10 ways to keep cool when your apartment doesn’t have a/c

Nothing beats the sunny weather here in Los Angeles.  That’s one of the top reasons you moved to LA, am I right?  But when the temp goes up, nothing beats having an apartment with A/C.  If you happen to live in an older building that was built prior to the 1970’s invention of central air & heat and your apartment didn’t come with a window air-conditioning unit, we’ve rounded up 10 easy ways to help you beat the heat when your apartment doesn’t have A/C.

close your windowswoman closing window

It may seem counter-intuitive, but opening the windows during the day will often make your apartment warmer by letting the hot outside air in.  Keeping your windows closed can actually help to keep your place cooler. When it starts to cool down at night, that’s when you open the windows to let the cooler air circulate inside throughout the evening and while you’re sleeping.  Just make sure you close them in the morning when it starts to heat back up and you’ll help to prevent the sun’s heat from coming indoors.

keep your blinds closedliving room blinds closed

This is one of the best ways to help keep your apartment cool by preventing the sun from heating up your apartment.  Keep the blinds closed and angle them downward so that the sun’s rays are blocked from shining through the windows.

turn off the lights turn off light blub

If your lamps and lighting fixtures still have the older incandescent light bulbs instead of the newer compact fluorescents or LED ones, these incandescent bulbs can surprisingly produce as much heat as they do light.  Energy Star-rated light bulbs use up to 90% less energy and produce 75% less heat, which will help your place stay cool while also cutting down on your electric bill.  While you’re at it, be sure to power down and unplug any electrical devices not in use, like your computer.

use fans strategically vintage fan

Make sure that your ceiling fan is running in the right direction – you should feel the breeze blowing down. And keep in mind that ceiling fans cool people and not rooms, so be sure to turn it off when you leave the room.  You can also keep a spray bottle on hand to help keep cool when sitting under the ceiling fan or in front of a floor fan.  As the water evaporates off your skin, it creates a cooling affect.

One of our favorite tricks is to use two floor fans strategically to blow the cool evening air in through one window or door and out on the other side of your apartment to help create a breeze throughout and keep the cool air circulating.

enjoy a cool meal apricot basil chicken salad

Don’t heat up your apartment by cooking dinner in the oven or on the stove.  Instead, opt for a no-cook meal like this tomato & watermelon salad with feta or any of these delicious no-cook summer meals from Martha Stewart.  Just like staying hydrated with cold water (or an icy cocktail) helps to keep your body temperature lower, so does noshing on cold foods.

take a cold shower or bath cold shower

While this may sound obvious, it is a very effective method for cooling down when you don’t have air-conditioning.  Hop in a cold shower or run a cool bath and relax while you soak for 20 minutes to cool down your core temperature.  Also try using a eucalyptus body wash or soap like this one from Bath & Body Works that has natural cooling and stress-relieving properties.

chill out barr co lotion

One of our favorite summer tips is to store your favorite lotion in the fridge and slather it on whenever you feel hot for instant relief.  You can also use it to cool down even further after your cold bath.  Or stick a bottle of water in the freezer and place in front of a fan to help cool down the air.

switch to a buckwheat pillow Buckwheat pillow

Turns out, buckwheat hull pillows are an ancient secret for helping to keep the body cool at night.  The hulls allow for fresh air to circulate and don’t hold on to your body heat like conventional pillows do.  So if the heat is preventing you from sleeping, try switching to a buckwheat pillow.  Another trick is to place your normal pillow in the fridge for a bit so you’ve got a nice cool place to rest your head when you crawl into bed.

request the addition of a screen door screen door

To help cool your apartment in the evening, inquire with your landlord about the possibility of adding a screen door to allow for the cool evening air to filter in.  If they won’t cover the cost, but will allow you to install one, it is a great value considering how much money you’ll save not having to run an electric air-conditioner.

add a portable a/c unit portable a/c unit

If you’re still sweltering after trying all of the tips above, see if your landlord will install an a/c unit.  If they won’t, consider purchasing a portable one that you can move from room to room (and apartment to apartment).

How do you stay cool in your apartment without A/C?  Let us know in the comments below.  And be sure to check out our Apartment Spring Cleaning Basics and 10 Things You Should Never Put Down Your Garbage Disposal.

photos: lovelyetc.comsavvy sugar, pocket full of pretty, low energy living, houzz, energy.gov, the chic fish, martha stewart, the stir, white nest market

apartment spring cleaning basics

Whenever one of our tenants moves out or we go into a resident’s apartment for a maintenance request, we often see a few common threads in places needing a good clean.

With spring in full bloom and the beautiful weather outside, now is a great time to freshen up the inside of your apartment.  Taking the time to do a deep-clean of your home space will help to keep things looking and functioning their best.  Simple things like steam cleaning the carpet once a year helps to extend the life of it and of course, it helps it look it’s best for guests too.  We’ve rounded up some simple and seasonal chores to tackle over a weekend to ensure your apartment is sparkling.

clean out the fridge & freezer

organized-fridgeWe’re gonna start our list with a big one: tackling the fridge.  It’s easy to handle if you just break it down into some easy steps and the reward is definitely worth the extra elbow grease.  We like to start by taking everything out, cleaning top-to-bottom, then putting things back in an organized way.

