Power Outages: Be Prepared
Your electric service is generally very reliable; however, extreme weather conditions and other factors can lead to a temporary loss of power. To keep your family safe and comfortable during an outage or other emergency, it’s important to be prepared.
Here are some tips:
• Create an emergency preparedness kit, including a flashlight, batteries, cash and first aid supplies.
• Maintain supplies of healthy and filling snacks that don’t require refrigeration, such as dried fruits, nuts and protein bars.
• Make sure you have alternative charging methods for your phone or any device that requires power.
• Purchase ice or freeze water-filled plastic containers to help keep food cold during a temporary power outage.
• Learn about the emergency plans established in your area by contacting your state or local emergency management agency.
• If you rely on anything that’s battery-operated or power dependent, such as a medical device, have a backup plan.
• Maintain backup generators according to manufacturers’ recommendations and store an adequate supply of fuel in a safe place.
During an outage, monitor local radio stations or online sources for reports about power restoration. Disconnect or switch off appliances and electronic equipment that were running when the power went out. Avoid opening refrigerators and freezers to save cold air and preserve food longer.
Follow these measures to ensure the safety of you and your family during and after an outage.
Generators. Operate backup generators safely by following manufacturer’s instructions. Don’t attempt to connect your generator to the electrical system; it can backfeed to outdoor utility lines and injure or kill utility service personnel. An automatic transfer switch—installed by a qualified electrician—will help to ensure safe operation.
Refrigerated foods. Discard any perishable items in your refrigerator or freezer that may not be safe to consume. A refrigerator keeps food at a safe temperature for up to four hours during a power outage if it remains closed. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends discarding foods such as meat, poultry and eggs if they’ve been above 40°F for more than two hours.
For more tips and resources, see Power Outages from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
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How to Make a Disaster Plan for Your Pet
A hurricane. A flood. A fire. When disaster strikes, our worst fears can come to life. There’s panic and confusion. And, depending on the catastrophe, you may need to leave your home – often in a hurry.
Who can forget the image of pragmatic Otis–a German shepherd mix–who was not a stray but escaped from a screen porch during flooding, carrying his own bag of dog food.
When it comes to these terrifying events, there’s a lot to think about, and it’s important to exactly know what to do with your family, including your pets. So while we hope it never comes to this, let’s make sure you and your pets are prepared in the event of an emergency.
1. Make a Plan
When it comes to disaster planning, preparation is key! That’s why it’s a smart idea to keep a leash by the exit and have a planned destination in case you need to leave in a hurry. If possible, it’s a good idea to have more than one transportation option in mind just in case your primary mode becomes unavailable.
In the event you are separated from your pet, you will want to make sure they have proper identification. This includes having an up-to-date license, a microchip, and accurately labeling their carriers. You want to make it easy for anyone who finds your pet to contact you. That way you and your buddy can be reunited as quickly as possible.
2. Know Where to Seek Shelter
It’s not easy to think about something happening to your home, but it’s important to have a plan in place should you – and your pets – need to evacuate.
For many, it’s as simple as calling a friend or family member, but what if that’s not an option? Ask your veterinarian for a list of facilities that can accommodate pets. It’s also a good idea to identify pet-friendly places you and your pet could stay until it’s safe to return home.
3. Build an Emergency Kit
From clothing to medicine, most of us know what we need to pack if we’re going to be away from home for a period of time. However, in the event of an emergency, it could be hard to pack for yourself and your pet when you’re under duress and in a hurry, increasing the likelihood of forgetting something important.
To avoid this, prepare a pet emergency kit that you can easily grab if you’re running out the door. This will ensure you can provide for your pet’s needs when you’re away from home and it will save you precious seconds if you are rushing to evacuate. When preparing a kit, consider everything your pal needs on a daily basis: food, water, prescriptions, leash or harness, maybe even a toy or two. It’s also important to include a pet first-aid kit (create your own with this handy checklist) in case your pet gets injured.
4. Don’t Forget Your Rescue Alert Sticker
What if you’re not home when disaster strikes? How will rescuers know you share your home with a furry family member? That’s why you place a rescue alert sticker near your front door.
These stickers let rescuers know what types of pets are in your home, how many there are, and provides them with your veterinarian’s contact information. Get a Free Rescue Alert Sticker today from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®)!
