Thursday, December 29, 2005

How to Make Your Apartment Safe by Kyle Thomas Haley

How to Make Your Apartment Safe

By Kyle Thomas Haley

There are special dangers involved with apartment living. This is because you live so close to many other people. Their actions can jeopardize your safety and so it's very important for you to be aware of what you must do to safeguard yourself, your family and your possessions.

Fire Safety . . .

Fire is perhaps the greatest danger in apartment buildings. With so many units joined together, it doesn't take long for fire to spread from one to another. The following guidelines are critical to your safety:

* Install smoke detectors in the kitchen, all bedrooms, the laundry area and hallways. You must test them every month and replace the batteries every 6 months. They won't do you any good if they aren't in working order.

* Keep fire extinguishers handy in the kitchen, laundry area and near your outside grill. * Develop an escape plan. This plan should include two ways of exiting - in most cases, this will probably include the main door and either a window or door wall. If you live on a higher floor and don't have access to a fire escape, purchase a rope ladder to use for exiting from windows or a balcony. Practice your escape plan regularly so each member of your family knows exactly what to do in case of fire.

* Never use an elevator during a fire. * Never park in front of fire hydrants or in fire lanes and make sure your guests don't either.

General Safety . . .

Fire isn't the only danger in an apartment building. You must also be aware of hazards that can exist no matter where you live and take precautions to prevent them.

* Install a carbon monoxide detector.

* Install screen guards or window stops and doorstops on your patio door to protect your children from falling. * Keep your apartment and building number near the telephone so your family or babysitter can access it in case of an emergency. Remember that memories can fail during emergencies.

* Make certain your apartment number is clearly marked on your door. * Be sure that each person in your family knows how to dial 911.

Protecting from Intruders . . .

There are many people coming and going in an apartment complex. Criminals count on this anonymity. That makes it very important to get to know the other tenants. When you do, not only are you better able to identify someone who doesn't belong, it also makes it more likely that tenants will look out for one another.

* Consider forming an "apartment watch". This is similar to a neighborhood watch but confined to your apartment complex. If a group of tenants is on the alert for suspicious behavior, they can prevent many problems from arising. * Install quality deadbolt locks on your door and place a wooden rod or steel brace on sliding doors. One caution about deadbolt locks - don't purchase those that require a key. In an emergency, you won't have time to search for the key.

* Make sure your landlord has installed good lighting in all stairways, hallways, and common areas like the laundry room.

* Make sure that if your building has a common entry, the entry door locks so that only tenants can enter. Never open that door for strangers.

If you follow these guidelines, practice good common sense, and are alert to what's going on around you, your apartment will provide a safe home for you and your family.

About the Author

Kyle Thomas Haley has been helping people relocate on the Internet since 1999 with Apartment and Relocation Websites:

An Apartment Directory and A Relocation Guide

Copyright 1999 - 2005 STANZEEKAY Inc. You have permission to publish this article, free of charge, as long as the bylines are included

Texas Real Property Law for Commercial Landlords by Tri Nguyen

Selected Texas Property Code Provisions of Interest to Commercial Landlords

By Tri Nguyen, Esq.

I have found that landlords generally face the same set of issues and have the same set of questions pertaining to their rights, duties and obligations as landlords under Texas law. The answers to these questions depend on whether residential tenants or commercial tenants are involved. Although commercial and residential property ownership and operation have some similarities, the differences are numerous and diverse enough to justify separate treatment for each area. This article is intended to discuss issues related to commercial property with commercial tenants only. This article is my attempt to create a quick and very general reference guide on the rights, duties and obligations of commercial landlords and operators under the Texas Property Code. It is by no means complete, but hopefully is informative enough to assist the reader in asking informed questions of legal counsel and thus be more efficient and economical while consulting legal counsel.

You should not take this article as legal advice, and I strongly urge you to seek competent legal advice for your specific situation. The Texas legislature updates and passes new laws relating to landlord/tenant issues on a regular basis. In addition, Texas courts regularly interpret these laws. Thus, the laws discussed in this article are in effect as of December 2005. I have not assumed any duty or obligation to update this article beyond this date.

I. Duty to Mitigate

If a tenant abandons the leased premises in breach of the lease, the landlord has the duty to mitigate (lessen) the damages that the landlord would experience as a result of the abandonment. Thus, the landlord should not let the premises lie vacant in hopes of being able to recover lost rents from the tenant. This duty to mitigate damages may not be waived by the tenant, so any provision in the lease that tries to waive this duty or exempt the landlord from liability is void.