  • Take everything out and toss anything that’s old or expired.  Make it a habit to toss out old food each time you go to the store to help keep your fridge clean throughout the year.
  • Wipe down any jars that have spills on the outside or on the bottom and set aside.
  • Wipe down the inside of the fridge walls and shelves with a solution of mild dish soap and warm water.
  • If any shelves or parts are removable, we like to give these a nice soapy wash in the sink.  (You’d be surprised what spills you find hidden under shelves and behind removable drawers.)  Be careful not to use hot water on cold glass shelves as this can cause them to crack.  Instead, let the glass shelves come to room temperature before washing.
  • Pull out the fridge and wipe down the sides, top and floor underneath.
  • Clean the sides and tops of the doors and in the rubber door seal nooks.  Clean and sanitize the door handles.
  • Look underneath each shelf and scrub any spills that ran over.
  • Group jars together as you put them back in the fridge.

Also be sure to check out these 10 Easy Steps to Organize Your Fridge from Lauren Conrad.

deep clean stove

stove topOne of the dirtiest places we find in tenant’s apartments are the sides and underneath the stove.  When you’re busy whipping up one of your culinary masterpieces, you might not notice a few splashes, but they can accumulate in these places over time.  Give your stove a good deep-clean inside and out by:

  • Scour inside oven.  Remove racks and clean.
  • Remove broiler pans from drawer underneath oven and clean thoroughly.
  • Pull out oven and wipe down the front and sides.  Scrub floor underneath stove.
  • Lift lid under burners and clean.
  • Wipe down top of oven and wash burners.

replace smoke detector batteries & wipe down remotes

ladder and smoke detectorYou should replace the batteries and test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors every six months to make sure they’re in good working order.  We like to do this when we “spring forward” and “fall back” as an easy way to remember.

Take a damp rag or one of those make-up remover cloths and wipe down all of your remotes.  You can also wipe down your computer keyboard while you’re at it too.

clean windows

apartment living room windowWhen was the last time you cleaned your windows?  Ever?  Probably not, right?  We know it’s a big task and that’s why spring is the perfect time to tackle it.  Remember that first day when you moved in and they were shiny and sparkling?  Let all of that beautiful light in by cleaning the inside and outside of your windows.

Your windows can become a bit cloudy and dirty over time, so we recommend you give ’em a good wipe-down at least once a year.  To start, dip a sponge into a bucket of warm water with a few drops of mild dish soap.  We love to use a sweet smelling one like Mrs. Meyer’s basil-scented dish soap that will subtly scent each room and make it smell as fresh as a Spring daisy.  Simply wet the window and rub dirt away. To get the perfect streak-free window, you can use a squeegee to help dry or try our secret weapon: Sprayway Glass Cleaner and a rag.  This stuff is seriously amazing and will clean your windows without any streaks and is available at places like Target and Home Depot.

It’s important to clean your windows first with soap and water to take off the larger pieces of dirt and grime and then use the glass cleaner for perfect windows every time.  If you try to cut corners by just using the spray, you’ll end up cleaning each pane twice and probably end up with streaks.

TIP: Before using the soap and water solution, have a razor blade handy to help remove any dried-on gunk like paint drips, tree sap, or bird droppings.

wash screens & blinds

clean blindsWhile you’re washing the windows, take down the screens and give them a good scrub in the bathtub or shower using the same type of soap you’ll use on the windows.  Allow them to air dry fully before putting back up.

Wipe down blinds with a few drops of gentle cleaner on a nearly dry sponge.  Aluminum blinds can be washed outdoors: Place them on an old sheet or on the grass and scrub with water and a noncorrosive cleaner.  Use a hose to rinse well and then let the blinds air dry thoroughly or wipe with a towel to prevent rust.

protect wooden floors

bedroom wooden floorsGuard against scratches on wooden floors by making sure there are surface protectors on the undersides of all furniture legs and heavy items placed on the floor like chests, footstools, and side tables.  Replace any that are dirty or worn.

Clean your wooden floor by dry dust-mopping it first to pick up any loose dirt, dust or pet hair that could scratch the floor’s finish.  Then use a damp solution specifically made for wood floors to give it a deeper clean. Make sure not to get the floors too wet or let water pool as this can damage the wood.

deep-clean carpets, rugs & sofas

living room rugsTo extend the life of your carpet, most professionals recommend having it steam-cleaned once a year.  We love to use Beverly Hills Carpet Cleaners since they use organic and non-toxic solutions – which are great for babies and pets.  They do a great job and have even gotten out red wine stains from carpet we thought was going to need to be replaced. Another good thing about them? You know how stains will often come back after having your carpet shampooed?  Not with these guys.  They do such a good job that the stains are completely removed from the carpet.

Before they come over, vacuum your carpet really well and stack any smaller furniture on top of larger furniture to make the most of your cleaning area.  If you’re having them clean your rugs too, make sure to place these in the kitchen so that they can clean the carpet underneath the rug and be sure to note this on the phone when making your appointment.  If you’re having them clean your sofa, obviously don’t stack furniture on top and see if you can place on your patio, bed, or inside closets.

