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Tips to Help Prevent Child Identity Theft at Back-to-School Time

System - Wednesday, August 14, 2013
From after-school program forms and sports team physicals to school registration documents, there are a number of people that will have access to your child’s personal information at back-to-school time. Unfortunately, the personal details that you include in these forms could put your children at risk of identity theft.

Identity theft is a serious crime that could go undetected until a child is old enough to apply for a first credit card or rent an apartment.

“It’s important to ask why an organization needs your child’s full name, date of birth and Social Security number,” says Trey Loughran, president of the Personal Solutions unit at Equifax.

“This is your child’s identity— it’s something parents should not give away casually, especially as the incidence of identity theft continues to grow among Americans of all ages.”

Because children have a blank slate with no debt or credit history, they are often targeted by identity thieves.

A 2012 study by Javelin Strategy & Research, for example, found that at least 2.5 percent of U.S. households with children under the age 18 experienced child identity fraud. Researchers also concluded that child identity theft is under-reported, since the crime may not be discovered until the child is older.

In order to help prevent child identity theft and safeguard your children’s personal information during the back-to-school rush, consider these nine tips:

1. Only give out a child’s Social Security number if you have no other option. If you are asked to provide a child’s Social Security number, first ask why it is needed, if there’s another way your child can be identified, and how the sensitive information will be protected.

2. Before providing any personal information, ask how the school or organization stores and discards sensitive documents.

3. Carry your children’s Social Security cards, birth certificates or passports with you only when necessary.

4. When you are not using these documents, keep them locked in a safe place.

5. Use a cross-cut shredder to destroy all documents with your children’s full name and other identifying details, including date of birth. If you have a large number of documents after the back-to-school frenzy, consider attending a local shredding event, where you can bring your documents and shred them in bulk.

6. Make sure that your children use passwords to protect their smartphones and tablets. Educate them about the importance of changing passwords frequently and never sharing their passwords with others.

7. Talk to your children about the importance of protecting their personal information on social media. Children should never post their full name, address, date of birth or other personal details on social media websites.

8. Teach your older children who use credit, debit and ATM cards to check their statements each month and to be discreet when keying in PINs.

9. Consider using a credit monitoring and identity theft protection product for your family, such as the Equifax Complete Family Plan, which can help protect the identities of two adults and up to four minor children in one comprehensive plan.

By taking proper precautions with your children’s sensitive information, you can help protect against identity theft.

Save $$ While Cleaning

System - Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Often the advertising media prompts you to purchase various cleaning products because they look great and promise to deliver great results. The reality is that you probably have items around the house that are inexpensive, work as well as the costly ones, and can be less toxic and are biodegradable. Using common household ingredients such as baking soda, vinegar, and ammonia, as cleaning products can definitely help your budget and save you a considerable amount of money over time. 

Here are household tips to save money and produce great results while cleaning. 

Air freshener: place a bowl of vinegar in the kitchen or bathroom to absorb odors. 

Drains: for a great once-a-month drain cleaner, pour 1/2 cup baking soda into the drain, follow with 1/2 cup white vinegar - it will foam. Cover and let sit 30 minutes and then flush with cool water. For stubborn, slow-running drains: pour 1-cup baking soda and 1-cup salt down the drain. Follow this with 2 quarts boiling water. Let sit 30 minutes, and then flush with cool water. 

Tile countertops: to clean ceramic tile, where mold and mildew accumulate, use a combination of 1/4 cup baking soda, 1/2 cup white vinegar, 1-gallon warm water, and 1-cup ammonia. 

Kitchen surfaces: regularly clean all kitchen surfaces by using a spray bottle mixed with 1/2-cup vinegar and a quart of water.

Glass cleaner: when glass-cleaning products leave residue on bathroom mirrors, mix a 1/2-cup vinegar with a quart of water in a clean plastic spray bottle. Spray glass and wipe with a clean paper towel. 

Dishwasher: to deodorize, empty the dishwasher, pour in a 1/4 cup of vinegar or sprinkle in a little baking soda, and run the dishwasher again. Even if you prefer not to use the dishwasher, run at least once a week to keep seals from becoming hard and cracked. 

Refrigerators: clean regularly with soap and water; wipe down with vinegar and water to remove residue; place a cup of baking soda in a bowl on a refrigerator shelf to absorb odors. A cup of dry unused coffee grounds can also absorb odors when placed on a refrigerator shelf. 

Washing machine: add a quarter or half a cup of baking soda to the washing machine with regular detergent to help with mild odors. This will keep that musty smell out of towels.

Toilets: remove waterline marks in the toilet bowl by pouring in 2 cups of white vinegar. Let soak overnight, then flush to rinse. If this does not work, rub the waterline mark with a wet pumice stone. 

Deodorize many areas: sprinkle baking soda in shoes, empty ice chest, garbage receptacles, and more. Sprinkle on carpets and vacuum.

