Questions and Answers

Questions and answers as seen on our Message Boards.

Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_ojogabonitoo'>ojogabonitoo / 123RF Stock Photo</a>Q: My tenant used MY water for his car wash service. How do I prevent this?

This is terrible, and it’s one of a couple of kinds water abuses. Other problems include vindictive faucet running (if there’s a dispute), filling kiddie pools, laundry services and illegal daycares. Be on your guard!

What can be done? Options, from cheapest to most expensive:

  • Buy a spigot lock off Amazon for $15.
  • Remove or cap external spigots. Removing them is fine if you never water your lawn or garden, and if you don’t trust any tenants with any water ever.
  • Replace external spigots with non-standard fittings. Water heater purge valves have a toggle that shoots a sharp spray of water and prevents all uses except hoses. More creative fittings can be paired with adapters that give only certain individuals the ability to connect a hose (they must use their adapter, which they keep to themselves).
  • Place the spigot inside a locked basement area or a lockbox and run a hose through the wall for summer lawncare needs.
    • This probably would be called into question were the premises inspected.
    • Use teflon tape to eliminate moisture seepage, which can lead to mold.
    • Take care to perform seasonal maintenance like removing the hose in November.
  • Invest in submetering. As the landlord you are still on the hook for the water, but if you tell a prospective tenant that water is not included, you will frighten the future abuser onto another landlord who doesn’t have submetering. This has the advantage of catching all water abuse (interior and exterior) before it starts.

Q: My insurance premiums are skyrocketing. Is this normal?

There may be a material change to your property that’s driving the adjustment. More probably it’s a small company’s way of telling you they no longer want your business. Older homes especially tend to be targeted for divestment. Ask other local companies or find a large national carrier who is willing to take your particular risk. Pay attention to whether you’re insuring to replacement cost, and if so, that the amount makes sense. Take care to address insurance risks by upgrading your electrical, installing hardwired smokes, or asking about other things that might reduce your premium.

Insurance is annoying to shop for because a real good quote requires brass tacks details, right down to the molding on the walls. Take the time and don’t settle for sharply higher premiums without a good reason.

Q: I need to get into an apartment to show it to prospective renters. The current tenant refuses. The lease says I have the right. I called the police and showed them the lease but they won’t help. What am I doing wrong?

The police are not able to litigate your rental agreement. It doesn’t matter that there’s a clause that says you can get in. They don’t know you didn’t fake the whole thing, signatures and all. And they are not experts on interpreting the law. They don’t know whether you can or can’t go in.

Think about it from the point of view of public safety. Would you want your neighbor to be able to get into your home with a document they crafted?

If you absolutely insist on doing something that someone else refuses to allow, then the procedure is to go to court to get a restraining order.

In the case of showing an apartment, we recommend you accept a month’s vacancy as the cost of doing business. If the tenant won’t let you in, it means it doesn’t show well. Better to bide your time, clean up once they leave, and only show it after.

If they overstay their agreement, this whole backstory gives you a bit more moral superiority when you give them a notice to quit on the first of the month.

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