Welcome Thy Neighbor Sunday, Aug 7 2016 

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It’s Rough Out There Thursday, Apr 10 2014 

Cottage I manage a duplex in Berkeley for my family and see first hand how hard renting in the San Francisco Bay Area has become – for many it is harder than finding a good job. The Open Houses are packed with people, sometimes up to 50 applicants for one apartment (I hear in San Francisco the numbers are much higher), and the number of emails and inquiries are triple that.   After selecting the renter, I always send the other applicants an email to let them know they didn’t get the apartment. This past rental, several prospective tenants wanted to know if there was anything they could have done to improve their chances, and with some it was just a numbers game, but for others there were things they could have done that may have improved their chances.   Here are my tips:   It’s in the Details This is similar to finding and applying for a job. Read the rental Ad and follow any instructions listed in the Ad (how to contact, application/showing process, etc.) Pay attention to the details of the rental such as: vacancy, items included (parking, utilities, laundry), lease or month-to-month, pets allowed. Remember this is a very competitive process and the way you communicate with the landlord/rental agency may be considered in the end.  If the Ad is fairly descriptive and the rental process is outlined you should save your questions for the showing. Is it a Match? After reviewing the listing, make sure it works for your needs. If you need a place for six months, don’t waste time with a place that wants a one year lease, if you need a garage don’t waste time with a place that only has street parking, if you have a pet and the place does not take pets don’t waste time on it, etc. Also, check out the neighborhood of the apartment, either by using maps online or by going in person, but don’t bother the current occupants of the unit, you don’t want to be seen as pushy.   Be Flexible If the listing provides information on a public showing try to make it to the listed showing. Most landlords are overwhelmed with responses and they don’t need to and don’t have time to have several showings for an apartment.   Be Prepared Bring with you a current credit report that includes your credit score. Provide an explanation if your score is low. Bring proof of income (pay stubs, letter from current employer, etc.). If you don’t have a job but have plenty of funds, bring proof (bank statements, etc.). Bring the information you will need to fill out the application or bring an application that you have pre-filled out. The information you may need is: current and past employers, current and past residences, personal references, credit report, proof of income, and bring a pen. If you can, you might want to bring letters from current or past landlords or neighbors attesting to the type of tenant you are, this is especially useful if you are a dog owner.   Pets If you have a pet and pets are allowed, bring a pet resume (include a picture of the pet if you are not bringing the pet to the Open House) and references. Landords will want to know the pet is not going to be a problem. The San Francisco SPCA provides information for tenants on how to put together a  Pet Resume.   At the Showing When going to the showing make sure you park on the street and are considerate of the neighbors, you don’t want to be seen as pushy or entitled. Once there, take your time and really look at the place. I don’t suggest asking for an application or turning over your personal documents until you have spent some time looking at the unit and have asked some questions about the place. You want to clearly communicate your interest in the unit, so tell the landlord a little about yourself and the people/pets that would be living at the unit, and how it is the right place for you (be brief, especially if there are others waiting to speak to the landlord). Mention anything that might enhance the property for example, you like to garden and take pride in where you live.   It seems like a lot of work, but if you put a packet together you will be able to use it for multiple places, and it may make the difference in getting the place you want. Most landlords want hassle-free, low maintenance tenants, and the more you can convey that to the landlord, the more likely you will be chosen. Good luck in your search!

Plant a Pothole via Houzz.Com Sunday, Jul 8 2012 

Keeping Critters at Bay Wednesday, Mar 7 2012 

I have had raccoons coming in my yard for many years without any problems. Then about two years ago a raccoon discovered my dog door and came inside my house. Luckily I was home when it happened and scared the raccoon away. Since then, I have made sure to always lock up the dog door at dusk and that seemed to work. However, in the last several months I have been awakened in the middle of the night by a tap, tap, tapping at my back door, only to discover a raccoon trying to get in through the dog door.

I have done all of the preventive measures such as keep food, water, garbage and shelter unavailable to raccoons without success. Through some research I found some Raccoon Help and the solution is ammonia. Place a rag in a low, unbreakable container then pour ammonia on the rag, enough to cover the rag (the rag will help the ammonia from evaporating too fast). Next, put the container where you want to keep raccoons away, for me that was outside near the dog door. You can also use this method for keeping raccoons away from a lawn (you will need several ammonia stations for larger areas with multiple access points). Good luck!

Who Ya Gonna Call? Saturday, Sep 18 2010 

Have you ever wondered what do I do about this old abandoned car or about this pothole on my street or about this shopping cart full of junk or my noisy neighbors? You’re in luck if you live in Berkeley or San Francisco, just dial 311 and report the problem. San Francisco also lets you report issues on Twitter @sf311. To learn more about San Francisco’s 311 program visit http://www.sf311.org/ To learn more about Berkeley’s 311 program visit http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/PressReleaseMain.aspx?id=45976

311 is a non-emergency call system that many cities have instituted, in part to reduce the number of 911 calls they receive for non-emergency issues. Please still call 911 for emergencies. Here is a helpful link of the various cities across the country that have instituted the 311 system http://www.911dispatch.com/info/311map.html

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