profit organization, women's group and community service business. Additional experience: teaching/training others, customer service and sales. Learn more at Nicholl McGuire and Nicholl McGuire Media