eing a renter ain’t easy. For some, it’s the first time living on your own. For another group, it’s a transition into homeownership. For others, it’s the chosen way of life or a paycheck-to-paycheck necessity. No matter what, it’s no picnic. And while it’s fairly easy to find homeowner information, resources for renters can be tougher to come by. But alas, Volume One has you covered with helpful tips and need-to-knows on the world of Rental Living.
Editor: Thom Fountain Writers: Briana Bryant, Trevor Kupfer Photography: Andrea Paulseth Design: Josh Smeltzer
KEEPING IT CHEAP, KEeping it Green Save money on your energy bill one step at a time with these easy tips Lighting is one of the easiest places to start saving energy. Replacing your five most frequently used light fixtures or the bulbs in them with Energy Star qualified lights can save more than $65 a year in energy costs. Energy Star qualified compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) provide high-quality light output, use 75 percent less energy, and last 6–10 times longer than standard incandescent light bulbs, saving money on energy bills and replacement costs.Remember to always turn off your lights when leaving a room. Turning off just one 60-watt incandescent bulb that would otherwise burn eight hours a day can save about $15 per year!
Considering purchasing a room air conditioner? Consider an Energy Star qualified model. They use at least 10 percent less energy than standard models. In the winter, be sure to insulate room air conditioners from the out-
side with a tight-fitting a/c unit cover, available at your local home improvement center or hardware store. This keeps heated air from escaping outside. Alternately, you can remove the window unit in the winter months to prevent energy losses. Be sure the window unit fits tightly in the window so outdoor air is not getting in.
If possible, install a programmable thermostat to automatically adjust your home’s temperature settings when you’re away or sleeping. When used properly, a programmable thermostat with its four temperature settings can save up to $150 a year in energy costs. Proper use means setting the thermostat at energysaving temperatures without overriding that setting. You should also set the “hold” button at a constant energy-saving temperature when you’re away or on vacation.
Unplug any battery chargers or power adapters when not in use (like your cell phone charger!). Use
a power strip as a central “turn off” point when you are done using equipment. Even when turned off, electronic and IT equipment often use a small amount of electricity. Consumer electronics play an increasingly larger role in your home’s energy consumption, accounting for 15 percent of household electricity use. Many consumer electronics products use energy even when switched off. Electronics equipment that has earned the Energy Star helps save energy when off, while maintaining features like clock displays, channel settings, and remote-control functions. For home office equipment, this stand-by or “phantom” power load can range from a few watts to as much as 20 or even 40 watts for each piece of equipment. Using a power strip for your computer and all peripheral equipment allows you to completely disconnect the power supply from the power source, eliminating standby power consumption.
A ten minute shower can use less water than a full bath. With a new 2.5 gallon-per-minute (low-flow) shower head, a 10-minute shower will use about 25 gallons of water, saving you five gallons of water over a typical bath. A new showerhead also will save energy — up to $145 each year on electricity — beating out both the bath and an old-fashioned showerhead. To avoid moisture problems, control humidity in your bathroom by running your ventilating fan during and 15 minutes after
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showers and baths.
Make sure all air registers are clear of furniture so that air can circulate freely. If your home has radiators, place heat-resistant reflectors between radiators and walls. In the winter, this will help heat the room instead of the wall. During cold weather, take advantage of the sun’s warmth by keeping drapes open during daylight hours. To keep out the heat of the summer sun, close window shades and drapes in warm weather.
Save water by scraping dishes instead of rinsing them before loading in the dishwasher. Run your dishwasher with a full load and use the air-dry option if available. Rinsing dirty dishes before loading your dishwasher uses a lot of water and energy. Most dishwashers today can thoroughly clean dishes that have had food scraped, rather than rinsed, off — the wash cycle and detergent take care of the rest. To make the most efficient use of your dishwasher’s energy and water consumption, run the dishwasher only when enough dirty dishes have accumulated for a full load.
Wash your laundry with cold water whenever possible. To save water, try to wash full loads or, if you must wash a partial load, reduce the level of water appropriately. Hot water heating accounts for about 90 percent of the energy your machine uses to wash clothes — only 10 percent goes to electricity used by the washer motor. Depending on the clothes and local water quality (hardness), many homeowners can effectively do laundry exclusively with cold water, using cold
water laundry detergents. Switching to cold water can save the average household more than $40 annually (with an electric water heater) and more than $30 annually (with a gas water heater). Washing full loads can save you more than 3,400 gallons of water each year.
Don’t over dry your clothes.
