rentals – Protecting the Renter Mon, 17 Jun 2013 16:15:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Washington D.C. and Its Housing Market Tue, 13 Mar 2012 21:55:30 +0000 Washington D.C., our nation’s capital, is truly one of the most beautiful cities in the world. With the White House, the U.S. Capitol, the U.S. Supreme Court, and all the museums on the mall, there is something to do for everyone. In addition, the livability of the area and ease of public transportation in the metropolitan area, thanks to the class A subway rail system, expands one’s rental location possibilities to adjacent cities in Virginia and Maryland. The entire area is called the Washington Metropolitan Area, or more proudly, the National Capital Region. Let’s see what it has to offer a potential resident.

The population of the area is about 8.5 million people, spread out between the District of Columbia (D.C.), Northern Virginia, the Baltimore, Md. corridor, and several other Maryland counties that wrap around the D.C. beltway. Combining the counties inside and outside that beltway, called I-495, forms the boundaries of much of the metropolitan area. In addition, the D.C. Metrorail spurs from downtown outward to all areas so you can essentially live anywhere and take the train into work if you're employed downtown. The job market in the region is healthy compared to other U.S. cities. Maryland and Virginia both have unemployment rates well below the national 8%-plus rate. This is because of the large and stable workforce of government employees and contractors, the military, lawyers and lobbyists, etc. that make up the framework of the area's employment sector. In addition, the government seems to continually grow each year, and while there have been recent drops in public sector employment across the nation, it hasn’t greatly impacted this area as of yet.

When it comes to housing, the stock in the area is as varied as the cities in our nation. It includes 100-year-old brownstones in The District, mansions in Montgomery County, Md., and moderately priced town homes in Fairfax. There are also many high-rise apartments and condominiums that have sprung up along the Metrorail lines, and have been growing since the 1970s. Housing unit pricing can range from $100,000 condominiums on the outskirts of the area to $10 million mansions in northwest D.C. and Maryland. The average price for homes home in Washington was about $363,000 last month, according to . And in Fairfax, Virginia, housing was in the $400,000 range, while Maryland is all over the map, depending on the local values.

The rental market also is wide and varied, based on the housing stock and location. Rents can run anywhere from $600 per month for an efficiency in Frederick, Md. to thousands of dollars per month in Georgetown. It just wholly depends on the area where you prefer to live in this large metropolitan area.

Overall, the Washington D.C. metropolitan area is a wonderful place to live, with good employment opportunities and reasonably priced housing for the incomes in the area. It’s also a great place to visit, vacation, and attend one of the many high-quality public and private universities in the region. That means if you move here, you’ll have plenty of friends and family stopping by to visit you as well as see the nation’s capital and all of its sights!

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Convincing a Landlord to Allow Your Dog Mon, 30 Jan 2012 22:08:26 +0000 Many rental units in apartment buildings or privately owned rental properties have restrictions on dog ownership, most barring animals altogether from those properties. This can create a shortage of rental units that will allow tenants with animals. But all is not lost for renters with canine companions. As a long-term landlord who happily accepts tenants with certain types of pets, I can give you some guidance on the best ways to convince a landlord to let you and your dog rent their property.

Rental property owners generally earn the most money and do the least amount of management work when tenants stay on for multiple years. Now, consider that since there are fewer rentals available for pet owners, this usually means that pet owners stay for multiple years when they rent. Bring this up with your landlord and let him or her know that you plan to stay for several years in their property. Also, remind them that they will not have to go through the entire re-leasing process of showing the property to tenants, and helping new tenants move in and old ones move out for several years because you plan to stay.

Keep in mind that insurance can be an issue with certain dog breeds, like Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, and Dobermans. More types are listed in this Trupanion article . While those breeds can be fantastic pets if properly trained, some insurance companies have learned that they have a higher incidence of biting others, so they're typically excluded from coverage. Some landlords will also simply reject certain breeds for whatever reason, which they have the right to do. Regardless, if you want to increase your chances of having your landlord accept your pet, you should carry renter’s insurance that covers liability related to your dog. This way, if your dog does hurt another person or pet, your insurance can cover it. Letting the owner know that you will carry adequate coverage for your pet should help ease their concerns about problems with tenants who have dogs.