Did you ever have to evacuate with a pet? What was your experience like? Do you have tips to add to our list? Sound off on our Facebook page or on our Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram feeds. And don’t forget to sign up for our monthly HOME ADVICEtm email newsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.
8 Maintenance Tasks All Homeowners Should Do Once a Year
You have the basics of homeownership maintenance down. You change the ceiling blade direction every summer and winter, you scrub the inside and outside of your windows each spring, and you remove every drop of water from your sprinkler system before the first frost.
But are you sure you’re getting everything done?
These eight annual maintenance to-dos are easily forgotten—but checking them off once per year can save you some major headaches, heartaches—and money!
1. Salt your water softener
You’ll need to take a trip to your local home maintenance store for this project. If your water heater features a rad built-in water softener, skipping regular maintenance can cause irreversible damage.
Let’s say you’ve purchased a home with a 2-year-old hot water heater. Pretty new, right? Well, if the previous owner skipped salting the softener, letting mineral build up inside the unit, it will sound like a rock tumbler.
Should that happen, a few intense flushes should do the trick. But don’t wait.
At the end of the day, regular maintenance will prevent damage and will help you avoid a major expense down the road.
2. Test your well water
Having your own well can be a perk—sweet, fresh-from-the-earth water, with no bill! But in-ground water is subject to all sorts of contaminants, including high levels of nitrates, sulfates, or microorganisms. To keep your gut happy and prevent nastier health issues, make sure to test your well water every year. (Shallow wells can require more frequent testing.)
Many municipalities offer free water screening. If yours isn’t so kind, you can send samples to a nearby laboratory for analysis.
3. Update your disaster kit
You don’t have to be a prepper to be prepared. Even minor storms can knock out power for a days. Darkness is a lot less miserable with basic supplies. Every household needs a disaster kit—essential supplies that can keep you going in an emergency. Include necessities such as a first-aid kit, a three-day supply of nonperishable food, plenty of water, printed maps, and a whistle.
Dig through your kit once a year, and check the expiration dates of all of your food, look for broken seals, and make sure none of your necessities have been used or gone missing in the previous 365 days. Check your stock against Ready.gov’s extensive list of basic disaster supplies.
4. Know your humidity
Humidity—especially in the basement—is an early warning sign of future problems. High humidity can cause mildew and black mold. Left unchecked for a significant period of time, it can even cause structural damage. So pick up a hygrometer, and check your levels at least once a year.
If the reading is low, don’t assume you’re in the clear. Too little humidity might not be as dangerous as high levels, but it can still cause sore throats and itchiness—and damage the house. Wood might crack, paint can chip, and electronics could be permanently damaged. Shoot for humidity levels that fall between 30% and 50%.
5. Check for termites
Many homeowners tend to take an “out of sight, out of mind” approach to these wood-eating buggers—but once a year, make sure termites are on your mind.
Ultimately, an annual termite inspection is typically less than $100, and can save you thousands.
6. Take a photo
You’d never skip snapping a shot of your kid on her first day of school each year—so why wouldn’t you do the same for your house? On the anniversary of your purchase, step outside with a camera and shoot a picture of your home in its current state. Over the years, you’ll be astonished by how much your home has evolved.
7. Save 1% of the home’s value
The typical rule of thumb is that a home costs 1% of its value in maintenance fees each year. For example, if you’re purchasing a home worth $300,000, expect to pay $3,000 each year to keep it in shipshape condition.
While you should be regularly saving throughout the year, taking the time once annually to investigate your bank accounts can keep you out of hot water. And, of course, the 1% rule is only an estimate—when it comes to homeownership, anything can go wrong.
A new roof might cost $7,500 (or more—way more). Serious foundation issues could ring in at $40,000. And new siding might require a $10,000 payment. Adding more to your home savings account is never a bad idea. But at the very least, make sure you have the bare minimum.
8. Create a donation pile
After a few years in your home, you might be astounded to find out just how much unnecessary stuff has piled up. Once a year—perhaps around spring-cleaning—do a deep dive into your closets, drawers, bookshelves, and garage. Toss or donate anything you haven’t touched in the past year.
RELATED: Do I Have Too Much Stuff?
Here’s what not to do with all that newly empty space: Fill it up again. But if you fail, well, you’ll be sorting through it again next year when you do these steps all over again.