If your dryer has a moisture sensor that will automatically turn the machine off when clothes are done, use it to avoid over drying. Remember to clean the lint trap before every load. Dry full loads, or reduce drying time for partial loads. It’s easy to over dry your clothes, if one setting is used for various fabric types. Try to dry loads made up of similar fabrics, so the entire load dries just as the cycle ends. Many dryers come with energy-saving moisture or humidity sensors that shut off the heat when the clothes are dry. If you don’t have this feature, try to match the cycle length to the size and weight of the load. A dryer operating an extra 15 minutes per load can cost you up to $34, every year.
The lint trap is an important energy saver. Dryers work by moving heated air through wet clothes, evaporating and then venting water vapor outside. If the dryer cannot provide enough heat, or move air sufficiently through the clothes, they will take longer to dry, and may not dry at all. One of the easiest things you can do to increase drying efficiency is to clean the lint trap before each and every load. This step also can save you up to $34 each year.
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Tips from landlords about successfully renting We know your sister’s boyfriend’s bandmate will tell you everything you need to know about renting a place for the first time, but in case he misses something we went straight to the source.
Ask around and talk to people that are currently renting and if they are happy with the service their landlord is providing.
Make sure to read the lease because many renters read through it quickly and don’t even know what they’re signing. – General Property Management, LLC
– Beneen Rentals
Start looking early, probably by September if you are a student. Have your roommate situation figured out prior to looking at a place to live. Many people come and want to look at a place and realize later that it won’t work with the number of people that they actually have who want to live together. – Boomerang Real Estate
To find listings for available rental properties, check in the Leader Telegram. You can also check online on the websites for local rental companies or on Craigslist. – Professional Property Management Company
If you are interested in a property and find out that the utilities are escrowed, call the utility company and ask for the average monthly utility bill and see how that compares with what the landlord’s escrow amount is. If there is a large discrepancy, question the landlord on why the escrow is so much higher. – Beneen Rentals
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How to Be a Good Neighbor Tips from the City of Eau Claire’s neighborhood maintenance brochure compiled with help from area neighborhood associations
• All buildings must be maintained in a state of good repair (painted at regular intervals, clean and sanitary, etc.). • Weeds and grass may not exceed 7” in height. • Sidewalks need to be free of obstructions (snow cleared within 24 hours of a fall) • Don’t leave parked cars in the same spot on a street or alley for more than a day • Dispose of garbage in a sanitary manner • Dispose of yard waste and return cans within 24 hours after pickup • Don’t be unreasonably loud or disorderly • Keep animals leashed when off premises • Have no more than 3 cats and 2 dogs • Promptly remove animal droppings To report a violation, call the appropriate department: Health (839-4718), Police (839-4972), Fire (839-5012), Streets (839-4963), Community Development (839-4914), or Building Inspection & Zoning (839-4947).
Renters Insurance what you need to know
(and why you should probably get it)
(Policies rarely come with free hugs.)
• Policies usually start around $100 a year. Not a month. Not a quarter. A YEAR! • It covers your personal property in circumstances like theft, fires, natural disasters, and more. Obviously there’s exceptions and exclusions, but, in general, your stuff is covered when the crap hits the fan. • Policies cover “replacement equivalents.” Meaning, if you have a big ole’ tube TV and it goes, you get the equivalent of what’s new – so you’re gettin’ a flatscreen, baby. • If your apartment has a fire, not only does it cover your “stuff,” but also where you live for the immedi-
ate future. And even if your place doesn’t burn and it’s a neighbor’s place, you might have to be gone, too. In either case, it covers hotel/motel costs for those circumstances. • If someone visits and they get injured, your policy may cover medical payments and liability in case they want to sue you. (Again, with limitations.) • It is basically a homeowners policy for renters. And homeowners policies often come with longevity discounts (so the longer you’re with a firm, the cheaper it gets). In some cases the years you have renter’s insurance can count toward longevity discounts if you become a homeowner and stay with that firm.
The Renter’s Toolbox
You don’t need much as a renter, but a few tools will make life much easier.
Toolbox: Duh. But a nice one with a handle is incredibly useful, because if you don’t know where your tools are, they aren’t helpful. Reversible drill with a bit set: Infinitely useful for fixing up furniture, tightening bolts and getting to all those other projects you’ve been putting off. Hammer: Look for one that’s heavy with a fiberglass shaft and a rip claw. 16 foot tape measure: Get one that locks and remember to take it with you if you’re going furniture shopping.
Level: Indispensible for hanging pictures and, no, your iPhone won’t work. Utility knife: Look for replaceable blades and keep some on hand. Staple gun: Tackle basic reupholstery jobs armed with one of these. Duct tape: For quick repairs and emergencies. Glue: White glue and crazy glue for big and small projects.