You can also rent or buy a home shampooer, although we recommend letting the professionals handle this one.  After your carpets, rugs, and sofas have been cleaned, open your windows for air flow to help them dry more quickly.

clean your curtains

curtainsCheck the tag on your curtains to see if they can be machine or hand-washed, follow the instructions, and iron them once dry before hanging back up.  You can also have them dry-cleaned.  Just be careful with linen curtains as these can tend to shrink and instead look to see if you can vacuum and steam clean these in place.

wipe down baseboards, doors, & door handles

bathroom door chairThese areas are big dust collectors and deserve a little TLC every now and then.  I prefer to dry dust the baseboards and nooks on the doors or you can use the brush attachment on your vacuum.  Then wipe down the front and back of doors with an all-purpose cleaner to clean off any hand prints or dirt.  Disinfect door handles throughout the apartment.  You can take this one step further and disinfect all of the cabinet hardware as well as these are all high-traffic areas that can get sticky and dirty.

Let us know in the comments below if you’ve got any great spring cleaning tips. Then be sure to check out our tips for Easy Ways for Renters to Go Green too.  

checklist: apartment hunting

The Suite Life

If you’re planning a move to (or within) LA, we want to make your apartment search a bit easier. No doubt you’ll be checking out multiple places in hopes to find “The One” and in your thorough apartment hunting, sometimes all of the properties can blur together.  We’ve created an Apartment Hunting Checklist so that you can take notes while viewing available apartments to help you remember which ones you liked best later on.

First, be sure to check out the prices for a 1 bedroom and when you start your apartment search and set up appointments, we recommend that you print out a screenshot of the listing and write down the date and time of your appointment at the top of the page as well as who you’ll be meeting with.  Staple this to the front of our checklist so that pictures of the unit will be attached for reference.  The Suite Life - Apartment Hunting Checklist

Our Apartment Hunting Checklist will help you take notes about the basics while also reminding you to ask some important questions while you’re on the tour.  Is there a fee for breaking your lease? What’s the parking situation like?  Is there laundry on-site?  Is the building under rent control? Can you paint?

Comparing your notes over a cup of coffee later on will help you to narrow down your choices to find the perfect place to call home.

Print & Save: The Suite Life – Apartment Hunting Checklist here.

Let us know how your apartment search goes with our checklist in the comments below.

Also, be sure to check out our Tips for Finding an Apartment in LA and the best way to Make Sure that You Score Your Favorite Spot.  Happy hunting!

5 things to do before you move in

You finally found that perfect new place and can’t wait to move in, but there’s a few things you should do before you even think about moving a box.  We’ve found that in the chaos of moving, the things that you have every best intention to do get overlooked in favor of unpacking instead and sometimes never actually get completed.  (Raise your hand if you still have white walls.)

Before you move-in, ask your property manager about the possibility of gaining access to your new place a day or two in advance of when your lease starts to take care of a few things.  If you’re not moving personal belongings in, they may be ok with allowing this and not charging you rent for these days.  You can also ask to see if they have vendors that can handle the list below for you prior to your move-in as well.  If they want to charge you rent for these days, it may be worth it to gain access to your new place the day before and knock this list out before you’re wrapped up in moving companies and unpacking. Here’s our top picks for things you should do before you move into a new place:

1.  paint Seafoam bedroom

The best way to make your new apartment feel like home is to add some of your personality and color to the walls.  And it is so much easier to to do this when you’re not maneuvering around furniture and boxes or can’t find all of the supplies you need.  We recommend painting just one accent wall per room to inject some color and flair into the space, while also making it easier on you when it comes time to move out in case you’ll need to paint it back.

Check out Pantone’s Color of the Year for 2014: Radiant Orchid, for some color inspiration.

TIP:  Before painting, check with your property manager first to make sure that they allow this type of alteration.  If they do, get their permission in writing and ask about your obligations when it comes time to move out.

2.  change out the toilet seat 1920's bathroom

Hopefully, your new landlord does this as a standard part of their turnover.  If not, go ahead and splurge on $20 worth of a new toilet seat for peace of mind. Changing it out is inexpensive and easy to do and you’ll feel a whole lot better too.  Just make sure you purchase the right size and shape so you’re sittin’ pretty on your first night in your new place.

3.  exterminate ants on spoons and saucer

Your new landlord probably has a service that sprays around the exterior of the property for the most common types of pests, so see if they can also do the interior of your apartment before you move in simply as a preventative measure.   Pests are common and exist everywhere, so why not have the place fumigated before you move in?  It will take care of common pests like ants, roaches, fleas, and silverfish.  Ask your property manager if they have a vendor that they already use and see if they’ll cover this cost – it may already be included as part of their monthly fee.

4.  clean eco friendly cleaning products

Even though your landlord will have your new place cleaned before you move in, you may want to do a deep cleaning of your own.  A second set of eyes is great because often times you’ll see things that their cleaning company didn’t or the apartment may have become dusty if they cleaned it too far in advance.  Bring a bucket of supplies to power clean your apartment a day or two before you move in to make sure that everything is sparkling when you start to unpack.

5.  add shelf liners 

After cleaning and before you start to unpack and put away all of your dishes, line the cabinets and drawers with a non-adhesive shelf liner to keep things super clean.  Check out our pick from The Container Store that’s 100% recyclable.  We recommend not using the adhesive kind of shelf liners so that they’re easy to remove when you move out.

You can also line your linen closet and bathroom cabinets with these cool scented shelf and drawer liners to keep things smelling fresh.  Steer clear of using them in the kitchen though to make sure that your wine glasses don’t taste like lavender.