You could also offer to pay a larger pet deposit or some additional rent to cover wear and tear related to having a dog. A reasonable figure might be an additional 25% security deposit and maybe 5%-10% additional rent, depending on the size and type of pet you have. You should also offer to bring your pet to meet the owner for their consideration. This will be a big help if you have a well-behaved animal. But if your animal isn’t well behaved, you should avoid wasting the owner’s time, especially when he or she probably will reject your request due to your dog's unruly behavior.

Barking is another issue with dogs, especially in apartment or condominium complexes. Bigger dogs have much louder barks, which could be an issue. To alleviate this cause of concern, train your pet before bringing it to meet the landlord. Bark collars that gently vibrate on a dog's neck can work very well and are humane to use. In fact, my dog Buckley (picture above), at one point was called Barkley because he just wouldn't keep quiet! We invested $30 in a bark collar and after about three weeks of use, his excessive barking ceased. He hasn’t had the collar on since then, and everyone is happy about his newfound appreciation of less vocal communication.

Finally, cleaning up after your pet is another issue you should address when convincing your landlord to let your pup live with you. As the dog owner, you need to show your potential landlord that you will be respectful to the property grounds. This is especially true if it is an apartment complex or condominium community. No one wants to see or clean up after someone else’s pet, so a promise to a potential landlord that you will always handle it should help.

As with many items about renting property, making a strong promise to convince the landlord, and then holding to your promise will go a long way in persuading a landlord to take a little risk they may not have taken before. So if you've been a model tenant, or know that you will be, show your landlord that you and your pup deserve a chance to rent.

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The Good and the Bad of Having A Roommate Who’s Also Your Landlord Wed, 23 Nov 2011 18:59:32 +0000 By Leonard Baron

Many people today who own homes or condos are renting out rooms in their homes to friends or acquaintances so that they can earn a little extra money. Many times, this means that as a renter, you can live in a nice place for less money than it would cost if you found a place on your own. There are other benefits too in living with a friend who also happens to be your landlord, but beware — there are some negatives that go along with that situation as well.

The negatives could be things like discovering that your friend-landlord is really picky about caring for their furniture, TVs, couches, etc. because they paid a lot of money for them. If you do not take adequate care of them or damage them, that could cause a stressful and sticky situation. They may also have some rules you may not like, like restrictions on having other friends over, keeping the common areas free of clutter, or noise-related issues. And when you're dealing with a friend rather than "just a landlord," stress can abound in situations that wouldn’t normally concern a renter. In addition, if there are costly repairs, it will fall upon the landlord as always, but when the landlord is also your roommate and friend, that could make them resentful because it may be on their dime to fix. And finally, if the two of you do not end up getting along as well as co-tenants as you did when you were just pals, you will be the one who has to move out!

But make no mistake, there are lots of potential advantages to living with a landlord-friend, too. You may receive a lower rent than you might normally pay if you were renting an apartment alone or with a co-tenant who doesn't essentially control the rent rate. In addition, the property may be more of a home than a rental unit because your friend-landlord might already have TVs, furniture, kitchen wares, patio tables, BBQs, and much more available so that you can enjoy it all too at no extra cost. Plus, the utilities can be split and sometimes the owner will pay a higher portion of the bills and/or may cover the costs of gardening or other utilities. Other positives are that owners will usually take better care of the property and do more maintenance, so it should stay in better shape and be a nicer place to live than if you were to rent a place that's turned over every year.

Those are all significant benefits and as long as you are a good tenant, your friend probably won’t raise your rent because they'll be happy to have a good, compatible person to help pay the mortgage and take care of their house. But that doesn't mean that there aren't some things you can do to make sure your living situation will work out for the best. At the start of your process, as always, make sure to give yourself adequate time to search for the right place. You should start looking at leasta couple of months before you plan to move. This way, you are not rushed to make a quick living situation choice that is not optimal for you, whether it involves living with your friend or not. Once you start talking to potential roommate owners, you should take your time to carefully interview them to make sure their lifestyle works for you. The means learning about their home and work schedule, their expectations about cleanliness, noise, clutter, company, and other items that are important to you. You want to make sure the two of you are a good fit as co-tenants and not just as friends, and that includes asking questions and answering their questions so you can decide if living in their house makes sense.