II. Security Deposit

A security deposit is any advance of money, other than a rental application deposit or an advance payment of rent, that is intended primarily to secure performance under a lease.

III. Retention of Security Deposit

Before returning the security deposit, the landlord may deduct from the deposit damages or charges for which the tenant is obligated under the lease or resulting from a breach of the lease. However, normal wear and tear (does not include deterioration that results from negligence, carelessness, accident or abuse) may not be withheld from the security deposit.

If the landlord retains any portion of the security deposit, the landlord must refund the balance of the security deposit and give the tenant a written description and itemized list of all deductions. However, this description and itemized list is not required if the tenant owes rent and no controversy exists concerning the amount of rent owed. The refund and written description and itemized list of all deductions is not required until the tenant gives the landlord a written statement of the tenant's forwarding address for the purpose of refunding the security deposit. However, failure to provide a forwarding address does not cause the tenant to forfeit its right to receive a refund or a description of deductions.

IV. Refund of Security Deposit

A landlord must refund the security deposit not later than the 60th day after the date the tenant surrenders the premises and provides notice of the tenant's forwarding address.

V. Change of Landlord/Owner and the Security Deposit

The new owner or landlord of the leased premises is liable for the return of the security deposit starting from the date title to the leased premises is acquired, except where the new owner acquired the premises by foreclosure through a real estate mortgage. However, the former landlord or owner remains liable for the security deposit received while the person was the owner or landlord until the new owner delivers to the tenant a signed statement acknowledging that the new owner has received and is responsible for the tenant's security deposit and specifying the exact dollar amount of the deposit.

VI. Liability of Landlord for Security Deposit

A landlord who in bad faith retains a security deposit is liable for an amount equal to the sum of $100, three times the portion of the security deposit wrongfully withheld, and the tenant's reasonable attorneys fees incurred in a suit to recover the deposit. It is presumed that a landlord who fails to return a security deposit or to provide a written description and itemized list of deductions on or before the 60th day after the date the tenant surrenders possession is acting in bad faith.

VII. Preventing Access to Leased Premises

A landlord may not intentionally prevent a tenant from entering the leased premises except with permission of the court unless such prevention results from (i) bona fide repairs, construction or an emergency, (ii) removing the contents of the leased premises abandoned by a tenant or (iii) changing the door locks of a tenant who is delinquent in paying at least a part of the rent. The lease may alter this provision.

VIII. Changing Lock Due to Delinquent Payments

If a landlord changes the door lock due to delinquent rent payments, the landlord must place a written notice on the tenant's front door stating the name and address or telephone number of the individual or company from which the new key may be obtained. The new key is only required to be provided during the tenant's regular business hours and only if the tenant pays the delinquent rent. The lease may alter this provision.

IX. Landlord's Removal of Property After Abandonment by the Tenant

A landlord may remove and store any property of a tenant that remains after the premises has been abandoned. The landlord may also dispose of the stored property if the tenant does not claim the property within 60 days after the date the property is stored. The landlord must deliver by certified mail to the tenant at the tenant's last known address a notice stating that the landlord may dispose of the tenant's property if the tenant does not claim the property within 60 days after the date the property is stored. A lease may alter this provision.

X. Abandonment by the Tenant

A tenant is presumed to have abandoned the premises if goods, equipment or other property, in a substantial enough amount to indicate a probable intent to abandon the premises, is being or has been removed from the premises and the removal is not within the normal course of the tenant's business. The lease may alter this provision.

XI. Interruption of Utilities

If the tenant pays for utility services directly to the utilities companies, the landlord may not interrupt or cause the interruption of such services unless the interruption results from bona fide repairs, construction or an emergency. A lease may alter this provision.

XII. Removal of Doors, Windows, Locks, Hinges, Etc.

A landlord may not remove a door, window, attic hatchway, lock, hinge, hinge pin, doorknob or other mechanism connected to a door, window or attic hatchway cover from the leased premises. Additionally, a landlord may not remove furniture, fixtures or appliances furnished by the landlord from the leased premises. However, the landlord may remove these items for a bona fide repair or replacement, which must be promptly performed. A lease may alter this provision.

XIII. Landlord May Terminate Lease Due to Public Indecency Conviction of Tenant

A landlord may terminate a lease signed or renewed after June 15, 1981 if the tenant or occupant uses the property for an activity for which the tenant, occupant or any of their agent or employee is convicted of public indecency (prostitution, promotion of prostitution, display or distribution of obscene materials, sexual acts with persons under the age of 18, etc.) and such person has exhausted or abandoned all avenues of direct appeal from the conviction. Notice of termination must be by written notice within six months after the right to terminate arises. The landlord obtains the right to possess the property on the 10th day after the date of notice is given.