Set of screwdrivers: A good mixed set includes flat and Phillips head drivers, maybe even a magnetic head. Needle nose pliers: If you can find a pair with a wire cutting blade, grab ‘em. Safety glasses: Don’t start a project without these. Stud finder: Start here when hanging pictures.
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Renter’s Cheat Sheets!
Here are some helpful tips for the serious renter from Volume One, Rental Resources, and the Tenant Resource Center. Cut them out. Laminate them. Place them in silver, heirloom frames and pass them on to the next generation.
After You’ve Signed the Lease Educate yourself about your rights and responsibilities as a tenant. For more info, contact the Bureau of Consumer Protection at (800) 422-7128 or visit them on the web: http://datcp.state.wi.us/ Your landlord should always provide an emergency number. Get it.
Tips for the Prospective Renter Ask around. If a friend lives in a place they like or deals with a landlord they like, there may be units available even if they aren’t advertised. What is the neighborhood like? Look at nearby amenities and bike/walkability. Check the 2009 Rental Living guide at VolumeOne.org for a full breakdown. Call the Health Department and check if there are any uncorrected complaints against the property (Eau Claire: 839-4718; Chippewa Falls: 723-5542; Menomonie: 232-2388) Get the name of a possible landlord and run it through WI Circuit Court Access (http://wcca.wicourts.gov/) to see if he/she has a clean record. The Eau Claire Police Department has developed a voluntary Certified Landlord Program. See if your landlord is certified, as it shows a dedication to what they do. (www.ci.eau-claire.wi.us/landlords) Never sign a lease without seeing the apartment – especially in complexes where “all the apartments are the same” and they keep a clean one on hand to show people like you. Read and understand all lease paperwork. Make sure all your questions and concerns are answered before you sign. It is a contract, and means you have legal responsibilities as well as the landlord. A one-page lease could be a red flag. The more paperwork, the better. Tenant and landlord responsibilities should be clearly defined. Good landlords enjoy answering questions. They want tenants who care about their living space. If you’re deciding between two places, consider the Paper Layout Experiment. Take the rough measurements of the crucial spaces, and note where there’s vents, doorways, windows, etc. Then measure your furniture, bookshelves, and the like. Divide the measurements down so the room can fit on paper. Then do cutouts of the furniture and organize them in the paper room. Whichever layout excites you more is the winner.
Create a check-in sheet on the apartment and list all items that may be charged to your security deposit (such as stains on the carpet, scratches on counter tops, etc.) Keep a copy for yourself and send one to our landlord. Grab your digicam and take pics when you move in and after you clean up upon moving out. Buy a carbon monoxide detector if you have gas heat and/or stove. They are mandatory as of April of 2010. Consider renter’s insurance. It’s usually inexpensive and covers things like robbery, fires, and liabilities. The amount of a policy depends on how much of your stuff you want to protect. Things like floods are usually not covered. Learn odd/even parking. If you don’t have a designated parking stall, you’ll likely have to find on-street parking. Between Nov. 1 and May 1 the City of Eau Claire dictates which side you can park on. So make sure your car is parked on the “even” side (with even-numbered addresses) between midnight and 7am of even-numbered days. And vice-versa. Big security deposit suckers: defrosting the fridge and cleaning the oven. When moving out, remember: Xcel Energy makes you cancel your own utilities. (And don’t forget TV, internet, and other such bills.) Head to the post office for a helpful checklist of change-of-address reminders. If you’re moving over the course of a few days, leave stuff like beds and entertainment items for last. Save boxes early and often. Ask grocery stores if you’re desperate. Frequent recycling dumpsters at commercial spots if you’re extra desperate and bold.
“Is This Place Cool?” CHECKLIST __ Turn on all light switches to see if they do, indeed, produce light
Landlord Conversation Starters
__ Check each power outlet (use a small appliance like a hairdryer or waffle iron)
What utilities are included?
__ Turn on the sink and bathtub faucets (check for leaks or slow/plugged drains)
What are the average monthly utility charges?
__ Flush toilet, check for leaks
How are maintenance requests handled?
__ Look for smoke detectors and fire extinguishers
How long does it take to complete maintenance requests?
__ Check ceiling and walls for cracks and water stains
How are maintenance emergencies handled?
__ Check the locking mechanisms on doors __ Check the locks on all the windows
Who do I call for maintenance emergencies? Have the locks been changed since last occupancy?
__ Inspect furnace and/or air conditioner: Are they well-maintained?
What’s the parking situation? How is the lawn mowing and snow shoveling handled? What’s the laundry situation? How bout dem Packers?
__ How well sealed are the windows? (Will you pay a ton for heat/air?)
__ Check hot water: Is it the proper temperature? __ Check for exit lights __ Is the exterior of the building well-lit and well-maintained?
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