How to locate a safe neighborhood

Buying or renting a home is one of the biggest investments you can make in your lifetime. With the average cost of buying a home in the United States being around $379,800, it is very important to research the different neighborhoods before selecting the neighborhood that fits your lifestyle, will make you happy and will be a financially sound investment. In a growing number of cities, a significant portion of the population spends between 40% and 50% of their income on rent alone.

Nothing affects the value and enjoyment of your home as much as the surrounding neighborhood. When you and your family are moving into a new neighborhood, you need to ensure that it is safe and child friendly.

neighborhood crime rates

Here are the top 8 tips to find out if a neighborhood is safe:

1. Check the neighborhood crime statistics before moving

You can access local crime reports and statistics through various websites. Knowing what crimes are being committed in the neighborhood you are planning to move is the best way to protect yourself, loved ones and your possessions. Thankfully, there are a number of online tools that can help you find out if the crime rate in the neighborhood is low and acceptable. The following are some of the best crime mapping websites to find a safe neighborhood.

2. Check the National Sex Offender Public Website

The United States Department of Justice maintains a database of convicted sex offenders (https://www.nsopw.gov/). The NSOPW is an esteemed tool to identify the safety of a potential neighborhood. Like more general crime mapping services, the NSOPW allows you to enter an address to see how many sex offenders live nearby.

3. Look for clues in the neighborhood

The number of homes for sale in an area can be an indication of its safety. In certain cases, a large number of homes being unoccupied or vacated may be a sign of residents fleeing the area to escape a seriously rising crime rate. However, people might also be leaving the neighborhood because of a downturn in the market. Always try picturing yourself and your family living in the neighborhood. For example, ask yourself the following questions: Is it safe for my kids to walk to school? Can I go for a run or a walk in my neighborhood early in the morning? Is there a club or bar nearby that might get annoying at 2 a.m.? The answers to questions like that will give you a good idea if this neighborhood is for you.

4. Talk to people who already live in the neighborhood and who live in adjoining neighborhoods

Talking to the people in your potential neighborhood and asking their opinion about the neighborhood is a great way to learn about the safety of the neighborhood. After all, who knows better about the neighborhood than the neighbors who are already living there? You will also want to talk to some people in adjoining neighborhoods to get their perspective on the neighborhood you are checking out. Small talk will give you lots of information and the more information you get the better.

5. Visit the neighborhood several times at different times of the day before moving

With no doubt, you should get to know the neighborhood before moving into it. Visiting your potential neighborhood at different times of the day and/or in the evening and weekends will provide some insight into whether or not an area seems safe, child friendly and theft free. It will also show you if a neighborhood is very crowded, noisy and so on.

6. Pay attention to the neighborhood conditions

The general state of repair can say a lot about the neighborhood and its overall safety. A safe neighborhood is usually well kept, with residents who care about how their neighborhood looks and will put some effort into making it look presentable. When touring a potential neighborhood, look for signs like broken window, overgrown yards, run-down homes and broken fences. Drive through the neighborhood and then through the town and carefully look for clues that indicate that the city might be having financial trouble. Are the streets clean? Are the parks well maintained? Trimmed lawns, pruned bushes, nice flowerbeds, and absence of litter on the sidewalk/streets means that people in the area are responsible of their surroundings and take pride in maintaining it.

7. Sign up for safety alerts from authorities

Local law enforcement and fire departments can provide information about a neighborhood’s safety through public safety alerts. Some departments keep residents up-to-date on crimes via text message, e-mails or automated phone calls. This relatively new form of alerting residents might not be available in every city. Check your local police and fire department’s website or call to ask for automatic safety alerts. You must sign up to receive alerts and although the service is usually free, you may incur text message fees from your phone provider.

8. Research neighborhood organizations, groups and regular meetings

Neighborhood meetings and groups are usually a sign of a tight knit community. If you find a neighborhood group, attend a meeting or two to meet people and ask questions. Find out what the topics of the meetings are to get to know what is important in the neighborhood and what concerns people have.

Making sure a neighborhood is safe before moving there or investing in it, will make your family happier and will secure your investment.