As a homeowner, what annual home rituals do you keep? What advice might you have to new homeowners when it comes to ongoing home maintenance? Sound off on The Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page or our Twitter or Instagram feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICEtm email newsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.
12 Ways to Save on Homeowners Insurance
The price you pay for your homeowners insurance can vary by hundreds of dollars, depending on the insurance company you buy your policy from.
Here are some things to consider when buying homeowners insurance:
1. Shop Around
It’ll take some time, but could save you a good sum of money. Ask your friends, do some online research or contact your state insurance department. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (www.naic.org) has information to help you choose an insurer in your state, including complaints. States often make information available on typical rates charged by major insurers and many states provide the frequency of consumer complaints by company.
Also check consumer guides, insurance agents, companies and online insurance quote services. This will give you an idea of price ranges and tell you which companies have the lowest prices. But don’t consider price alone. The insurer you select should offer a fair price and deliver the quality service you would expect if you needed assistance in filing a claim. So in assessing service quality, use the complaint information cited above and talk to a number of insurers to get a feeling for the type of service they give. Ask them what they would do to lower your costs.
Check the financial stability of the companies you are considering with rating companies such as A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s and consult consumer magazines. When you’ve narrowed the field to three insurers, get price quotes.
2. Raise Your Deductible
Deductibles are the amount of money you have to pay toward a loss before your insurance company starts to pay a claim, according to the terms of your policy. The higher your deductible, the more money you can save on your premiums. Nowadays, most insurance companies recommend a deductible of at least $500. If you can afford to raise your deductible to $1,000, you may save as much as 25 percent. Remember, if you live in a disaster-prone area, your insurance policy may have a separate deductible for certain kinds of damage. If you live near the shore, you may have a separate windstorm deductible.
3. Don’t confuse what you paid for your house with rebuilding costs
The land under your house isn’t at risk from theft, windstorm, fire and the other perils covered in your homeowners policy. So don’t include its value in deciding how much homeowners insurance to buy. If you do, you will pay a higher premium than you should.
4. Buy your home and auto policies from the same insurer
Some companies that sell homeowners, auto and liability coverage will take 5 to 15 percent off your premium if you buy two or more policies from them. But make certain this combined price is lower than buying the different coverages from different companies.
5. Make your home more disaster resistant
Find out from your insurance agent or company representative what steps you can take to make your home more resistant to windstorms and other natural disasters. You may be able to save on your premiums by adding storm shutters, reinforcing your roof or buying stronger roofing materials. Older homes can be retrofitted to make them better able to withstand earthquakes. In addition, consider modernizing your heating, plumbing and electrical systems to reduce the risk of fire and water damage.
6. Improve your home security
You can usually get discounts of at least 5 percent for a smoke detector, burglar alarm or dead-bolt locks. Some companies offer to cut your premium by as much as 15 or 20 percent if you install a sophisticated sprinkler system and a fire and burglar alarm that rings at the police, fire or other monitoring stations. These systems aren’t cheap and not every system qualifies for a discount. Before you buy such a system, find out what kind your insurer recommends, how much the device would cost and how much you’d save on premiums.
7. Seek out other discounts
Companies offer several types of discounts, but they don’t all offer the same discount or the same amount of discount in all states. For example, since retired people stay at home more than working people they are less likely to be burglarized and may spot fires sooner, too. Retired people also have more time for maintaining their homes. If you’re at least 55 years old and retired, you may qualify for a discount of up to 10 percent at some companies. Some employers and professional associations administer group insurance programs that may offer a better deal than you can get elsewhere.
8. Maintain a good credit record
Establishing a solid credit history can cut your insurance costs. Insurers are increasingly using credit information to price homeowners insurance policies. In most states, your insurer must advise you of any adverse action, such as a higher rate, at which time you should verify the accuracy of the information on which the insurer relied. To protect your credit standing, pay your bills on time, don’t obtain more credit than you need and keep your credit balances as low as possible. Check your credit record on a regular basis and have any errors corrected promptly so that your record remains accurate.
RELATED: Ways to Improve Your Credit Score
9. Stay with the same insurer
If you’ve kept your coverage with a company for several years, you may receive a special discount for being a long-term policyholder. Some insurers will reduce their premiums by 5 percent if you stay with them for three to five years and by 10 percent if you remain a policyholder for six years or more. But make certain to periodically compare this price with that of other policies.