For help with carpet stains: 
Vacuum the carpet if the stain is dry. If the stain is still wet, blot gently to remove excess - blot, do NOT rub. Lightly soak the carpet stain with clean water first to remove the stain - blot, do NOT rub. If the stain remains, mix a 3 Tablespoons of vinegar with a quart of water in a spray bottle and spray the stain; blot again; do NOT rub. If this fails, consult a professional carpet cleaner immediately; the longer you wait may mean the stain may not come out.

There are many more ways to use these home products and economize all year round. Many of them you can find in bulk at even bigger cost-savings. Search the Internet for more tips on using simpler products, then use them and save your money for activities that are more enjoyable or necessities. 

The material provided in this newsletter is for informational and educational purposes only. It is NOT legal advice. 
Although we believe this material is accurate, we cannot guarantee that it is 100% without errors. 

Services Provided By Property Management Newsletters 288 N. Hartford St. Chandler, Arizona 85225 United States

Handling Emergencies and Disasters

System - Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Emergencies and disasters happen and in many instances, you cannot avoid them. Webster terms an emergency as "an unexpected situation that requires prompt action" and a disaster as "a grave occurrence having harmful results." 

In the property management world, we see emergencies such as loss of heat, a gas leak, a water leak causing flooding in the property, etc. - basically, the emergencies are anything that endanger a tenant's well-being. A disaster would be a major flood, tornado, hurricane, tsunami, landslide, earthquake, or some other natural act of nature. This year, once again, many parts of the country have suffered devastating events that no one can stop, or even predict, such fires, flooding, hurricanes, and tornados. 

Since you cannot avoid many emergencies or disasters, the only choice in our business is to be prepared with emergency procedures for when they happen. There are three keys areas to plan - before, during, and after the event in question. 

1. Before the event 

+ Plan emergency/disaster office procedures and train personnel. 
+ Prepare tenants, whenever possible, on what to do in the event of an emergency/disaster. 
+ Identify emergency services to call when the situation happens. 
+ Identify vendors who will service the necessary repairs/cleanup. 
+ Monitor reports when there are events predicted.

2. During the event 

+ Implement office emergency/disaster procedures. 
+ Monitor conditions closely as they are happening. 
+ Keep all incoming lines open when possible. 
+ Prioritize "emergencies" during any situation. 
+ Counsel tenants as needed. 
+ Initiate critical repairs. 
+ Evacuate properties if necessary. 
+ Close the office, if necessary, with recorded emergency instructions.

3. After the event 

+ Determine the extent of the damage and cost of repairs/cleanup. 
+ Notify owners as soon as practical. 
+ Issue notices to vacate if the situation warrants.

What can a property owner do during an emergencies/disaster? The before, during, and after items listed previously outline what the property management company has to do when an emergency or disaster occur. The owner has some key roles as well. 

+ Owners should check yearly to ensure they have adequate insurance needed for emergency/disaster situations. It is important to make time to research different insurance companies for the best coverage. 
+ If advised of necessary preparations that would help the property or a pending situation, heed them. 
+ When an emergency/disaster occurs, it is crucial to understand that the property manager must handle the situation first, and notify owners when the situation allows. 
+ If it is a disaster situation, it is important to avoid repeated calls, tying up crucial telephone lines and demanding to know the situation. Unnecessary calls could interrupt important actions that may affect your property. You need to counsel family members as well regarding calls. 
+ Be patient during the aftermath of any major situation. It takes time to figure out the best solution, such as what vendor can do the work and how long the work will take. In some situations, it can be months to obtain the services of contractors and complete the jobs. 
+ Work with your insurance company to assist the property manager. Companies often only want to communicate with the owner of the property - so help us out. 
+ Extend support to our company when it is necessary to evacuate the tenant for their safety and to repair the property. This can also reduce liability to you. 
+ Do not take the situation personally - it is something no one can prevent and everyone needs to work together to work through the problems.

No one likes to think about an emergency or disaster, much less experience them. By preparing in advance wherever possible, using common sense, and taking each step at a time, these events pass and reach resolution. 

The material provided in this newsletter is for informational and educational purposes only. It is NOT legal advice. 
Although we believe this material is accurate, we cannot guarantee that it is 100% without errors. 

Services Provided By Property Management Newsletters 288 N. Hartford St. Chandler, Arizona 85225 United States

Avoiding Those Pesky Pests

System - Monday, May 20, 2013

Nobody likes to have an annoying pest around. It doesn't matter what it is; it could be ants, spiders, wasps, hornets, mosquitoes, cockroaches, and larger varmints. They can sometimes be more than an annoyance; they can also cause harm and carry disease.

Most of the time, you can avoid an invasion from these pesky critters. Like any living creature, pests need three things - food, water, and shelter. Eliminate these and you most likely will avoid an invasion.

We have compiled a list of useful tips to see if you need to take action to avoid a problem in and around your residence.