How Landlords Can Handle Tenant Versus Tenant Problems

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As a landlord or property owner, you face a multitude of problems. One of the hardest problems you may face is a tenant versus tenant disagreement. Here are some great tips and suggestions to help you mediate and solve a tenant versus tenant dispute.

Make Yourself Available

When your tenants initially move in, it’s a good idea to let them know you’re available for them if they encounter any problems. If they do encounter a problem, let them know they should contact you first.

Also, let them know what time you’re available and how they can contact you. Letting your tenants know that you’re there for them will make it easier for them to contact you for help if an issue does arise. This will help you greatly if a tenant does approach you with an issue involving another tenant because you will now be able to act as mediator, which allows you the opportunity to defuse. The earlier you know the easier it may be to fix.

Keep Yourself Safe

It’s very important as a landlord or property owner to always keep yourself and your tenants safe. Sometimes some problems are just too big for one person to handle, and you may not have the resources to correct them. If you ever feel unsafe about talking to or encountering a tenant, you may need to get the proper authorities involved. Always remember that there are some problems that are just too big to handle for even landlords and property owners.

Always Be Professional

No matters how out of hand a situation between tenants has gotten, you need to make sure that you always stay professional. You don’t ever want tenants to feel that coming to you with a problem is a bad choice. Be sure that you are listening to the tenant. and let them know that you are taking their problem seriously. Handling a situation in a professional manner is the right thing to do and is also a good way to show the tenant that you do care about what is going on.

Figure Out What the Tenants Want to Happen With the Situation

Once tenants have approached you with an issue and have told you their side of the story it’s a good idea to find out what they want to happen. A good example is a tenant complaining about another tenant being too loud. The tenant may be complaining about the timing of the noise, not the noise itself. The tenant may ask you to see if the tenant can keep the noise down during certain hours of the day. With this information you now know what to say to the other tenant to help remedy the situation and keep both parties happy.

Try to Work Out Disputes as Quickly As Possible

As a landlord or property owner, you need to get tenant disputes taken care of as soon as possible. Taking care of something as soon as possible is a good way to show your tenants that you care and are looking out for their well-being. The sooner a tenant versus tenant dispute is taken care of, the better it will be for all parties involved. Getting a situation taken care of quickly will also be one less thing that is hanging over your head.

Every Situation Should Be Treated Differently

Not matter what dispute a tenant has with another, be sure to treat each dispute as if it’s the first time you have handled it. What worked out in the past may not work for the present problem in front of you. Also, what worked for other tenants may not be what your current tenants want. Each situation is different and should be treated differently.

Check Back on Tenants to Make Sure the Problem is Solved

Be sure that after you have helped tenants resolve an issue that you contact them later to make sure everything is still okay. You hope that when you help tenants fix an issue that it stays fixed, since there is a chance it may not. Checking in with them to make sure both parties are keeping up with their side of the bargain is a very good idea. If they are not, it’s a good time to remember what they had agreed upon.

Conclusion

Tenant versus tenant issues can come up at any time and can range from simple issues like a tenant worried about a noisy neighbor to more extreme problems. Being ready for these problems is a huge step into getting these problems resolved. Hopefully with these suggestions you will be ready and better prepared to handle tenant versus tenant issues if and when they arise.

 

Tenants’ Rights in Foreclosure Cases

foreclosure3Rights of the tenants in case their rental house gets foreclosed on

With the downturn in the economy, numerous homes have gone into foreclosure. This is mainly because people have defaulted on their mortgage payments, and can’t refinance due to underwater homes. Since last year the foreclosure rate has declined. It is not only the homeowners who face the consequences of foreclosure, but the tenants as well. The tenants are the ones who actually get evicted when the homeowner defaults on the loan. So, aren’t there any rights for the tenants, in the event a property gets foreclosed on? There are, but the rights differ based on the situation.

What can happen to the renter during a foreclosure?

The laws and rights of the tenants vary depending on the residential or the rental agreement and the local laws. Some laws specify that the tenants should not suffer simply because the landlord couldn’t make the timely mortgage payments and thus could not manage to retain the property. In fact, a new law was passed a few months back in Illinois to protect tenants in the event of foreclosure. Illinois State Senator Jacqueline Collins stated that “Tenants should not suffer for the financial troubles of their landlords,” and “this legislation extends our foreclosure relief efforts to renters, who make up 40% of households affected by foreclosure.” This law requires the new owner to either provide a 90 day notice to the tenant prior to eviction or to evict the tenant only after the end of the rental lease.

