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Don’t throw it out; use it in the garden Reusing old items can add whimsy

By Sarah Wolfe Associated Press

Looking for a cheaper way to fertilize flowers or keep pests at bay? A better tool for planting tiny seeds? The answers may lie in your home, where common household items such as coffee grounds or old pie tins can become easy, eco-friendly tools to give your garden a boost without breaking the bank. Turn old boots or shoes into planters, or reuse packing peanuts by laying

them at the bottom of large flower pots to aid in drainage and make for lighter lifting, suggests Stacy Tornio, editor of Birds & Blooms magazine. “You can take anything you have and upcycle it,” she says. Some simple, easy ways to repurpose household items for a bargain backyard:

to old teapots and even bathroom sinks. “They contribute a

Creative containers It’s easy to spend a fortune on pots and vases. But one easy way to start “upcycling” in the garden is by planting herbs, flowers and houseplants in everything from worn boots

A bottle tree makes a great accent in the garden. AP

touch of whimsy and even a ‘settled’ look to a garden scene,” Tornio says. Cristin Frank, a 38year-old author and gardening blogger from Williamsville, N.Y., uses yogurt cups and other recyclable plastic containers as small pots for her “starter” plants in the spring. Old take-out coffee cups serve as starter watering cans with their smaller, perforated plastic tops. Birdbaths can also be made from household items like an old glass light shade mounted on copper tubing. Justin Cave, an Atlanta-based landscaper and

former host of HGTV’s “Ground Breakers,” recently turned old shipping pallets into a vertical garden by covering the backs and sides with landscape fabric, stuffing them with dirt, and planting succulents and flowers in the slated openings.

Tools of the trade In need of some new garden tools? Save yourself a trip to the hardware store and check your kitchen drawers. Table utensils like spoons, forks and knives are tough and sharp enough to do many gardening jobs without causing damage, according to

Capital City Apartment Association Carly Grubbs

CCAA President

Serving the Industries Serving You



by Harry A. Heist, Attorney at Law Tenants are “skipping” at a record rate. Skipping of course is the common name given to the act of simply walking out on a lease. The lease is signed, the tenants move in, live in the unit for a while, and then for whatever reason, decide to pack up and move. Can you stop them? Of course not. Just like you cannot force a person to pay the rent or prevent them from moving in unauthorized occupants or getting those 5 pit bulls, a tenant who is desirous of leaving will do so. It is that simple. Since the tenant has decided to leave and does, you are now faced with the dilemma of an empty unit and rent owed to you. What can you do? Suppose you are managing a unit for another. The property owner who is often out of state is baffled and cannot understand how this can be. Often we hear them say, “But they have a lease!” or, “Why did we even have a lease? It is worth nothing”. What do you tell this angry and baffled property owner? How do you handle it when it happens to you? This article will examine some of the harsh realities of the tenant “skip” and how you can deal with the problem. Notice I said, “deal with the problem”, not solve the problem. If anyone knows how to solve the problem of the tenant skip, you call me right away! This article will examine the three simple paths you can take when a tenant skips out on you. Sue the Tenant When a tenant skips before the end of the lease term, the tenant will owe rent until the unit is rerented or until the end of the lease, whichever occurs first. This statement assumes that no other document is in place, or the tenant has not signed an early termination addendum which may liquidate the amount owed. What does the tenant owe? You will not know until the unit is re-rented or the lease expiration date. Now the big question: should you sue the tenant? In most cases we will advise you to do a careful cost/benefit and risk analysis when deciding whether to sue the tenant. Before you can even think about suing, you must know where the tenant is, so he can be served with the lawsuit. In many skips, the tenant disappears and cannot be found. If you cannot find him, you cannot sue him. a. Cost: Unless you can find an attorney who will file a lawsuit on a contingency basis where you pay nothing unless or until you win, using an attorney to file a lawsuit is often cost prohibitive. Many landlords are under the impression that the tenant will be responsible for their attorney’s fees and costs, and this is true in most cases, but just because you “win” in court does not mean you will collect a dime. Most attorneys will not take a case like this on a contingency basis. b. Benefit: By suing the tenant you may be able to get a judgment against the tenant, allowing you to lien any real property the tenant owns, and also may be used in attempting to garnish wages, another expensive, cumbersome process full of exemptions. Will you collect your money even if you win? Probably not. People who skip do not care much about getting sued, because if they did, they would not have skipped in the first place. They are usually what we call “judgment proof”. c. Risk: The risk involved in filing a lawsuit against a tenant may come as a real surprise. Why