  • It is a good practice to restrict eating to kitchen and dining areas but wherever it occurs, it is important to keep all areas clean where food is consumed and possibly dropped. Talk to everyone in your residence about the importance of keeping all food cleaned up and to avoid walking while consuming food.
  • Keep floors clean throughout the house. Sticky floors with residue are a great attraction for pests. Vacuum regularly and wet mop when warranted.
  • Keep dishes rinsed and/or washed, even in the dishwasher. Run your dishwasher regularly. Many pests, like ants, will be attracted to leftover food, particularly if this is an ongoing habit in your home.
  • Keep countertops, cooking appliances, garbage disposals, and drains clean and deodorized as well.
  • Pet dishes are a big attraction for pests. Clean all containers and where they are kept regularly. If possible, keep them outside of your residence and away from entry doors.
  • Store food properly, keeping containers sealed and all residue wiped off containers. If it is something that is particularly attractive to pests, keep it in the refrigerator if possible.
  • Watch fruits and vegetables carefully if you store them outside of your refrigerator. Ripening items can attract bugs, particularly ants and fruit flies.
  • Take out garbage regularly. Spoiling items inside the home are a definite problem; this will also help reduce the odor in your residence.
  • Keep all outside garbage receptacles as clean as possible and put them out for regular pickup. When empty, rinse out any food debris.
  • During the warmer months, it is sometimes better to keep leftover food wrapped securely in the refrigerator or freezer until trash day to avoid problems with rotting garbage, which only invite unwanted pests or predators.
  • Avoid standing water in and around your residence. Stagnating water can attract dangerous mosquitoes, causing severe illness. Do not leave water standing in sinks and bathtubs. Clean up puddles inside and outside the residence as soon as possible.
  • Don't give unwanted pests a home - clean up clutter, boxes, and debris; do not store wood inside your home or garage.
  • Keep areas inside and outside your home dry - moisture only attracts problems.
  • Clean up debris or fallen leaves around the exterior of your home.
  • As your property manager, we want you to have a positive experience in your residence. Therefore, it is important to remember to report maintenance problems. Certain maintenance items can lead to increased pests, such as ripped or missing screens, missing caulk, cracked baseboards, and more. Always call if you experience leaking faucets, toilets, dishwashers, sprinklers, etc. Remember, we can't help you with this unless you let us know.
  • Follows these tips and they will assist you in reducing problems with pests.

Take The Fair Housing Quiz

System - Monday, April 1, 2013
April is considered National Fair Housing Month. Different organizations hold a variety of events; articles and seminars increase to raise the awareness of Fair Housing and what it really means. Nowhere is there more emphasis on this than in the Real Estate/Property Management industry. Complying with Fair Housing is of highest priority to the business of owning and renting property.

Fair Housing is a simple concept, "don't discriminate" but following it is not always an easy task. The Federal Fair Housing Act and its many subsequent acts, in both the Federal and state courts, have been the result of many lawsuits involving the interpretation these laws. Judgments have resulted in penalties in the millions against those that do not comply with Fair Housing. Discrimination is a serious problem.

As your property management company, we know that we must understand and follow Fair Housing to the letter to protect our clients and their investments. Additionally, it is important to us to keep you apprised of Fair Housing. Therefore, we have provided you with the following quiz on of this important issue so you can see how well-versed you are in this area.

Are the following statements TRUE or FALSE?

  1. The purpose of the 1968 Federal Fair Housing Act is to ensure that everyone has equal access to housing regardless of their race, national origin, religion, sex, color, disability, familial status. True, this is the basic Fair Housing Act of 1968.
  2. The Civil Rights Act of 1968 is commonly known as the Fair Housing Act. True, the Civil Rights Act of 1968 is referred to as the Fair Housing Act.
  3. HUD is the department of Human Resources and Urban Development. False, HUD is the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
  4. The American Disabilities Act was enacted in 1968. False, the American Disabilities Act was enacted in 1988.
  5. Property Owners can discriminate against service animals. False, property owners cannot discriminate against service animals.
  6. Property Owners can charge an additional deposit for service animals. False, property owners cannot charge an additional deposit for service animals.
  7. It is acceptable to use advertising with phrases such as executive home, no kids, and only singles. False, these are considered discrimination in advertising and violate Fair Housing.
  8. Housing providers must provide equal opportunities to all prospective buyers or renters, whether or not they speak English or are United States citizens. 
  9. President John F. Kennedy signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968. False, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968 or what is commonly referred to as the Fair Housing Act.
  10. Sex was added as a protected class six years later in 1974. Protection from gender discrimination includes any form of sexual harassment and, as proven by recent court cases and legislation, victims of domestic violence are also afforded protections. Yes, sex was added as a protected class in 1974.
  11. Discrimination in renting is now considered a practice of the past. False, the fight to provide Fair Housing and avoid discrimination is still an ongoing issue.
  12. Despite the protection afforded those with disabilities, it is illegal for a housing provider to reserve an accessible unit only for those with disabilities. True, a housing provider does not have to reserve an accessible unit for only those with disabilities as long as there is no discrimination involved for any party.

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