10. Review the limits in your policy and the value of your possessions at least once a year
You want your policy to cover any major purchases or additions to your home. But you don’t want to spend money for coverage you don’t need. If your five-year-old fur coat is no longer worth the $5,000 you paid for it, you’ll want to reduce or cancel your floater (extra insurance for items whose full value is not covered by standard homeowners policies such as expensive jewelry, high-end computers and valuable art work) and pocket the difference.
11. Look for private insurance if you are in a government plan
If you live in a high-risk area – say, one that is especially vulnerable to coastal storms – and have been buying your homeowners insurance through a government plan, you should check with an insurance agent or company representative or contact your state department of insurance for the names of companies that might be interested in your business. You may find that there are steps you can take that would allow you to buy insurance at a lower price in the private market.
12. When you’re buying a home, consider the cost of homeowners insurance
You may pay less for insurance if you buy a house close to a fire hydrant or in a community that has a professional rather than a volunteer fire department. It may also be cheaper if your home’s electrical, heating and plumbing systems are less than 10 years old. For example, if you live on the water, consider a brick home because it’s more wind resistant. Choosing wisely could cut your premiums by 5 to 15 percent.
Check the CLUE (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange) report of the home you are thinking of buying. These reports contain the insurance claim history of the property and can help you judge some of the problems the house may have.
Remember that flood insurance is not covered by a standard homeowners policy. If you buy a house in a flood-prone area, you’ll have to pay for a flood insurance policy. The Federal Emergency Management Agency provides useful information on flood insurance on its Web site at FloodSmart.gov.
If you have questions about insurance for any of your possessions, be sure to ask your agent or company representative when you’re shopping around for a policy. For example, if you run a business out of your home, be sure to discuss coverage for that business. Most homeowners policies cover business equipment in the home, but only up to $2,500 and they offer no business liability insurance. Although you want to lower your homeowners insurance cost, you also want to make certain you have all the coverage you need.
Patrick Parker Realty works with a network of professionals for home buying and selling peripheral services. Contact Us today for a referral to one of our trusted partners.
Get Great First Aid & Emergency Preparedness Apps offered by The American Red Cross
First Aid App
The official American Red Cross First Aid app puts expert advice for everyday emergencies in your hand. Available for iPhone and Android devices, the official American Red Cross First Aid app offers videos, interactive quizzes and simple step-by-step advice it’s never been easier to know first aid.
Monitor conditions in your area or throughout the storm track, prepare your family and home, find help and let others know you are safe even if the power is out – a must have for anyone who lives in an area where a hurricane may strike or has loved ones who do.
Shelter Finder App
The Red Cross Shelter Finder is available in the iTunes store and works on iOS devices. The Shelter Finder displays open Red Cross shelters and their current population on an easy to use map interface.
Stay safe, we hope you will never need these tools.
Red Cross Ready Checklist for each Member of Your Family
During a disaster, your family may have to leave your home and depart from your daily routine. Children may become anxious, confused, or frightened. It is important to give children guidance that will help them reduce their fears.
Children depend on daily routines. They wake up, eat breakfast, go to school, play with friends. When emergencies or disasters interrupt this routine, many children may become anxious.
In a disaster, they’ll look to you and other adults for help. How you react to an emergency gives them clues on how to act. If you react with alarm, your child may become more scared. They see your fear as proof that the danger is real. If you seem overcome with a sense of loss, your child may feel their losses more strongly.
Children’s fears may also arise from their imagination, and you should take these feelings seriously. A child who feels afraid is afraid. Your words and actions can provide reassurance. When talking with your child, be sure to present a realistic picture that is both honest and manageable.
Feelings of fear are healthy and natural for both adults and children. But as an adult, you need to keep control of the situation. When you’re sure that danger has passed, concentrate on your child’s emotional needs by asking the child what’s uppermost in his or her mind. Having children participate in the family’s recovery activities will help them feel that their life will soon return to “normal.” Your response during this time may have a lasting impact.
Senior citizens should create a personal support network made up of several individuals who will check in on them in an emergency, to ensure their wellness and to give assistance if needed. This personal support network, ideally made up of 3 individuals, can consist of friends, roommates, family members, relatives, personal attendants, co-workers and neighbors.
There are seven important items to discuss and implement with a personal support network:
- Make arrangements, prior to an emergency, for your support network to immediately check on you after a disaster and, if needed, offer assistance.
- Exchange important keys.
- Show them where you keep emergency supplies.
- Share copies of your relevant emergency documents, evacuation plans and emergency health information card.
- Agree on and practice methods for contacting each other in an emergency. Do not count on the telephones working.
- You and your personal support network should always notify each other when you are going out of town and when you will return.
- The relationship should be mutual. You have a lot to contribute! Learn about each other’s needs and how to help each other in an emergency. You might take responsibility for food supplies and preparation, organizing neighborhood watch meetings and interpreting, among other things.
A great tool to help prepare an aging loved one for an emergency, is the Preparedness Guide for Seniors by Seniors offered as a free download by the Red Cross.
And, Knowing that you can’t always be there when a loved one might need you, the Red Cross is proud to offer Lifeline. The Lifeline service allows people to get access to fast help, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year with the push of a button. Learn more Lifeline from Red Cross.
People with Disabilities
Emergencies can happen at a moment’s notice. Mobility problems and hearing, learning, or seeing disabilities can add complication. It is important to plan ahead so you are better prepared for any urgent situation.
If this is relevant in your life, we encourage you to download the Red Cross booklet; Preparing for Disaster for People with Disabilities and other Special Needs. You’ll find tips on getting informed, making a plan, assembling a kit, and keeping your plans up to date.
In the event of a disaster, if you must evacuate, the most important thing you can do to protect your pets is to evacuate them too. If it’s not safe for you to stay behind then it’s not safe to leave pets behind either. Take action now so you know how to best care for your furry friends when the unexpected occurs.
- Local and state health and safety regulations do not permit the Red Cross to allow pets in disaster shelters. (Service animals are allowed in Red Cross shelters.)
- Contact hotels and motels outside your local area to check their policies on accepting pets and restrictions on number, size and species. Ask if “no pet” policies can be waived in an emergency. Keep a list of “pet friendly” places, including phone numbers, with your disaster supplies.
- Ask friends, relatives or others outside the affected area whether they could shelter your animals.
- Make a list of boarding facilities and veterinarians who could shelter animals in an emergency; include 24-hour phone numbers.
- Ask local animal shelters if they provide emergency shelter or foster care for pets during a disaster.
Assemble a Pet Emergency Preparedness Kit:
Keep your pet’s essential supplies in sturdy containers that can be easily accessed and carried (a duffle bag or covered trash containers, for example). Your pet emergency preparedness kit should include:
- Medications and medical records (stored in a waterproof container) and a First Aid kit.
- Sturdy leashes, harnesses, and/or carriers to transport pets safely and ensure that your animals can’t escape.
- Current photos of your pets in case they get lost.
- Food, drinkable water, bowls, cat litter/pan, and manual can opener.
- Information on feeding schedules, medical conditions, behavior problems, and the name and number of your veterinarian in case you have to foster or board your pets.
- Pet bed or toys if easily transportable.
Help Emergency Workers Help Your Pets
The ASPCA recommends using a rescue sticker alert to let people know that pets are inside your home. Make sure it is visible to rescue workers, and that it includes the types and number of pets in your household and your veterinarian’s phone number.
If you must evacuate with you pets (and if time allows) write “EVACUATED” across the stickers so rescue workers don’t waste time looking for them.
Get an ASPCA Rescue Sticker
Download Great First Aid and Emergency Preparedness Apps offered by The American Red Cross.
Stay safe, we hope you never need this advice.
September is National Preparedness Month, and, today is World First Aid Day. It’s a great time to review your own emergency plans and to make sure family, friends and neighbors are prepared.
Whether it’s a house fire or a natural disaster, having a plan in place before an emergency hits means you’ll know where to turn in times of crisis.
So this month, take a few minutes to make an emergency game plan and prepare your emergency kit of essentials. Hopefully, the day doesn’t come when you’ll be thankful for it, but it pays to be prepared.
Being prepared means being equipped with the proper supplies you may need in the event of an emergency or disaster. Keep your supplies in an easy-to-carry emergency preparedness kit that you can use at home or take with you in case you must evacuate.