What are the top things you do before you move into a new place?  Let us know in the comments below.

photos: decor pad, the modern cottage company, like cool, organic soul, martha stewart

10 things you should never put down your garbage disposal



Shot glasses, plastic bottle caps, silverware, jewelry.  My maintenance manager and I have seen some weird things pulled out of a clogged up garbage disposal, that’s for sure.  But there are common things that tenants often put down the drain without a second thought. Things like egg shells, coffee grounds, lemon peels, carrots, chicken bones, etc.  So we decided to look into what the professionals had to say about what is ok to put down the sink.

For starters, your garbage disposal shouldn’t be treated like a food processor to grind up your leftovers – that’s what the trashcan is for.  And if you live in an older building, keep in mind that your pipes may be original.  Ever wondered what your leftovers look like trying to get through a 70 year old drain?  Yikes!

Also keep in mind that if you live in a multilevel apartment building, more than likely your pipes are connected to the other apartments above or below you at some point along the drainage highway to the main sewer system.  This means that whatever you and your upstairs (or downstairs) neighbor put down the garbage disposal, it all meets up and mingles and can create a back-up for you and/or them.

disposal don’ts

  1. Potato Peels

    If it’s Sunday night and you’re making your famous mashed potatoes, don’t even think about putting the peels down the garbage disposal.  The starches in the cut potatoes turn into a thick gluey paste and can cause the disposal’s blades to stick or create a major traffic jam in the pipes.

  2. Banana Peels

    Fibrous materials like banana peels, onion skins, corn husks, and artichokes are extremely rough on your garbage disposal.  These vegetable jackets are designed by nature to protect the food inside so they can handle a bit of beating from your garbage disposal.  Your disposal motor and drain on the other hand, can’t handle these tough skins and can get jammed or blocked.

  3. Bacon Fat, Grease or Oil

    You might think that running hot water to liquefy the fats and oils will help to lubricate the blades and pipes, but that’s not the case.  It’s actually bad news and causes the grease to slowly build up and coat the blades which impedes their grinding ability and can clog drains.

  4. Pasta & Rice

    Just as these foods expand when you put them in boiling water, they do the same thing in your disposal and pipes.  “Al dente” pasta and rice is cooked until they are still firm which means that there’s still room to absorb water and expand when flushed down the drain.  Quinoa, cous cous and bread are also no-nos.

  5. Bones

    Contrary to what you may have been taught by mom, bones don’t sharpen the disposal’s blades – it dulls them just as they would do to your cutlery if you tried to cut them up with your kitchen knives.  Always toss all animal bones (beef, pork, lamb, chicken, and fish) in the trash.

  6. Coffee Grounds

    The thought here is that flushing coffee grounds down the disposal will help to eliminate odors.  While this can be true, those little crusty coffee particles actually accumulate in the pipes and cause blockages.  It’s best to toss the coffee filter and grounds in the garbage.

  7. Egg Shells

    Ditto for egg shells.  Best to toss.

  8. Asparagus & Celery

    These long vegetables fall into the fibrous category like banana peels because they’re so stringy.  These ‘strings’ can actually wrap around the disposal blades and cause the motor to seize.

  9. Peach, Cherry, Avocado, & Olive Pits

    These hard cores are way too much work for your garbage disposal to break down.

  10. Bleach & Drano

    Harsh chemicals and cleaners can ruin your disposal’s seals and actually eat through pipes (70 years old or new).

disposal dos

  1. Use Cold Water

    Running water obviously helps to flush out the debris in the disposal and get it through the pipes, but cold water is better than hot.  Why?  Cold water actually helps to solidify any grease or oil that makes its way in there which allows the blades to chop it up.  Who knew?

  2. Use It Regularly

    Your garbage disposal can actually rust or seize altogether without periodic use. So give it a whirl every time you’re cleaning the sink or doing dishes.

  3. Disinfect & Clean

    You can use a mixture of vinegar and baking soda to keep your garbage disposal clean and smelling fresh without the need for harsh chemicals.  And if you’re not putting a ton of food in there like we mentioned above, the occasional lemon, lime or orange should be just fine.  Just make sure you cut it up into quarters first for easier grinding.

With these tips your garbage disposal should always be in good working order and ready to tackle any small food scraps that find their way in there.

Have another fix-it question for our Maintenance Manager, Brian?  Let us know in the comments below or hit us up on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, & Pinterest.

photos: in stylelaurenconrad.com

8 tips to scoring the perfect apartment

The LA rental market can be a competitive landscape.  It’s not uncommon for landlords to receive multiple applications for just one vacancy.  And when you finally find the perfect place to call home after all that hard work you put in searching, you want to make sure that you and your application stand out.  We’ve got eight ways to help you score your perfect apartment in LA.

confirm your appointment the day before calendar

There are a lot of flaky people in LA.  A lot.  As a property manager, we’re usually the one to follow up with the appointments we’ve made 24 hours in advance to make sure that we’re still on.  But every once in a while, we get a prospective tenant who beats us to the punch.  And we love it!

