The Safety Benefit of Smart Homes

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The latest technology doesn’t just make properties more marketable. Learn how to use these smart devices to thwart danger when you’re out in the field.

Sure, smart-home devices can make a property more desirable, but have you considered how they can keep you safe as a listing agent or when showing homes to buyers? Open houses and vacant properties are the top places where real estate professionals report encountering threatening situations, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ 2016 Member Safety Report. Tara Christianson, technology and training director at Century 21 Redwood Realty in Arlington, Va., recently hosted a webinar and offered tips on how smart devices can protect your client’s property and yourself.

  • Smart door locks and keyless entry systems can help keep a vacant property more secure. Products such as Schlage’s Bluetooth-enabled locks not only allow you to control access to the property but also can record traffic in the home. You can create e-keys for contractors, assistants, and your real estate team members.
  • Video doorbells, such as SkyBell, contain video cameras so you can talk to whoever is on the other side of the door without even being on the premises. The video streams to your phone, and some products even allow you to take a photo of the person at the door to send to authorities if you become alarmed.
  • Motion sensors are helpful for both vacant homes and new construction — both properties squatters tend to target. Fibaro, for example, sends activity alerts to your phone when there is movement in the home. You can set alerts to the times you expect the home to be empty. “Maybe someone’s in the home that you need to be aware of so you know to bring someone with you when you arrive,” Christianson says.
  • Use devices that monitor doors and windows so you can tell when they’ve been left open. This will likewise alert you to suspicious activity at a listing, and these devices are useful for sellers as well so they can monitor their homes on days when they’re being shown.
  • Smart lighting and entertainment systems don’t just help you set the ambiance for a showing. Systems like Hue and Lifx allow you to set on and off times for lighting systems, making it look like a listing is continually occupied.

Do Smart Homes Invite Threats?

Such technology can make a home more vulnerable to hackers, Christianson admits, but there are steps you can take to mitigate the risk. You should never use open Wi-Fi networks when operating smart devices. If your client’s network is less secure, you can protect your own device with a virtual private network, which creates an encrypted connection when using your client’s Wi-Fi. But if you’re going to use a device in a seller’s home, you should always ask them how protected their network is. Do they have a password that’s hard to guess, or are they using a simple code like “123” or “password”?

Give Clients Smart Advice

Steer clients interested in smart devices toward well-known vendors such as Nest, which is backed by Google. “Sometimes, products or companies sound great, but then the vendor stops updating their devices or shuts down without notice,” Christianson says. “You don’t want your client to be stuck with something that suddenly stops working.”

Tell your sellers to disclose what smart devices they have in their homes to buyers up front. That will absolve them of any responsibility in case a buyer has a complaint about being monitored during a showing. “You don’t want conversations with buyers caught on tape without their knowledge,” Christianson says. Let informed buyers make their own decisions about whether they want to even enter rooms that have active recording devices.

 

Credit to Graham Wood
Senior editor

Graham Wood is a senior editor for REALTOR® Magazine.

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How to Deal with a Deadbeat Landlord

What do used car salesmen, lawyers, and landlords all have in common? … People in all three professions are often the butt of jokes about—shall we say—low ethics.

Here are some jokes I’ve heard recently:

  1. What’s the difference between a good lawyer and a bad lawyer? … A bad lawyer makes your case drag on for years. A good lawyer makes it last even longer.
  2. I saw the most beautiful cars in the window of a dealership. A salesman came out and said, “Come on in. They’re bigger than ever, and they last a lifetime!” … Later I discovered he was talking about the payments.
  3. What do landlords do for fun? … How would I know? I haven’t seen mine in the past eight months.

Those jokes you hear are often unfair, but what makes them funny is the kernel of truth associated with them. And unfortunately for all the great, honest, just-trying-to-make-a-living landlords out there, the deadbeat landlord gives all of us a bad name.

So, just to show that all landlords are not untrustworthy villains, I would like to do my part by helping all the tenants out there who are stuck with a deadbeat landlord, meaning a landlord who is good at collecting the rent check and nothing much else.

There’s a Problem, and Your Deadbeat Landlord Has Disappeared

You won’t know you have a deadbeat landlord until a problem arises. The most common problem tenants have are maintenance ones. So what should you do when you notify your landlord that:

  • The heat went out during the winter (or the AC in the summer),
  • A window won’t lock,
  • Bugs are running around your kitchen,
  • Or any one of a number of possible problems

…and your landlord is M.I.A.?

First of all, here’s what you shouldn’t do: You should not withhold rent. Doing so could get you evicted.

Some tenants think that if the rental unit has a problem that means they don’t have to pay rent. If you stop paying rent, you will probably hear from the landlord—but not to fix the problem. It will be to evict you.

You do not have to live with a problem, either. There’s a concept in the law called the “implied warranty of habitability,” meaning that your landlord has to keep the place livable. Note that livable pertains to necessities, such as running water, not because you can’t bear the olive green walls.

The Appropriate Steps

Here’s what you should do if there’s a problem that needs fixing:

1. Make Contact (and document it)

Contact your landlord as soon as you notice the problem. A good landlord will respond right away, and will take care of the issue. But, since you have read this far, you probably have a deadbeat landlord, and you are being ignored. So go to step 2.

2. Send a Certified Letter

Send your landlord a certified letter if they don’t respond to your first request. State the nature of the problem, and the date it started happening. You’ll need to have this documented in case you need to take further action, so make a copy for yourself as well.

3. Wait

Wait to see whether your landlord responds. Tenants typically need to give their landlord 30 days to fix a problem that is not an emergency. But emergencies need to be addressed immediately.

4. Allow Access

If your landlord responds, let them (or their representative) in to make the repair.

5. Try to “Repair and Deduct”

If your deadbeat landlord still ignores the situation, there’s more you can do. Try the repair-and-deduct method if your jurisdiction allows this. You would arrange for a repairman to fix the problem, and you would then deduct the cost from the rent. Provide your landlord with a receipt.

6. Call the Authorities

Call your local health or building inspector. Someone will inspect, and that could force your deadbeat landlord to act.

7. Withhold Rent

I know I said not to withhold rent earlier. But there might be an instance where you can. Find out whether your state allows this, and if so, under what conditions. What you’d typically need to do would be to set up an escrow account, and put the rent in it. Let your landlord know that you’re putting the rent payment in an escrow account and will release the funds after the repair is made.

8. Break the Lease

If your rental is truly uninhabitable, and your deadbeat landlord won’t do anything to fix it, you might be able to break the lease. But first check with an attorney or legal aid for your area to see whether you have a case.

You Might Not Have a Deadbeat Landlord

Although you are entitled to have your landlord fix major problems, such as no heat, no running water, and a pest infestation, you are not necessarily entitled to have nonessential problems fixed, such as a leaky sink. Read your lease to see whether it addresses minor repairs, how those are handled, and whose responsibility they are. You might need to change out that lightbulb yourself.

Also consider that if you caused the problem, you need to fix it. If your hair clogged up the sink, you need to fix that since you caused the problem. If the landlord fixes a problem you created, they can deduct the cost from your security deposit.

Conclusion

You don’t need to put up with a deadbeat landlord. Try the steps listed here. If you have a deadbeat landlord story of your own, share it in the comments section, along with what you did to solve the problem!

Credit to Laura Agadoni

Laura Agadoni is a landlord and journalist whose articles appear in various publications such as Trulia, The Houston Chronicle, The Motley Fool, SFGate, Zacks, The Penny Hoarder and azcentral.

homes for rent, homes for sale,
homes for rent, homes for sale, newstarrealty.com
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