At a minimum, you should have the basic supplies listed below:
- Water—one gallon per person, per day (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home)
- Food—non-perishable, easy-to-prepare items (3-day supply for evacuation, 2-week supply for home)
- Battery-powered or hand-crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
- Extra batteries
- First aid kit – Anatomy of a First Aid Kit
- Medications (7-day supply) and medical items
- Multi-purpose tool
- Sanitation and personal hygiene items
- Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
- Cell phone with chargers
- Family and emergency contact information
- Extra cash
- Emergency blanket
- Map(s) of the area
Consider the needs of all family members and add supplies to your kit. Suggested items to help meet additional needs are:
- Medical supplies (hearing aids with extra batteries, glasses, contact lenses, syringes, etc)
- Baby supplies (bottles, formula, baby food, diapers)
- Games and activities for children
- Pet supplies (collar, leash, ID, food, carrier, bowl)
- Two-way radios
- Extra set of car keys and house keys
- Manual can opener
Additional supplies to keep at home or in your survival kit based on the types of disasters common to your area:
- N95 or surgical masks
- Rain gear
- Work gloves
- Tools/supplies for securing your home
- Extra clothing, hat and sturdy shoes
- Plastic sheeting
- Duct tape
- Household liquid bleach
- Entertainment items
- Blankets or sleeping bags
It is important to make sure that the entire family is prepared and informed in the event of a disaster or emergency. You may not always be together when these events take place and should have plans for making sure you are able to contact and find one another.
- Meet with your family or household members.
- Discuss how to prepare and respond to emergencies that are most likely to happen where you live, learn, work and play.
- Identify responsibilities for each member of your household and plan to work together as a team.
- If a family member is in the military, plan how you would respond if they were deployed.
Emergency Contact Cards for All Household Members:
- Print one card for each family member
- Write the contact information for each household member, such as work, school and cell phone numbers
- Fold the card so it fits in your pocket, wallet or purse
- Carry the card with you so it is available in the event of a disaster or other emergency
- You can download an emergency contact card template here
Plan what to do in case you are separated during an emergency:
- Choose two places to meet…
1 – Right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency, such as a fire
2 – Outside your neighborhood, in case you cannot return home or are asked to evacuate
- Choose an out-of-area emergency contact person. It may be easier to text or call long distance if local phone lines are overloaded or out of service. Everyone should have emergency contact information in writing or saved on their cell phones.
Plan what to do if you have to evacuate:
- Decide where you would go and what route you would take to get there. You may choose to go to a hotel/motel, stay with friends or relatives in a safe location or go to an evacuation shelter if necessary.
- Practice evacuating your home twice a year. Drive your planned evacuation route and plot alternate routes on your map in case roads are impassable.
- Plan ahead for your pets. Keep a phone list of pet-friendly hotels/motels and animal shelters that are along your evacuation routes.
Let Your Family Know You’re Safe
If your community has experienced a disaster, register on the American Red Cross Safe and Well website to let your family and friends know you are safe. You may also call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) and select the prompt for “Disaster” to register yourself and your family.
- I have an emergency preparedness kit.
Download the Red Cross Quick Reference Emergency Preparedeness Check List
- I have a family disaster plan and have practiced it.
- I know what emergencies or disasters are most likely to occur in my community
Download the Red Cross Flood Safety Checklist
- I’ve learned how my community responds
Next week we will take a look at how to prepare each member of your family for emergencies; children, seniors, persons with disabilities and your pets.
Download Great First Aid and Emergency Preparedness Apps offered by The American Red Cross
In the meantime, stay safe, we hope you will never need this advice.
Mold in Rentals: Landlord Liability, Responsibility, and Prevention
Learn about your landlord’s liability for mold problems, how to get rid of mold, and how to prevent it in the first place.
Mold is one of the newest environmental hazards causing concern among renters. Across the country, tenants have won multimillion-dollar cases against landlords for significant health problems — such as rashes, chronic fatigue, nausea, cognitive losses, hemorrhaging, and asthma — allegedly caused by exposure to “toxic molds” in their building.
And, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, this is particularly relevant in our area. As landlords looked to get their property back to normal as soon as possible, proper steps may have been missed when it comes to the important and detailed steps involved in restoration and the prevention of mold growth.
If you suspect there is mold in your rental unit, learn what to look for and when your landlord might be liable.