Treat an appointment to see an apartment as you would a business meeting.  Would you flake on an important presentation with your biggest client?  Confirming the appointment 24 hours in advance shows professionalism and that you’re really interested in the unit.  It also tells your prospective new landlord that you’re the type of tenant that makes your rental payments on time too.

be on time clocks

There’s a lot of crazy traffic in LA.  A lot.  So you’re going to have to plan accordingly to make it to your appointment on time and find parking.  We actually recommend that you show up early and take a walk around the neighborhood for 10-15 minutes to get acquainted with your potential new surroundings. Stumble into a cafe and grab a coffee or iced tea to go and check out the scene.

If after planning to be there on time, you find yourself running a little late, text or call to let them know that you’re running behind.  5-10 minutes late is manageable, but after that it just gets rude and cuts your tour short if they have another appointment scheduled.

TIP:  When you confirm your appointment with the property manager the day before, ask where there’s a good place to park.  They might have on-site parking or they can give you a heads up on some good places.  And be sure to read the signs when you do find parking as LA has permit parking practically everywhere.

do your research do your research coffee shop

When we meet a prospective tenant that has already read the ad we placed and visited the building’s website, we know they’re serious about renting because they’ve done their research.  A building’s website can provide you with a whole host of information like their pet policy, utilities that are included, parking for tenants, what appliances the unit comes with, etc. There’s nothing more annoying than someone who shows up late and then asks basic questions that were already answered if they had just read the ad that they responded to. Reading up on this ahead of time and knowing that the building meets your needs, saves both you and the property manager time on the tour and headaches further down the line if you end up moving in.

ask questions CGyRKRJ3fTKEcp6j49Agv9K9

We know someone is really interested in the apartment when they start to ask really good questions or talk about furniture placement. These are key indicators to a property manager that you like the place and are thinking of calling it home.  You can ask about things like the building’s policy in regards to wall painting, visitor parking, if it’s under rent control, the maintenance team’s response time to requests, area safety, pool hours,  etc.  Ask about things that might be a level deeper than what they would typically list on their website and that you’re interested in knowing more about.

And definitely ask about when the apartment will be ready for move-in, the application process, if there are any applications currently in on the apartment, and when they expect to make their decision.

TIP:  Keep in mind that divulging demographic information about the building is taboo in the world of Fair Housing laws, so the property manager probably won’t be able to answer questions about the people that live in the building.  Instead, after the tour ends or during the weekend, take a walk throughout the complex to take a peek into who your new neighbors will be.

be ready to leave a deposit be ready to leave a deposit

If after meeting the property manager and seeing the apartment in person you fall even more in love with it than you did online, be ready to leave a deposit to hold the apartment.  Bring your checkbook with you or cash to go grab a money order or cashier’s check.  Being prepared to jump on a place may be the difference between you scoring that apartment and the property manager’s next appointment snatching it up.

come prepared come prepared

When you’re apartment searching, it’s best to come armed with all of the documents that a property manager may request from you so that the application you put in for the apartment is complete and accurate.  Here’s a quick rundown:

  • A pen
  • A copy of your most recent pay stub or offer letter if you haven’t started your new job yet
  • A copy of your credit report (keep in mind, they may still run their own credit check)
  • Top Tip to Give You The Edge:  Written references from 1-2 past landlords
  • The deposit mentioned above

be honest and upfront be honest and upfront

If you’ve got credit problems, tell the property manager and highlight what steps you’re taking to resolve them or bring a letter from your current landlord that states your payment history (make sure it’s stellar).  If you really want the unit, let them know if you’re open to paying a higher deposit too.  Some landlord’s are happy to approve a tenant with minor credit issues if they’re honest about them and demonstrate a steady stream of healthy income.  It’s also good to point out if you don’t have any pets, are a non-smoker, or if you’re a quiet tenant as these usually mean that you’re a resident that a landlord won’t receive complaints about once they move in.

follow up thank you card

After putting in an application, wait a couple of hours and then send a thank you email to the person who showed you the apartment.  Let them know how much you appreciated their time and touch on the things you loved about the apartment and the community.  Tell them that you’d make a great addition to the community and would love to have them as a landlord or property manager.  These kind words can go a long way if they’re wading through multiple applications.

We hope that after reading these eight tips, you’ll be on your way to creating sweet new memories in your perfect new pad.  Be sure to check out our tips for getting your security deposit back and ways to warm up your new place for fall too.

How did you score your perfect place?  Let us know in the comments below.

photos: the every girlfeathered homechatelaine, lauren conradthe cab look, the remodeled life, the krazy coupon lady, folksy

how to negotiate when you receive a rent increase

Your rent doesn’t have to go up every year.  Even though your Landlord or management company may have given you a notice that your rent will be increasing, we can help you negotiate getting a better deal.  Here’s five tips to navigating the rent increase waters.

know it’s not personal Apples

One of my friends just got a notice that their rent will be increasing now that their lease is up.  His girlfriend got angry and instantly went to the place of, “That’s it! We’re moving out!”.  Take a deep breath and know that the rent increase is not personal.  Sure it can be upsetting whenever your Landlord tells you that you have to pay a bit more, but even though the letter is addressed to you as a tenant, it has nothing to do with you personally. Business is business and you can bet everyone else in your building whose lease is expiring is getting the same letter you are.  Read the letter in full and then sleep on it a night or two (or three) to cool off.

do your research woman on computer

Find out if there are any comparable vacancies in the building and what they’re being advertised for.  If they’re being advertised for more than your increase amount, then you’ve got a great deal and should consider renewing your lease at the rate offered.  If the available unit is being advertised for less and is comparable to your own unit, schedule an appointment to talk to your manager about the discrepancy.  Keep in mind that often times vacant units are advertised with concessions to entice tenants to rent (first month free, $50 off for a longer lease term, etc).   Did you receive any concessions or discounts when you first moved in?

Also, take a look around to see what neighboring buildings and other vacant units in the same area are renting for to get a feel for the market.  If there are a ton of “For Rent” signs up around the neighborhood, this could give you some leeway when negotiating with your Landlord since they probably don’t want to take on another vacancy.  If there aren’t a lot of apartments available, that indicates a strong rental market and higher rental rates which could give your Landlord the upper hand.

If you live in a rent-control unit in West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, or Santa Monica, know what amount your Landlord is allowed to increase your rent.  This can usually be found on the City’s website or in a letter that the City sends to you.  The increase amount for a unit under rent control in West Hollywood is only 0.75% for Sept 1, 2013 – August 31, 2014.  For a unit renting at $1,800, this is only a $13.50 monthly increase.

UPDATE: The increase amount for West Hollywood is 1.25% for Sept 1, 2014 – August 31, 2015. For a unit renting at $1,800, this is only a $22.50 monthly increase.

make an appointment to talk couple meeting manager in person

If you want to negotiate, I recommend a face-to-face meeting versus a phone conversation or email because it is so much more personal (and it’s harder for your Landlord to say no to someone who made an effort to meet with them).  It’s ok to call or email to make the appointment, but try to make sure the conversation about the rent increase takes place in person if you can.  If your manager is receptive to talking about it over the phone when you call to make an appointment, by all means go with the flow.

Tell them when you’re requesting an appointment to meet that you’d like to discuss the rent increase letter you received so that they have time to review your file before the meeting.  I’ve had tenants do this and when they come in to talk, I already know that I can lower their rate or remove the increase completely.

be nice be-nice-linda-woods

This is always my number one piece of advice when dealing with the people who are in charge of where you live and how much rent you pay.  Start the conversation nicely and be honest – don’t go in thinking they’re the enemy.  Tell them how much you like living at the community and how you’d really like to stay.  If you’ve referred a friend to live at the same complex or others that they manage, let them know that too.  This shows them that you’re invested in your apartment and really view it as “home” versus a temporary location.

Tell them that you’d be willing to write a recommendation for use on their website (if you are) or sign a longer renewal term.  And definitely steer clear of the typical things Landlords and managers always hear from tenants.  Things like, “I’m a great tenant,” “I always pay my rent on time,” “I never put in maintenance requests”.  We expect you to be good tenants and pay your rent on time and we want you to tell us if something needs to be fixed.  These are not bargaining tools.  This is why we leased to you in the first place.

If the negotiation chat went well and you’re happy with the outcome, send your manager or Landlord a handwritten note to say thank you for taking the time to meet with you.  Or drop by on your day off to say thank you in person with a muffin or latte.  Being nice goes a long way and they’ll remember your kind gesture the next time your lease is up for a rent increase.

it never hurts to ask Woman-Asking-Questions

This is always my number two piece of advice when dealing with the people who are in charge of where you live.  If you don’t ask, we never have the opportunity to say yes!  Even if in your research you find that you’re paying a lower rate than what other apartments are going for, it still never hurts to ask if they can lower the increase amount. They might say yes (I have!). If you find that you’re paying more rent than new vacancies, ask to have the increase amount reduced, eliminated, or ask to have your rent lowered to the going rate of other apartments.  The worst your manager could do is say no.  If they’re not willing to negotiate, ask their reasoning behind it to better understand their position.

This is also a good time to negotiate an upgrade to your apartment if you choose to stay at the increased amount.  Would your Landlord be willing to install an A/C unit if you signed a new lease or a longer one like 18 months?  A screen door or ceiling fan?  Would they pay to have an accent wall painted or to have the carpets cleaned?  You may be able to find a compromise that would make you happy to stay at the increased rate even if they aren’t able to come down on the amount.

Have you ever negotiated when you received a rent increase letter?  Let us know in the comments below.

photos: dome creative, how to negotiate, fine art america, daily plate of crazy

simple steps to getting your security deposit back

Getting your security deposit back can be easier than you think.  We love sending our previous tenants a check for the full amount of their deposit because it means that they’ve taken care of everything that we’ve asked them to which translates into less work on our end to get that unit ready for the next tenant.  Here are nine easy steps to help you get the most of your security deposit back.

put in the proper notice 30 day notice

California law mandates that you give your Landlord proper written notice of your intention to move. Typically, this is a minimum of 30 days, but some leases may require a longer period like 60 days.  When you’re starting to think about moving out, re-read that section of your lease so you’re in the know on the length of notice you need to give.   If your lease ends on August 31st and you forget to give your notice until August 4th, your Landlord can hold you responsible for the remaining three days of rent to complete your notice period.  This rent amount is usually deducted from your security deposit refund.

We often get asked if you have to give your notice on the first or if you can give it any day of the month.  We recommend putting in your notice as soon as you know that you’re moving – even if it lands in the middle of the month or if it’s 42 days before your lease ends.  It’s ok to give more than 30 days notice as this gives your Landlord even more time to find another tenant.

give your notice in writing pretty notebook and pen

Always put your notice to vacate in writing and have all tenants that are on the lease sign and date it.  If you’ve got a great relationship with your property manager you may feel that texting them that you’re moving out or telling them in person is sufficient notice, but this is where problems can arise.  To protect yourself, we recommend writing a written notice, dating it, printing it out, and delivering to your manager in person or via certified mail.  You can even print out and sign two copies and have a place for the manager to sign and date when they received the notice.  Then you’ve got a copy to keep for your records too.  Keep in mind that you can’t back date a notice and try to slip it by your Landlord.  The 30-day notice clock doesn’t start until your notice is actually received and the Landlord or manager acknowledges it.

request a pre-move out walk-through clipboard calendar

After you provide your Landlord with your notice of intent to vacate, you have the right to request an “initial move-out inspection” of your unit to take place during the last two weeks of your occupancy. This provides you with a “heads up” on what your Landlord proposes to deduct from your security deposit so that you have the opportunity to complete the work and avoid the deductions. After the inspection, your Landlord should provide you with an itemized list specifying repairs or cleaning that is proposed to be deducted from your security deposit. Keep in mind that this list may not include any other items that could be deducted, such as damage to your unit that occurred after the inspection or that was not observable during the initial inspection (like a hole in the wall behind a sofa), the cost of missing keys or remotes, or defaults in payment of rent or other obligations under the lease.  As always, make your request for an initial move-out inspection in writing.

remove all of your belongings couple packing

This may sound like common sense, but you’d be surprised how often tenants will leave behind things like cleaning supplies, phone books, trash, curtain rods, shelving, mattresses, or unwanted furniture. Anything you leave behind, your Landlord has to get rid of or store which can result in deductions to your deposit.  A good rule of thumb is to leave the unit how you first received it when you moved in.  Your Landlord didn’t leave you cleaning supplies under the sink and a nightstand in the bedroom so make sure you take everything with you when you move.

remove any alterations you made Re-Paint

If you made any upgrades or alterations to your apartment during your tenancy, you will be responsible for restoring your unit to the condition in which it existed prior to the installation of such alterations. Don’t assume that because you “upgraded” the apartment your Landlord wants to keep it that way – unless the Landlord agrees in writing that you may leave your unit in its changed condition.  A lot of tenants feel that they “improved” their apartment by adding customized organizers or a different color paint, but the truth is that your Landlord probably wants to keep every unit consistent and in a certain condition to remain neutral for future tenants.  This includes that perky lemon-yellow wall you painted in the living room, pot rack you added in the kitchen, or ceiling fan in the bedroom.  If you want to determine if they’ll agree to let your unit remain in its changed condition, ask for an approval letter during your pre-move out inspection.

clean your apartment top to bottom white cleaning supplies

If you opt to clean your apartment yourself, make sure you do a very thorough job or you could risk being charged to re-clean your unit.  Tenants sometimes tend to overlook special details that professional cleaning services cover, like dusting the inside of light fixtures, washing the screens and windows, cleaning smoke detectors, or wiping down the baseboards and the outside of cabinets. You may find that while you’re busy moving into your new place, it may benefit you to just go ahead and have your Landlord’s cleaning company clean the apartment on your behalf, although keep in mind that this cost may be deducted from your deposit.

If you’re going to clean the unit yourself or hire your own cleaning crew, ask your management team if they have a checklist to follow (or use ours here) and don’t forget to also sweep out your garage and storage areas, wash down the patio, and steam clean the carpets.  Tell your Landlord ahead of time that you plan on cleaning the unit yourself and provide a copy of the receipts to them when you turn in keys.

request a final walk-through empty apartment

For the best protection, we highly recommend that you request to have a final walk-through inspection with your property manager on the actual move-out day after everything has been completely removed and cleaned. This should be scheduled in advance to make sure that a member of management is available and we suggest requesting it in writing when you give your notice or at least two weeks prior to your move-out date.  At this inspection, your manager should be able to tell you any charges that they will deduct from your deposit.

return all keys & remotes Vintage keys

You are required to return all keys and other items issued to you at move-in or risk being charged if you don’t.  This includes apartment keys, mail keys, trash keys, amenity keys/cards/ fobs, and/or garage remotes. Your unit is also not usually considered to be vacated until you return all of these items.  We also recommend not just leaving them in your unit, but hand them to your manager in person in a marked and dated envelope so that they know which unit the keys are for when they take them back to the office.

forwarding address & return of security deposit refund in mailbox

Always make sure that you provide your new forwarding address so that your Landlord knows where to send the refund check to.  In accordance with State law, it should be mailed to you along with an itemized statement of the deductions to the deposit with receipts verifying the cost of repairs or cleaning if the total costs exceed $125.  You should receive your check or statement within 21 calendar days after you vacate your unit.

We hope with these nine simple steps you’ll be on your way to getting back your security deposit and onto making your new place a sweet space.

What’s been your experience with your security deposit refund?  Let us know in the comments below.

photos: pinterest, written and posted, aka design, move advocate, sell property, lili halo decoration, tumblrpinterestshedding light on the path

how to find an apartment in LA

Seafoam bedroom

We’ll let you in on a little secret: sometimes the best apartments in LA aren’t listed where you’re looking.  As a property manager for over 8 years, when we were in Orange County, we listed the big building we managed on big, national websites and in printed guides.  When we were apartment searching for our move to LA 8 years ago, our tried and true sources for finding an apartment in Orange County didn’t pan out the same way in LA.

Turns out, LA has those big, new complexes, and yes, they are listed on those big websites, but what about all of those Old Hollywood buildings that were built in the 1930’s?  How come we couldn’t find those on ApartmentGuide.com?  And where were they listed for rent?  Here’s a breakdown of online resources to help you find the perfect place in the vast landscape of LA.

big website, big building. photo courtesy of the palazzo communities

If you’re looking online at big websites like Rent.com and Apartments.com, you’re going to find big buildings that have big advertising budgets.  More than likely, the buildings listed on these large sites are managed by large property management companies that can afford to pay for advertising.  A lot of buildings in LA aren’t listed on these national sites because they’re just too small to pay for advertising.

Here you’ll most likely find larger, newer complexes that offer modern amenities like central air and heat, a pool, gym, or concierge.  These buildings are often newer construction with a lot units.  If modern and big is your thing, check out these sites:

the real estate sites photo couresty of vrbo

If you’re looking to rent a condo, house, or guest house, try looking on real estate sites like Trulia & Zillow.  These sites are predominantly used to list real estate available for sale, but you can also find some unique places that are open to renting them out.  They may not have a huge selection of rental listings because these sites are marketed more for real estate sales, but we sometimes list our vacancies for our 1950’s Old Hollywood building on Trulia because it’s free to do so.

craigslist & westside rentals  photo courtesy of just above sunset

You’ve heard about Westside Rentals and you’ve seen their signs up everywhere, but you don’t want to pay the $60 for the two-month membership.  We didn’t want to either, but we did and found the place we live in now and love it.  It’s true: most listings you’ll find on Westside Rentals can also be found on Craigslist, but you’ve gotta hunt them down to find them.  The perks of WSR?  It has a lot more filter options for you to narrow down your apartment search and that $60 spent may save you a ton of lost hours pouring over Craigslist links.

Speaking of Craigslist…you’re probably already searching this site and scouring the many repetitive listings in hopes to find an apartment gem in that haystack of links.  This is the place that you’ll find the most listings because it’s free for Landlords to list.  We list our vacancies on this site every time we have an apartment become available because 1) it’s easy and free but 2) this site sends us the most traffic.  Here’s a few tricks for Craigslist:

  • Narrow down your search by using all of the filters available.  If your budget is $1500, put that in as your max to filter out unnecessary $2500 1 bedroom options.  And always always choose the “has image” option.  Also use a minimum price.  If you’re looking for a 1 bedroom for $1500, you’re going to filter out roommate situations and scams that offer a place at $500.  A good minimum price that we would suggest is around $1000 to $1100.
  • Search by a street name.  If you know you want to live in West Hollywood and drove up and down Croft, Kings, and Sweetzer looking for “For Rent” signs, use this as a way to better filter your results to narrow down the neighborhoods.

the secret weapons in la photo courtesy of houzz

There are a handful of smaller sites where you can find those hidden gems in LA.  These sites may not be super well known yet, but that’s just a matter of time and the beauty of using them.

  • RadPad is like the hipster Instagram for LA apartment hunters.  The listings may not be as large as Craigslist, but that’s just until this site catches on because it’s free for Landlords to list.  They’re great about mandating a minimum of three photos per listing and they email Landlords every week or two to check in to make sure the listing is still available.
    • UPDATE: You can even pay your rent online with a debit or credit card through RadPad.  It’s free for debit and there’s a small fee to use your credit card.  They’ll send a physical check to your landlord (who doesn’t even have to be using their service) with your name on it so your landlord knows who it’s from.  For more info on this awesome service, click here.
  • Padmapper.com and LiveLovely.com take listings from Craigslist and other sites and put them all on a map for you so that you can search by neighborhood.  This is a quick way to check out your desired ‘hood and see what the prices and listings are like out there.
  • The Rental Girl is a boutique-style free rental service where you get in touch with a fab chica who specializes in the ins and outs of your desired neighborhood and has listings that you probably won’t find on other sites.  Their listings may be a bit slim, but they’re exclusive, knowledgeable, and very helpful.
  • Shhh…our super secret weapon to finding a listing in West Hollywood is the City’s free rental referral list available on their website and updated weekly.  Here you’ll find those smaller “mom & pop” buildings in WeHo and maybe a super low rent rent-control unit that they have to offer at whatever the previous tenant was paying.  We’ve seen listings on here as low as $600.
  • Drive around.  Yes, this may be time consuming, but it’s also a great way to check out potential neighborhoods.  Some Landlords and building owners don’t even bother with listing their vacancies on websites because, guess what, they don’t have to.  It’s easy to throw up a sign in the front yard with a phone number and rent out the unit quickly in desired locations.  Our favorite 1920’s building on our street does this and rents out their 1-bedroom units for $2600 to celebrities like Andrew Garfield.  The sign is hardly up for more than a few days and they never even list online.  So grab lunch in a new location or take some side streets home to check out the rental landscape.  You may just find a sweet spot.

How is your apartment search going?  Let us know in the comments below.