XIV. Notice Requirement Prior to Eviction

The landlord must give a tenant who defaults or holds over beyond the end of the term at least three day's written notice to vacate the premises before the landlord files a forcible detainer suit, unless the parties contracted for a shorter or longer period of time in a written lease or agreement.

The notice to vacate must be given in person or by mail at the premises in question. If notice is delivered in person, it may be by personal delivery to the tenant or any person residing at the premises who is 16 years of age or older or personal delivery to the premises and affixing the notice to the inside of the main entry door. Notice by mail may be by regular mail, by registered mail or by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the premises in question. The notice period starts from the day on which the notice is delivered.

About the Author
Tri Nguyen practices primarily business, corporate and real estate law in Houston, Texas. He may be contacted by telephone at 713.513.4808 or e-mail at Prior to starting his own firm, Mr. Nguyen worked as an associate in the corporate and securities section of a nationally-recognized law firm located in Houston, Texas. Mr. Nguyen graduated from The University of Houston Law Center with honors.

Screening Out Prospective Tenants Based on Credit Checks? by David Melancon

Increasingly, landlords throughout North America are screening prospective tenants in order to reduce the risks involved when renting to unknown individuals. Risks which can easily become quite costly to an unsuspecting landlord.

It's easy to prove the increasing popularity of tenant screening. See for yourself! Simply "Google" the following two words, tenant screening. Within seconds you will be flooded with a variety of small and large companies offering the service, and links to information on tenant screening. Go ahead! The last time I tried the results numbered 4,110,000.

The high number of results demonstrate that there is a rising awareness, amongst landlords, about the value of taking the necessary steps to protecting your property. The demand is growing and so is the supply.

However, although tenant screening is an important and effective tool for any landlord, there is an overwhelming trend, on the part of landlords and the service providers, to use the results of a credit check as the main reason for screening out prospective tenants. In my opinion, this is a mistake.

Of course, credit checks do provide valuable data on individuals. These reports inform us of the prospective tenant's credit history, both good and bad. But what else does an automated list of vague descriptions, and codes tell us about a potential tenant?

I dare say the answer is, not much.

Keeping aside the fact that credit reports are one-sided, and often contain errors. Credit checks can not provide any true insight on a potential tenant. For example, the credit check may lead you to think the tenant is a bad prospect, but it doesn't take into account the possibility that she went through a difficult period a few years back, but has long been "back on track".

A landlord can easily pass up a "perfect tenant", in his thirties, simply because he had trouble making payments while going through school, in his twenties. Base your decision on a credit report, and you lose a potentially ideal tenants.

What about a favorable credit report?

In my opinion, it would be a mistake for any landlord or property manager to place too much worth on a perfect credit score.

As a bad credit report can be misleading, so can a good credit report. For example, the report will not tell us that this particular individual has a reputation of constantly arguing with neighbors, and causing an all-around uncomfortable atmosphere for the landlord's other tenants.

As well, a credit report will not describe how the prospective tenant, with the perfect credit check, sitting in front of you, stuck the former landlord with an $800.00 hydro bill... Unpaid utilities often do not appear on a credit report.

Base your decision on a credit report, and you take the chance of entering into a rental agreement with a disaster.

As a landlord, it is in your best interest to exercise due diligence when considering a prospective tenant, and that means tenant screening. However, in order to truly ensure a potential tenant is the right one for you, contacting current and past landlords, employers and references is the best method.

First hand information is, and will always be better, and more revealing than any automated report.

About the Author
David Melancon owns and operates IntelMatters a research company specializing in tenant and pre-employment screening, throughout North America.
Knowledge is the key to success!

Investing In Real Estate by Max Plata

Once you purchase your first home you realize the satisfaction in owning a piece of real estate. For many people their interest doesn't stop there and they decide they'd like to continue investing in real estate beyond the home they live in.

Investing in property can be a dynamic way of making extra income. For many people their investing experiences allow them to work less at their 9 to 5 job and instead devote more time to producing an income from their investments.

The first thing you need to consider if you look towards investing in the real estate market is what types of properties your dollars should be spent on. There are two choices that you'll probably want to research. One is residential properties and the other is commercial properties.