Finally, as a practical note, you should always do a written lease with your landlord even if your landlord happens to be a good friend. If you are not sure about how long you'll be living there, you can try to negotiate a lease where you only need to give 30 days of notice before moving out. A written lease protects both you and the landlord from misunderstandings related to the rent, security deposit, timeframe, splitting utilities, use of the garage/storage/parking, etc. and is generally just a good idea.

Having a roommate who owns the house can have big benefits if you are responsible and respectful with their property. In addition, you can secure a fair rent for a great place and probably stay a long time if all works out. Just make sure to adequately interview and think through who you will be living with before you move in to better the chances that it will work out for everyone.

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Help Your Pet Feel at Home in an Apartment or House Thu, 27 Oct 2011 17:06:29 +0000 By: Leonard Baron

As a pet owner myself, I’ve learned that there are lots of things you can do to make your pet feel at ease in an apartment or house. This knowledge is gained from watching and observing my pets over the years, from the veterinarian’s tips, and from noticing what always seemed to make them happy and comfortable. I get the feeling my brown Lab Buckley would agree with these items — that is, if he could only talk.

First, make sure your co-tenants, whether friends or family, are okay with having a pet in the unit. There is nothing worse than when one of the residents of the apartment does not like the dog or cat of another tenant. All residents should agree that the pet is welcome before you bring a pet into the home. Dogs can bark, cats can claw, and both can whine, cry, or make a mess on the floor – all of that is just part of owning a pet. But even though you may understand and accept this, your roommates may not, so make sure that they are willing to deal with these potential issues.

If all tenants are okay with the idea of having the pet, you want to next make sure the apartment or house has enough room for everyone. Just as you want to make sure that your shoes fit your feet, make sure that your place fits for your pet. Larger dogs are not well-suited for small apartments and you should try your best to avoid putting them in that environment. They need room to move around and stretch their legs, so if you do have a larger dog, a house would be a much better bet, particularly if it has a doggie door to an open yard. This way, your canine companion will be free to run around, fetch a ball, or just nap in the warm sun.

Smaller dogs, like Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, and small poodles, are a better fit for an apartment unit as they're more likely to find apartments sufficiently spacious. In addition, cats fit well into pretty much any situation, especially since many are inside-only cats. Cats are also clean, quiet, and generally low maintenance.

Another important tip to keep your pet happy is to pay adequate attention to them. If you are typically out all day at work, try to get a neighbor, friend, or dog walker to go visit and walk them. This is because animals, just like humans, get lonely when left alone. If you are just now considering getting a pet, make sure you will have the time to take care of it and be a good parent. Also, be sure to consider the costs for food, vet bills, etc. before you commit to a pet. Those expenses can really add up.

Additionally, if your job demands that you are going to be gone for longer periods of time on certain days or on uneven schedules, make sure there is adequate water and food for your pet. Most pets can do fine for those long periods of time, but just like humans, they do not like to be hungry or thirsty. And since nature sometimes calls, consider getting your pet an indoor "potty station." One great product made is a small, green synthetic grass pad on a plastic base that you can train your dog to use inside, just in case nature's call can't wait for you to get home to take them outside.

One more thing to keep in mind is that pets typically like to look out the windows to watch passersby, whether it is people or cars. If you can set up an area where your pet can keep an eye on things going on outside, that will keep them content and entertained. Plus, this front row seat also means that they'll be right there wagging their tails or purring when you get home! A happy pet that's excited to see you can turn a day around.

Finally, don't forget about the needed outside and walk time that is important for dogs. They love to stroll around, get pet by others, and interact with other dogs. As an added bonus, they are great for striking up a conversion with someone you might want to ask out on a date! Therefore, living in a place that's near a dog park or simply living in a pet-friendly community is a big plus for a man’s (or woman’s) best friend. Make sure to get your pups out enough so they can get the exercise they need and become familiar with the area where you live, just in case they get out by mistake. And don’t forget to take a doggie bag with you!

All in all, pets can make great companions for humans and bring lots of cheer and love to their owners. In fact, I highly recommend having one. But make sure that you give your pet as much love as it gives you by being responsible and committed to returning that happiness. Take great care of your pet, giving them a nice, comfortable, and suitable place to live, and they'll be your faithful companion for years to come.

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