A similar law was enacted in 2009 in the US. This law is known as the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act (PTFA). According to this law, the tenants have the right to remain in the property until the lease ends. Furthermore, the owner will also have to provide a 90 day notice period before evicting the tenants.

Another great thing about PTFA is that it does not preempt state and local laws. This means tenants will be able to enjoy the protection of the state and local laws if those are stronger than the PTFA.

Limitations on PTFA are:

  • The actual tenants on the lease cannot be the mortgagor, the mortgagor’s spouse, child or parent.
  • The amount of rent paid cannot be considerably less than what has been paid for other such properties within that area or what is considered fair market value. Only if the rent amount was reduced due to a state or federal rental subsidy, can the tenant still be eligible for the PTFA benefits in this case.
  • The lease or the arrangement will be scrutinized carefully if there are “special provisions” in the lease, such as an unusually long lease period or pre-payments, before deciding if the lease is eligible for PTFA protection.

Renters have rights in the event of foreclosure and in most cases cannot be evicted right away. However it is crucial for the tenant to be informed about the local and state laws as well as the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act (PTFA) so they can protect themselves from being evicted.

Sam works as an article writer for an Illinois based mortgage community called Mortgagefit. For more information visit here http://www.mortgagefit.com/

 

Renting versus Buying

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Considering whether to buy or rent a home will be one of the biggest decisions in your adult life. However, how will you know which one is best? For many, this decision is based largely on external factors such as credit score, other financial commitments, and desired location. Adding personal touches to your home will probably also play a role as to whether you are buying or renting. And what about your little pooch? Certainly you’ll need to take into account accommodating your pets. There are multiple pros and cons both for renting a home, or buying a home. Ultimately, the final decision will be yours, and should be based on what will benefit you both in the short term, as well as the long term. If you need a bit of help in deciding, take a look at this infographic for a comprehensive overview of reasons for renting vs. buying.

Buying a home, especially if it’s your first time, is an exceptionally rewarding experience. Some of the benefits are pride of ownership, all the mortgage interest and property tax deductions, and appreciation you will be getting from owning your own home. For many, these reasons are more than enough to convince them that buying a home is the right choice for them. For others, the perks and amenities that renting has to offer, as well as the appeal of affordability is more than enough to select renting.

Whichever path you choose, take comfort in the fact that soon you’ll be relaxing and enjoying your own personal space!

Four Ways for Tenants to Improve their Credit Score and History (Tenant Screening)

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It’s common knowledge that your credit score is one of the most important things that can adversely affect so many events in life. From buying a house (or renting an apartment) to purchasing a new car to being approved for a credit card, your credit score will directly affect all of these major decisions. Here are four easy ways to improve your credit score for your future tenant screening, some of which you can even start doing now.

  1. Request a copy of your credit report. Yes, it may seem simple, but many people have no idea what their credit history says or even what their credit score is. By checking it out, you can make sure that the history is correct. There are some cases that a person has found identity fraud or that their credit card number was stolen, causing unknown charges on their credit history. Identity fraud can wreak havoc on a person’s credit history, which directly impacts their credit score.
  2. Reduce your debt. Although much easier said than done, reducing the amount of debt that you owe is actually a very important step in improving your credit history and, ultimately, your credit score. First, make a list of all your credit cards and check what the balance on each one is, and also what the interest rates are. Then, set up a plan to start paying down on one that has the highest rate and don’t use any of them at all until they’re paid off. Once all your credit cards are paid off, you can continue using them if you can ensure that you pay off your entire balance each month. This will indicate that you are fiscally responsible with your spending, and it will increase your credit score over time.
  3. Set up payment reminders. Use a calendar to write down and track all of your credit payments, including credit cards, mortgage, vehicle loans, etc. By doing this, you can eliminate late payments, which show up on your credit history. Alternately, set up automatic payments, so that everything gets paid hassle-free.
  4. Keep credit card balances low. A high balance can adversely affect your credit score. Having a low balance with on-time payments can get you a better credit score and look good on your credit history as well.