Residential property includes everything from single family homes to multi-family dwellings. If you decide on investing in the purchase of a single family home, you'll be planning on renting it out. In this case you might act as the landlord yourself, taking care of completing the necessary paperwork, including a rental contract as well as collecting rent payments.

If you decide on this route, you might be investing more than just your money. You'll also be investing quite a bit of time, not only showing the property to prospective tenants but also coming to their rescue if there is a problem. Problems can range from a broken door look to a furnace that needs to be replaced.

If the prospect of investing that much time in your real estate venture is a bit overwhelming you can hire someone to manage the property for you. This saves you a great deal of time and trouble but it costs money as well, as you'll have to pay them a salary.

This is almost always the case when investing in a multi-family dwelling. There are many details involved in running an apartment building or condominium complex. The tenants needs have to be addressed in a timely manner and in order to do this you'll need to think about investing in a property manager.

There are many people who are experienced in this field and enjoy this type of work. If you are investing in a property that is worth a great deal of money, you'll want to hire someone who has experience in property management to assist you.

When it comes to owning a property such as an apartment building the key to success is in keeping the units full thus ensuring a steady flow of income. This often means investing in advertising. Advertising can be done in several ways. A popular approach is to post signs on the outside of the building showcasing that there are vacancies. If the property is particularly affordable, placing the cost of monthly rent on the sign is a good idea as well.

Another form of advertising that works well whether you're renting out an apartment or a house is investing in a newspaper advertisement. Many people who are looking for a new place to live scour the classifieds daily in the hope that they'll find exactly the right rental property in the neighborhood they desire.

Investing in real estate can be a very rewarding experience and with the help of a seasoned real estate agent, you'll be able to purchase properties that will yield you a profit year after year.

About the Author
Investing Resources and Information

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Do You Need Rental Insurance?

Do You Need Rental Insurance?
Copyright © 1999-2005 Kyle Thomas Haley
Apartment Rental dot Net

Many renters don’t stop to think about what happens if there is a fire, someone breaks in and steals their new TV or stereo, or a visitor slips and falls on their property. The sad truth is; you will be responsible! While your landlord has insurance that covers the actual building, that coverage does not include your personal property or liability for injuries which occur in the space you rent ~ be it an apartment or a house and yard.

If a fire should destroy or damage your home, your landlord’s insurance will cover the structure. It won’t cover damage or loss of your belongings. Neither will it provide for the cost of temporary housing for you and your family.

You may think you don’t own enough personal property to make the cost of insurance worthwhile. You’re probably wrong! If you sit down and add up the cost of everything you own, you may be in for a big surprise. Consider what you have invested in such things as:

* Furniture and accessories
* Electronics like TV, stereo, computers
* Small appliances like microwaves, toaster ovens, etc.
* Clothing
* Art work like paintings or prints
* Dishes, silverware and cookware
* Sporting equipment
* Books
* Jewelry

Could you afford to replace all of these things?

Even worse, what would you do if a friend is injured on your property and decides to sue you for medical costs and more? It’s a scary thought, isn’t it?

Are you beginning to see why rental insurance may be a very wise investment?

The cost of rental insurance is based on several factors:

* The dollar amount of your coverage
* Deductibles
* Whether you choose to be reimbursed for Actual Cash Value or Replacement Costs (more about that in a minute)
* Where your rental property is located and the number of previous claims made, not only by you, but by others living in the same area.

Let me explain the difference between Actual Cash Value (ACV) and Replacement Costs. ACV is the value of your property at the time a loss takes place. For example, if your television set is five years old, it’s valued at much less than if it were brand new. The lesser amount is what you are reimbursed.

However, if you opt for Replacement Cost, you’re paid whatever it costs to go out and buy a new TV with similar features. Insuring for replacement cost raises the amount of your premium so it’s a good idea to get quotes for both ACV and Replacement Cost policies. Then you can decide which option fits your needs and

Another thing to keep in mind is that jewelry, valuable collections, and guns are usually covered under a separate policy or “rider”. If you own these kinds of items, be sure to tell your insurance agent. You don’t want to find out after disaster strikes that they aren’t covered or that they aren’t covered for their true value.

One way you can reduce the cost of your rental insurance is to check with whichever company insures your car. If they provide rental insurance you may be eligible for a multi-line discount. Rental insurance may be worth the investment just for the peace of mind it offers you.

Kyle Thomas Haley of has been helping people relocate on the Internet since 1999 with Relocation Websites such as: Copyright 1999 – 2005 STANZEEKAY Inc.