Types of Mold
A landlord’s responsibilities associated with mold in a rental house are twofold. First, a landlord with knowledge of mold in a residence must disclose that information to a tenant or prospective tenant. Second, a landlord with knowledge of mold in the premises must make a reasonable effort to both remove existing mold and to resolve the cause of the mold. For example, she needs to repair a leaky pipe if that appears to be the cause of the mold problem.
A landlord must make a reasonable effort to know whether mold is on the premises. A landlord is not relieved from liability for providing notice and resolving a mold condition if he did not know of the problem, but reasonably should have been aware of the existence of the mold.
California was the first state in the country to pass a law dealing with toxic mold in residential rental property, according to RentLaw.com. The Toxic Mold Protection Act went into effect in 2001. The law establishes requirements for a landlord when residential rental property is infested with mold.
The Toxic Mold Protection Act states a reasonable time frame standard in regard to taking care of a mold condition. What this means is that the landlord must eliminate the mold on the premises as soon as is reasonably possibly. Because mold conditions vary from one situation to the next, the amount of time necessary to eliminate the problem necessarily varies. Nonetheless, the landlord cannot unduly delay commencing the process of eliminating the mold. Typically, the time period to begin removal is within a few days, according to “The Landlord’s Troubleshooter: A Survival Guide for New Landlords,” by Robert Irwin.
A recurring misconception is that the tenant becomes responsible for dealing with a mold problem once a lease is entered into with the property owner. Although the landlord may hold a tenant financially responsible for mold removal if the mold occurred because of the negligence of the tenant, the landlord maintains a legal obligation to remove the mold, according to “The Landlord’s Troubleshooter.”
Caution to Landlords
A landlord who fails to provide notice about a mold problem or fails to correct a mold issue faces liability for any damages suffered by a tenant, according to RentLaw.com. A tenant can seek payment for property damage, health problems and any costs incurred because of the presence of mold on the premises.
Sources: NOLO, LAW for ALL; SFGate.com
NJ Storm Victims Scrambling to Find Rental Homes
TOMS RIVER, N.J. (AP) – Residents displaced by Hurricane Sandy are having a hard time finding a temporary place to live.
Thousands of people are calling real estate offices, looking to rent apartments or homes.
People are also looking for hotel rooms. Most are sold out. Many are occupied by out-of-state utility workers.
Real estate agents say there are more people looking for rentals than units available. Agents are asking sellers to let displaced people live in their vacant homes.
About 960 rentals are on the market in Monmouth and Ocean County, according to the Monmouth County Association of Realtors, but the number is fluid and probably lower.
Nearly two weeks after Sandy hit, more than 150,000 homes and businesses in New York and New Jersey are still waiting for the lights to come back on. The Long Island Power Authority in New York has the most customers out at about 130,000. Most of the rest are in New Jersey.
The totals don’t include the tens of thousands of homes that are too damaged to have electricity turned back on.
Patrick Parker Realty is here to Help
Patrick Parker Realty has dedicated personnel on hand to take your calls if you have been displaced by Hurricane Sandy. In addition, with the launch of our new website, we want you to know about our property search feature that can email you rentals or homes that meet your specifications automatically once you register.
Jennifer Pricci, a Highlands resident displaced by Sandy, was recently placed in a rental unit similar to what she was already renting, in price and amenities.
“I spoke to many realtors after the storm hit. If it weren’t for Patrick Parker and the diligence of his team I do not think I would have found a new home so quickly. I really got the sense that his office dropped everything to take care of me. While juggling so much in the wake of the storm, Patrick Parker Realty helped make this transaction as smooth as possible taking care of the many peripheral details so that I didn’t have to.”