would there be risk? The tenant owes you money after all. The risk arises when the tenant claims there was a “legitimate reason” why she skipped out. She may claim you failed to maintain the property, felt unsafe, was told she could leave early, you name it. There are a thousand reasons that a tenant who is being sued can come up with to justify why she broke the lease, and the judge in the case might believe the early departure was justified. If the judge finds for the tenant, YOU will have to pay the tenant’s attorney’s fees PLUS your attorney’s fees, if you hired a lawyer to fight the case. If the property owner has a lot of time on his hands and wants to file a small claims case without a lawyer, there is probably nothing wrong in giving it a try, UNLESS an attorney pops into the picture and defends the tenant. If you are managing the property and the owner asks you to do it, just say NO. Property management agents should not be acting as the attorney for the owner. Settle with the Tenant Once you know how much the tenant owes, if you are able to get in touch with the tenant, writing a demand letter or having your lawyer write a demand letter at minimal cost is not a bad idea. A demand letter may open up some dialogue and result in an offer by the tenant to pay all, something or possibly set up a payment plan. Settlement is not a bad word. It is often the smart thing to do. Your attorney can provide you with the proper form to use when settling with the tenant, as everything should be in writing. Forget about the whole thing and move on Your final option is to do nothing. Direct your energies into getting the unit rerented. You can always decide to sue at a later time, and you have up to 5 years to do this. Conclusion: If you are a seasoned property manager or landlord, you probably understand everything you have just read. The problem is your out of state owners who just doesn’t understand how Florida law works, and that Florida is what is known as a “debtor” state. If you are managing property for them, you will often get unreasonable demands about collecting the money. In many states, the creditor has significantly greater rights in pursuing the debtor. Florida is known for its lenient laws as they pertain to collecting money from a debtor. There are head of household exemptions, personal property exemptions and although not unique to Florida, bankruptcy protection. Does this mean that it is impossible to collect a debt? Absolutely not. In many cases people will pay. Most cases? Probably not. The best approach is to have your lawyer take a look at your the situation or send your property owner to the lawyer for a quick look, and have the lawyer give the advice necessary for you or the owner to make an informed decision. Exercise care in what lawyer you may send the owner to as some lawyers may not be completely honest and will choose to take a case AND you or your owner’s money knowing full well that the chances of collection are slim.

Tornio. Use them to separate flats, lift seedlings and tease apart dense root balls. Knives can also make a slim path for tiny seeds to fall into. Tornio says she’s also seen people repurpose utensils as garden markers and borders for flower beds. Even something as innocuous as old nylons can be reused in the backyard to tie up floppy plants or line the bottom of pots so water can get through but dirt cannot. Packing peanuts are also a good drainage medium, and lighten the load when large pots need to be moved around, Tornio says.

Whimsical decor Household items can also add a touch of whimsy to garden decor. Use an old musical instrument like a tuba to build a water fountain, or create a “bottle garden” by placing empty soda bottles over tree branches with your kids, says Sara JenkinsSutton, vice president of Chicago-based garden and floral design firm Topiarius Urban Garden. “When your cheese grater starts to turn rusty, turn it over, hang it on a deck and fill it with flowers, plants or outdoor chalk,” she suggests. Scatter vintage chairs or old farm equipment throughout your garden to add height and depth.

ONLINE Birds & Blooms: www.birdsand HGTV: Eve of Reduction: Enchanted Makeovers: www.enchanted Topiarius Urban Garden: