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IdeaPaint is Awarded GREENGUARD Certification!

by Preservation Properties

This Article is brought to you by ReNest, an Apartment Therapy Blog.

We've written about IdeaPaint a few times — it's a great alternative to interactive surfaces such as chalk and magnetic paint. IdeaPaint is a single-coat paint that can transform any surface into a dry-erase surface and since our last posts, the company has upped its green-cred by getting GREENGUARD certified.

IdeaPaint can be applied directly over any existing wall or surface in your home. It can be recovered and resurfaced whenever needed — simple scuff the surface and coat with fresh IdeaPaint or regular paint. IdeaPaint can even be used to restore your old whiteboards rather than throwing them away. It's available in 10 colors and a number of formulations suitable for work, school and home.

According to IdeaPaint, many dry-erase surfaces contain formaldehyde, which slowly releases gas and diminishes indoor air quality for the life of the product. However, IdeaPaint is formaldehyde-free, conforms to all U.S. EPA regulations and does not produce any harmful gas once it’s dry. The company also claims that their product has less embodied energy than regular white boards because of less materials, labor and shipping needed. IdeaPaint has been recognized by Parent Tested Parent Approved and its entire product suite and has been recognized with GREENGUARD Indoor Air Quality and Children & Schools Certifications.

More GreenBuild 2010:


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Landlords, what repairs are too silly?

by Preservation Properties

Below, check out this great article that was just posted by Boston.com:

Every landlord needs to find his/her own balance. If the rent is competitive and the apartment is nice, a landlord can choose from a larger pool of tenants. That increases the odds of getting a tenant who reliably pays the rent, takes care of the place, and is not high-maintenance. Slumlords get slummy tenants and no one is happy. But how many tenant requests is a landlord required to do?

P. asked me:

What to do when tenant wants a repair when you think the repair is silly (one loose tile in 100 sq ft of tile)?
What happens when appliances fail in the rental (frig, dish washer etc)?

Like all things in landlord-tenant relationships, there should be room for discretion and negotiation. There is a lot of variation in expectation based on whether the rental is expensive for its type, competitive, or cheap.

The tenant is not being high-maintenance if the tenant is paying through the nose. If the apartment is top-of-the-line and is drawing a top-of-the-line rental charge, then that tile better be fixed. You, as a landlord, are collecting rent on luxury and need to provide luxury.

For a place with a moderate rental fee, if the kitchen looks fine -- except if you get on your hands and knees and stare at the floor – that’s different. It is reasonable to expect moderate rent-payers to accept imperfection until you get around to making cosmetic changes. If it really bothers them, you might do it to feel on the side of the angels. Do beware of the unintended consequences: once you do a silly repair, you may open the door for more silly repair requests.

As for the appliances. By law, an apartment must have a working stove. Dishwashers are optional. Refrigerators, washers and dryers do not need to be provided by the landlord in Massachusetts.

If an apartment is equipped with an appliance when it is rented, then the landlord needs to keep a working appliance in the unit. The tenants are used to it and should not have to do without it. So, if the apartment has a dishwasher and it craps out, get another one. That’s the general rule.
I have one exception in mind: If your apartment has a garbage disposal, I think you should take it out the next time your unit turns over. Those things constantly need to be babied and are just not worth the bother.

Do you have different advice for P.? Landlords, have you done silly repairs and lived to regret it? Tenants, do you think P. is being unfair to say a broken tile is silly?

5 Need to Knows For Novice Landlords

by Preservation Properties

Every once in awhile I get some really awesome information from InmanNews.com and this acticle is from them.  Really interesting information for landlords or anyone interested in becoming a landlord.

It's an occasionally awkward fact of life in this American economy: Scores of people who never have been landlords suddenly find themselves in the position of collecting rent checks every month because they can't sell their homes and are installing tenants instead.

Then there are the owners of vacation properties who have turned their getaways into sources of income by renting them out.

The situation is sometimes awkward when both of the above categories of property owners find themselves running a business and struggling with the bookkeeping skills and the knowledge of tax-law basics the Internal Revenue Service expects, according to an expert on small-business tax considerations.

"Many novices fail to realize that when you put a place up for rent, you're in a business," according to Abe Schneier, senior manager in taxation with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants in Washington, D.C. "You have to have a set of books and records that properly reflect your income and your expenses."

Five things for novice landlords to know about keeping their books in a way that will satisfy the IRS:

1. You really do have to keep books, period.

"You can't keep it on a scribble sheet," Schneier said. "When the IRS agent walks through the door, he's going to throw that back at you. It's not his job to do your bookkeeping."

But it doesn't have to be complicated, he said. "It can be as simple as using (an online spreadsheet system) or knowing how to keep a ledger sheet."

Whatever the system, it needs to be exactly that -- a system -- that readily separates income and expenses and clearly identifies and details entries in both categories. Plus, landlords have to retain and organize their receipts.

2. Deductibility can be a nifty thing -- maintenance, repairs and improvements that wouldn't be of any benefit (at least immediately) to the average homeowner can be write-offs for landlords, he said.

Examples of expenses incurred on properties that landlords can deduct from their income include: advertising, cleaning and maintenance, mortgage interest, insurance premiums, legal fees, utilities, property taxes and other costs.

The IRS also allows landlords to claim depreciation on their properties -- that is, that they "wear out" over the years, just as a manufacturer's equipment becomes used or is made obsolete over time. This can be a valuable deduction, but rules are complex. The government explains them at IRS.gov and in Publication 946, "How to Depreciate Property."

3. Landlords also can deduct the costs of traveling to their properties to collect rent or to perform work on them -- but only to a point, Schneier said.

"You have to be reasonable," Schneier said. "If it's a question of driving 50 miles to collect the rent, that's one thing. But if it's a condo in Hawaii and you're going to write off airfare and expenses to visit your vacation rental in Hawaii, you can run into some trouble.

"You have to show that the visit was substantially business-related," he said, with emphasis on "substantially."

The landlord of such a property must be prepared to justify to the IRS that it was important to be there for maintenance or repairs. The rule of thumb he advises landlords to observe is that at least 50 percent of the time spent visiting that property was devoted to its business needs, such as remodeling a bathroom or replacing furnishings, he said.

"You have to be able to show something -- not just a receipt from Home Depot for a couple of light bulbs," he said.

(If you own a vacation home and rent it out most of the time, the IRS allows you to vacation there up to 14 days a year and still considers it a business, he said.)

4. Over the long run, landlords should be careful to differentiate between maintenance and improvements, he said.

That's because when it comes time to sell the rental property, genuine improvements -- the costs of replacing (not just repairing) the roof, windows or furnace, for example -- can be deducted from the basis of your interest in the property and help reduce the capital gains on the sale.

And be careful how long you hold on to the records of such expenditures: The law requires you to keep everything at least three years, but no matter how long you hold the property, at sale time you'll have to have those improvement receipts to justify your capital gains claims, he said.

5. Schneier, of course, urges landlords to seek out a tax professional in order to get the full benefit from rental property deductions, etc.

But the IRS does publish voluminous information at IRS.gov; in addition to the aforementioned guide to figuring depreciation, it also publishes a number of pamphlets that break down the details of legal and bookkeeping requirements.

Those include Publication 527, "Residential Rental Property" and Publication 523, "Selling Your Home," which has tax information on sales of homes that have been partly used as rentals.

10 toughest things to get rid of

by Preservation Properties

At Preservation Properties, we follow A LOT of real estate and green blogs (if you haven't noticed yet).  Today, we bring you an article from Yahoo's Conscioius Consumer blog:

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It’s hard to know what to do with cans of leftover paint or electronics that have seen better days. You know you shouldn’t throw them in the trash, but they’re not typically recycled at the curb. So how exactly do you get rid of them?

Luckily, if you’re armed with the right info, it can be easier than you think to dispose of these things. It’s worth any extra effort because many of the items on this list contain toxic chemicals that can contaminate the environment or cause other damage if not carefully disposed of.

The laws for disposing of household waste vary depending on where you live, but here are some general guidelines and resources:

1. Batteries
Recycling rechargeable batteries is fairly easy. It’s a good thing because throwing out lead-acid batteries is illegal in 41 states, according to Trey Granger at Earth911. Home Depot, Staples, Radio Shack, Best Buy, and many other retailers take them back free of charge.

There are fewer options for single-use batteries, but look for bins at your local library. Otherwise, your best bet is a nearby household hazardous waste (HHW) drop-off site.

2. Electronics
Every retailer that takes back rechargeable batteries also accepts mobile phones, as do most wireless providers. For computers, cameras, televisions, and others it's worthwhile do a little homework because some stores charge fees depending on item and brand. Check out Best Buy, Staples, and Office Depot to see what's the best fit.

Some places, like Radio Shack, have trade-in programs where you can receive store credit for your old gadgets. You can also turn your old electronics into cash thanks to a growing number of websites designed to help you easily sell them.

3. Paint
This is among the harder items to dispose of, but it's still totally doable. Some ideas to try first: Do your best to make sure it gets used. Give it to a friend. Use it for primer. Donate it to a charity, such as Habitat for Humanity or a school theater group. If you can't reuse it, then search to see if you can recycle it.

If you just can't reuse it, you might need to throw dried paint in the trash if it's not against the law in your community. Remove the lid from a latex paint can and let it dry out until it's completely hard. Take any oil-based paints directly to your household hazardous waste center.

4. CFLs
Fluorescent bulbs contain tiny amounts of mercury that can leach out if broken, so it’s important to properly recycle them. Luckily, these energy-sipping light bulbs are relatively easy to get rid of. Just drop old bulbs off at any Home Depot or Ikea for free recycling, or search for other nearby solutions.

If you have absolutely no other options and must throw them in the trash, then the Environmental Protection Agency suggests sealing CFLs in two plastic bags before disposing.

5. Medications
Don't flush them down the toilet or pour them down the drain because tiny amounts of pharmaceuticals are making their way into our streams, rivers, and lakes. Your best bet is to find a program that will take back unused medications. Check with your local government to see if it's hosting a collection event. Ask if your pharmacy or HHW collection program will accept old prescription drugs.

Otherwise you’ll have to throw them in the trash. Remove all personal info before chucking bottles to avoid identity theft. Crush pills and try these other tricks to make medicines unusable in case they accidentally get into the wrong hands.

6. Cooking oil
Bacon grease or cooking oil can clog up your pipes and ultimately back up sewer systems. Rinsing with hot water as you pour it down the drain won't help. Once that grease cools down, it solidifies and sticks to pipes. Your best bet is to absorb small amounts of grease with shredded paper or kitty litter before throwing in the trash.

Or you can pour oil or bacon grease in a coffee can or other metal container and throw it out once it solidifies. Here are some other suggestions on disposing and recycling.

7. Aerosol cans
Empty cans can be recycled fairly easily through your curbside program or at your local recycling facility. Partially full cans are harder to get rid of. Don't try to empty them yourself. Instead, see if your recycling or HHW drop-off center will take them.

It's also not a good idea to send pressurized cans (empty or not) to a landfill because they can explode if a fire breaks out.

8. Appliances
Most retailers will take away your old refrigerator, dishwasher, or other large appliance when you purchase a new one. Also check with your municipality because many cities and towns offer free curbside pick-up. For small appliances, try Best Buy or Goodwill.

9. Packing materials
Bring packing peanuts and bubble wrap to a local mailing center (such as the UPS Store or Mail Boxes Etc) if you don’t have room to store them for future use. You can also give them away by listing on Freecycle or in the free stuff section on Craigslist.

Here are tips for what to do with annoying clamshell packaging, non-paper FedEx envelopes, and more.

10. Car stuff
Wal-Mart, Autozone, JiffyLube, and others recycle used motor oil. Ask if they'll take your old filters back for recycling too.

Return dead car batteries to the store where you are purchasing a new one and ask if they'll recycle it. If not, check with your local HHW center.

Green Decade November 2010

by Preservation Properties

Please click here to check out this month's Green Decade newsletter from Newton's Green Decade at http://greendecade.org

Green Decade's mission is to create an environment in better balance with the natural world by making significant, measurable improvements in the way we use resources. Goals include helping households, businesses and institutions to:

  • Increase energy efficiency and seek alternatives to fossil and nuclear fuels  
  • Use IPM and organic alternatives to pesticides
  • Promote high performance (green) building measures
  • Prevent pollution through source reduction and reduced consumption
  • Promote reuse and recycling practices
  • Improve waste disposal practices
  • Conserve water and other resources

-The Team at Preservation Properties

 

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Contact Information

Preservation Properties
439 Newtonville Avenue
Newtonville MA 02460
Office: 617.527.3700
Fax: 617.527.2050