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.

Tips for landlords on dealing with pets

Pets are a gateway to handling responsibility, a parenting precursor of sorts. There is a long tradition of parents asking their children to raise pets in order to cultivate the habit of assuming responsibility. Many people see pets as their companions so it is only natural for tenants to expect pet friendly environments from their landlords. Like everything in renting, accepting pets comes with its fair share of risks and irks.
pet1
Why should you rent to a pet owner?
If you are the sort of landlord who is not fond of pets, your preference for keeping your property pet free should not deter you from accepting that perfect tenant who is fond of cats. Just make sure he/she uses a litter box for that cat. A pro-pet attitude widens your tenant pool. Statistically,
trust able pet owners end up being very responsible long term tenants.

The importance of being thorough
Well begun is half done and you can definitely improve your odds of landing responsible pet owners as tenants by following these tips during your tenant screening process:

• Take into consideration every type of pet a tenant can possibly keep; be decisive on how many in numbers they can keep, their size, threat indicators like sharp nails, teeth, etc. and exclude those which you believe are a strict no-no. Being confused about saying yes or no to a pet during tenant screening only amplifies issues later.

• Check with the potential tenants whether they own pets before you sign the lease and if they do, whether they have the necessary licenses and documents needed to keep them. Please note that several pets such as primates are not recognized as service animals by the Americans with Disabilities Act that was passed in 2010.

• State your pet policies clearly and in detail in your lease and tenant agreement. Make sure to include cautionary pet damage deposits as a part of the lease to be proactive about any potential damage from pets to your building or housing units.

• References are always useful. Make sure you get references from a previous landlord and/or a veterinarian about the pet’s health. This will provide a lot of information about the tenant’s tendencies about pet care.

After renting out to a pet owner
Once you have made the decision to rent to pet owners, things can easily get out of hand if you don’t act swiftly when pet related problems start.

• Make sure that pet owners always clean up after their pets especially in the common areas. Posting signs and providing free disposal bags will be helpful.

• Respond to complaints about barking and other loud pet noises immediately. Talk to the pet owner and ensure that they are trying to resolve the issues right away. Always, keep written warnings documented in case of repeat problems which will help in the eviction process if things don’t improve.

• Make it a priority to house your tenants who are pet-allergic as far away as possible from tenants with pets.

• Always inform potential tenants about the presence of pets in your housing units. They may be allergic to pets and will need this information to make their decision.

There is no middle ground when it comes to pets. As a landlord one can’t claim he/she is neutral about pets. Everyone has a preference– they either love pets or hate them. Irrespective of their choices, making informed decisions, being proactive, and staying on top of things certainly eases the pressure on landlords when it comes to accepting pets.

We hope you enjoyed our blog on pets. Stay tuned for more exciting articles from Houserie.com

Right and Responsibilities of Residents of Federally Assisted Housing – Department of Housing and Urban Development

RIghts and Responsibilities of Tenants by the Department of Housing and Urban Development

There are various rights and responsibilities that come with being a tenant. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), provides and list of topics you should be knowledge about when renting.

This article contains vital information for those living in HUD-assisted housing.

The rights of the tenant are broken down into three categories, involving your apartment, resident organizations, and nondiscrimination.

Involving your Apartment

-The apartment must consist of a clean and safe environment, free of hazardous chemicals.
-Necessary repairs must be completed in a timely fashion.
-Property mangers and/or landlords must notify residents reasonable ahead of time for non-emergency inspections or entries into the dwelling.

Involving Resident Organizations

-The ability for residents for organize without retaliation or backlash from the Property Owners and/or Management.
-The right to post informational material in the forms of leaflets, etc. in common areas.
-The right to meet with the Property Management and/or Property Owner present. As well as the ability to use common space or facilities (with reasonable HUD-approved fee).

Involving Nondiscrimination

“The right to equal and fair treatment and use of your building’s services and facilities, without regard to race, color, religion, gender, disability, familial status (children under 18), national origin (ethnicity or language), or in some circumstances, age.”

A tenant of HUD-assisted housing as responsibilities to their property manger and owner as well as to the project and fellow residents.

To Your Property Owners or Management Agent

-Following the rules and guidelines outlined in the lease agreement.
-Paying the correct amount of monthly rent on time.
-Providing accurate information to the owner, including changes in the family income.

To the Project and Your Fellow Residents

-Not disturbing your neighbors.
-Not littering in the common areas as well as keep your unit clean.
-Not engaging in criminal activity.
-Keeping the apartment in the same physical condition as when you moved in.
-Reporting any environmental hazards present in your unit or within the property.

Source: http://www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/mfh/gendocs/mfhrrr.pdf

 

 

Easy, Effective Ways to Respect Your Tenant’s Privacy

Tenant's privacy

Landlords need to be respectful of their tenant’s privacy regardless of any state laws that give them permission to enter the unit. Respecting your tenant’s privacy not only keeps the relationship on good terms, but it may also earn the tenant’s trust, thereby giving you a long-term tenant for your property. Here are four easy and effective ways to respect their privacy, while still keeping up-to-date on the condition of your rental space.

  1. Call first if there are repairs or maintenance to be done to the property. A landlord cannot just show up to a property and expect to do repairs without giving the tenant notice beforehand. You need to call and set up a time to do the repairs or maintenance based on the tenant’s availability.
  2. It’s up to the landlord or property manager to set up privacy boundaries. Although many states have certain laws and rules in place to protect a tenant’s privacy, some do not have any regulations set up for this and the landlords must arrange privacy clauses under the lease contract. Make sure you notate any these provisions in the rental agreement before the tenant moves into the property.
  3. Have set business hours. Having business hours that are the same time every day will help tenants know when to reach you in case of repairs or emergencies. It will also set boundaries for respecting their privacy in case you need to reach them or make a visit to the property.
  4. Knock more than once and then wait. Many states require a landlord to knock at least once and then wait a period of time for the tenant to respond. Unless there is an emergency, landlords cannot just knock once and then go right inside without the permission of the tenant.

 

Five Main Reasons to Screen Tenants

Finding the right tenant

One of the most important steps for a landlord to take when renting their unit is to screen each and every potential tenant. Doing so will hopefully prevent renting to a problem tenant, thereby saving the landlord a lot of stress arising from rental issues. Here are the five main reasons why landlords need to screen all of their prospective tenants:

  1. Tenant history will tell of any past issues. When screening a tenant, make sure to check out their background history to see if they have a criminal background, have damaged past properties they’ve lived at, or ended a rental contract early. Usually, if they’ve done it before, it is more likely that they can do it again.
  2. Late payments. Check out a tenant’s credit history to see if they have a bad habit of paying rent or other bills late. Talking to past landlords will also give any insight into whether they will become a problem tenant in regards to paying the rent.
  3. Property damage or loss. By screening a tenant and doing thorough background checks that include criminal and eviction history, a landlord can weed out the tenants who might possibly be violent or cause damage to the unit.
  4. Liability. Tenant screening can also ensure that a landlord won’t be pursued legally in case a tenant engages in illegal activities in the unit or property. For example, if a tenant sells drugs out of the apartment, a landlord can possibly be held liable, even though they don’t live there and only rent out the property.
  5. Early lease termination. Screening a prospective tenant and reaching out to past landlords, current employer, and professional or personal references can increase the odds that the tenant will not break the lease early. If past landlords cite there was a problem with early lease termination or with late payments, reject the tenant and let them know exactly why.