The registration process takes about 5 minutes. To register for automatic property email alerts:
1 – Go to the home page of the Patrick Parker Realty website
2 – On the Top Right of the Page next to PROPERTY ALERTS click “SIGN-UP”
3 – Click on Advanced Search
4 – Make sure you choose from the dropdown menu what kind of property you are looking for such as “Single Family Residential” or “Rentals”
5 – You can refine your search by checking boxes in the “Select type…” area
6 – Choose the City in which you wish to search
To choose multiple cities hold down your “Ctrl” key as you make your selections. The “Ctrl” key must be held the entire time as you click. All cities you select will highlight. If you make a mistake you can
simply unclick the city name but continue to hold the “Ctrl” key
7 – Select the county
You likely want to hold down “Ctrl” and select Monmouth and Ocean unless you are considering moving outside the immediate area
8 – Tip: Disregard Zip
9 – Enter your Low Price and Enter your High Price
10 – Enter desired number of Bedrooms and Bathrooms
11 – Choose how you’d like to Sort your results
12 – Tip: Disregard Days Listed
13 – Tip: For Renters, Disregard Min Sq Ft
14 – Click “Next Step >”
15 – Complete the registration from by entering your First and Last name, email to which you want your property alerts sent, phone number, email format, and select a password that you will remember to log back into the system so you can save properties and return to them at a later date.
16 – Click “Save my Search”
17 – You will receive a notice that an email has been sent to the email address you registered for confirmation and verification instructions. You will also then be brought to a page with your search results. Click “Save Search”
If you need further assistance with the registration process Contact Us so we can help
NOTE TO RENTERS: Be aware that some rental properties are seasonal. As of this time there is no tool available to filter seasonal rentals out of search results. If it seems too good to be true, look to see if it is a winter rental, if the price is excessively high, it might be a summer rental. Perhaps a seasonal rental might meet your needs at this time if you are looking for temporary, but if you are looking for permanent this is something to watch out for.
Appealing a FEMA Ineligibility Letter
If you have received notice from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that you are ineligible for disaster assistance following Hurricane Sandy you may be able to use additional documentation to turn that “no” into a “yes.”
“Every applicant has the right to appeal a decision,” said Federal Coordinating Officer Gregory W. Eaton. “In fact, applicants can appeal any FEMA decision. When you do so, you are asking us to review your case again, and we will gladly do that.”
Applicants who received a letter stating they are “ineligible” should read that document carefully. It will list some reasons the aid was denied and provide instructions on filing an appeal.
Some common reasons an applicant may be determined ineligible include:
- Insufficient storm-related damage.
- Adequate insurance coverage.
- Additional personal or insurance information needed to complete the assistance evaluation process.
- Confusion about Social Security numbers, addresses or phone numbers. If FEMA can’t contact you, your application may be denied.
Applicants may appeal the decision if they find circumstances have changed from the time they registered. They may have discovered additional damage to their property, or that they need housing help after all. Renters may find upon returning that their residences are unlivable.
FEMA understands that circumstances after a disaster can be fluid and changeable, you have the chance to report those changes — changes that could make the difference in becoming eligible for disaster assistance.
Effective appeal letters should follow these procedures:
In the first paragraph, list the applicant’s full legal name used on the aid application, along with Social Security number and the FEMA case number. Include a personal phone number as well as a back-up phone number where the applicant also can be reached, in addition to a correct mailing address.
Write an explanation of events that provides evidence to support the appeal. Summarize changes in circumstances or needs, additional damages to property discovered after the registration was filed or higher-than-planned costs for repairs, for example.
Include photocopies of receipts for materials and labor as well as up to three written bids for repair work if those costs exceed the award amount. Submitting repair estimates, receipts, statements or invoices helps applicants lodge effective appeals.
Also keep in mind:
The appeal letter must be submitted within 60 days of the date on the denial letter — by mail, or by fax at 1-800-827-8112, or in person at a state/federal Disaster Recovery Center. Keep a copy of the appeal letter and supporting documentation as a record.
Information on how and where to file an appeal is included with denial letters and in the “Help After a Disaster” booklet that is included with registration packets.
Disaster Recover Centers
One of the best sources of help with an appeal is your local Disaster Recover Center. A Disaster Recovery Center is a readily accessible facility or mobile office where applicants may go for information about FEMA or other disaster assistance programs, or for questions related to your case.
Some of the services may include:
- Guidance regarding disaster recovery
- Clarification of any written correspondence received
- Housing Assistance and Rental Resource information
- Answers to questions, resolution to problems and referrals to agencies that may provide further assistance
- Status of applications being processed by FEMA
- SBA program information if there is a SBA Representative at the Disaster Recovery Center site
Register by calling 800-621-3362 or TTY 800-462-7585. If you use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 800-621-3362. Operators are multilingual and calls are answered seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. CDT. You also can register online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by smart phone or tablet at m.femagov.
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