Five Ways to be a Good Tenant

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All tenants want to leave a good impression on their landlords and, more importantly, maintain an excellent relationship with the person who owns the home they live in. Knowing how to be a good tenant will not only make your life with your landlord better, but it will also give you great references later when you move.

  1. Read and understand your rental/lease agreement. By fully reading and actually understanding the lease contract you’re about to sign, you can obey the rules of the landlord and keep them happy. By signing it, you must adhere to their rules and stipulations or risk eviction.
  2. Give all requests for repairs or improvements in writing to your landlord. Keeping good records of all repairs that were requested and fixed by the landlord is beneficial down the road in case of disputes.
  3. Keep your home or apartment tidy and clean. You don’t have to deep clean every single day, but be sure to make your space tidy and keep it clean. The look of your home reflects back on you and you want to make sure the landlord knows you are keeping their unit nice and neat.
  4. Try to love (or at least tolerate) your neighbors. Not only will this make your life easier, it will also keep any disputes or fights from happening with those who live around you.
  5. Buy a renter’s insurance policy. Landlords will really appreciate if you purchase a policy that will cover any loss. They will be saving money and you’ll be covered if anything should happen that damages or destroys your belongings.

Five Great Tips for New Landlords (Tenant Screening)

Tenant Background Screening

A landlord’s responsibilities run the gamut of planning, maintenance, safety, and legalities. Most new landlords just don’t realize how much really goes into renting their property. Safety is one of the most important priorities, but a new landlord should also be careful about choosing the right tenant, keeping the property safe and clean, following state laws and regulations, and even creating a solid lease agreement.

1. Safety. Before even thinking of leasing out your property, bring in professionals to make sure it is safe and suitable for a tenant to live there. In particular, hire someone to look for bug infestations, electrical issues, gas leaks, plumbing problems, building code violations, and fire safety issues.

2. The contract. This is another of the most important steps a new landlord can take. The lease agreement is a great way to specify your rules regarding rent payment, policies on pets, damage, and renter’s insurance. It is also good to outline the eviction process you have in place and any other specific details you have for your property.

3. Insurance. Landlords must have special landlord insurance on all of their properties to cover the buildings and sometimes even the contents inside if the property is being rented furnished. You may need to check with your state, as most states have differing rules and regulations regarding landlord insurance.

4. Repairs and renovations. As a new landlord, you must get the property for rent suitable and ready for habitation. This can mean making necessary repairs, changes, renovations, and improvements to the property before even beginning a tenant search. This could also potentially attract a lot more interested potential renters.

5. Screen tenants thoroughly. Always be sure to check references (past landlords) and income information, and to run a credit and background check. If they’ve had any past bankruptcies or foreclosures, both should come up under the credit check. This is one of the most crucial steps for new landlords, and many do not conduct a strenuous tenant screen like they should. Houserie.com can help landlords perform comprehensive background checks quickly and easily, with minimal paperwork or time wasted! You’ll have peace of mind knowing that your tenant is reliable.

Five Main Reasons to Require Renter’s Insurance

Tenant Background Screening

Both experienced and amateur landlords know that renter’s insurance can prevent a tenant from becoming angry or even leave the property because of damage to the property itself or their personal belongings. Fires, floods, and even natural disasters like hurricanes or tornadoes can create a lot of loss, and having renter’s insurance can save a lot of money, headache, and heartache for the tenant and the landlord.

  1. It covers loss from fires, floods, and other incidents. This is the major reason for requiring renter’s insurance, as stated above. The amount of money to be saved from these common disasters usually covers the amount of money to be spent on the insurance itself.
  2. If your tenants have to be out of the property while any repairs and/or renovations are being made, the insurance may actually provide them immediately with a hotel to stay during the repairs/renovations to their home or may later reimburse them for a hotel room.
  3. Renter’s insurance can also cover loss and damage from negligent tenants. If a tenant floods the unit or causes a fire, the insurance will cover the repair and renovations from that damage.
  4. Having tenants with renter’s insurance will save the landlord from claiming the loss or damage on their own insurance. This will also save the landlord money in the long run on their insurance policy.
  5. Dog bites may also be covered. If a tenant has a dog that bites someone visiting the home, the renter’s insurance will cover the claim.