Cigarette Smoke Damage

Much of the discussion around traditional cigarettes centers on the dangers they pose to our health. The list of risks smoking poses to your health and the health of those around you is almost endless – there’s risk to your lungs and heart, and risks to your teeth in terms of staining, as well as your appearance. However, we don’t hear as much about the effects cigarette smoking can have on the inside of your home. Just like your body and health, long-term cigarette smoking inside your home can cause sometimes irreparable damage. Effects like clinging odor can be unpleasant for non-smoking guests, and damages caused by smoking can reduce the resale value of your home.

Fire Hazard
When left unattended, a burning cigarette can lead to a full-blown fire whose effects can range from smoke damage to a complete loss. These fires can sometimes be fatal for the smoker and other occupants in the house. The U.S. Fire Administration estimates that nearly 1000 smokers and non-smokers are killed each year by fires caused by cigarettes.

Ceilings, Walls, Furniture and Floors
Cigarette smoke contains a variety of chemicals, some of which cling and build up on surfaces that are exposed to it. In your home, cigarette smoke can build up and stain walls and cause wallpaper to curl. Walls too can see nicotine stains build up and discolor them. If the smoking goes on for long enough, the particles can literally embed themselves in sheetrock and be impossible to remove. If you’ve ever used the smoking huts at Atlanta’s airport, you can’t help but notice how discolored the ceiling tiles and walls are.

Besides clinging to walls, curtains and other household items, cigarette smoke can also cling to electronic components (especially computers) and have disastrous effects over time. For example, with computers, the smoke will cling to anything that’s emitting heat (i.e. fans, capacitors, processors, etc.). This heat attracts a good bit of “dust” already, but the dust just magnifies when you add cigarette smoke to the mix. Also, cigarette smoke carries moisture with it and can lead to both a corrosion of parts and a dangerous build-up of dust.  Dust and chemicals can even work their way through your walls and coat the inside of your electrical outlets.

Air Conditioning System
Your home’s A/C and heating system is critical to keeping your home comfortable, especially if you live in the Deep South or in a really cold region. The system(s) work by pulling in outside air through a filter. Every so often, these filters require changing.
Smoking in your home adds to all the dust, pet hair and other particulate matter in the air. These particulates have to be caught by the filter. As you can imagine, cigarette smoke will dramatically shorten the time between filter changes. Not changing the filter(s) more frequently while smoking in your home can cause your A/C system to overwork and possibly break down.

Cigarette smoking can have immediate effects that are noticed right away, especially by guests or anyone else living in the home. But over time, the smoke can literally embed itself in everything and even destroy things beyond repair.

Don’t Trust, Always Check

A home owner was purchasing a new home and upon a walk through they noticed a small door leading to an attic was locked.  The seller said she locked it because she had family heirlooms and didn’t want them touched.  So, the perspective buyers took her word and respected her wishes and didn’t open the hatch.  During the inspections process, the inspector did the same.  A couple of weeks later, they finally did open the door and noticed mold growth all over the wood of the attic.  We were called out, provided an estimate and were hired to perform the remediation.  This particular attic cost just over six thousand dollars to clean, and because they didn’t have any proof that the previous home owner knew of the mold, and the fact that the inspector also didn’t check, there was nothing they could do, but take it as a life lesson.  Not everyone is deceptive, but when dealing with any form of transaction, especially large ones like a home, you should never trust anyone and always do everything within your power to know what you’re getting into.

They’re Everywhere

When one is gone, three more show up.  It feels that way in the restoration business and you should be concerned.  Not long ago, a one time major restoration company went out of business.  They had several trucks, ten to twelve employees and over one hundred and fifty thousand dollars worth of equipment, not to mention several locations.  But their practices of short cutting, overcharging customers and scamming insurance claims through shady public adjusters finally caught up.  That sounds like like the end of the story right?  But it’s not.  The employees of companies like this, either basic tech’s or supervisors behind the scams start businesses not long after.  They buy the used equipment off of their previous defunct employer, lease a new truck, get a new name and claim to have many years of experience.  So how do you protect yourself?

First, you can ask for a copy of their license, which you have every right too.  Contractors can block out personal information on a license or EIN form, but they should never hide when the company was filed.  Another way to find out how long they’ve been in business, is to use sites that track website analytics which usually display the date of when the domain was registered and how long the site has been up.  Lastly, ask questions.  There’s nothing wrong with asking a contractor where their office is located, if they have one, where did they previously work and can they show documentation as to the training they claim.  Remember, hiring a contractor is a short term partnership and you’re allowing someone not only into your home, but into your life.

Properly Vetting Tenants

Most investors are all too familiar with the horror stories of what can go wrong when you have the misfortune to land a problem tenant. But the best way to avoid such nightmares – and thus maximize the returns on your investment – is to try and select a good tenant in the first place. Whether or not you decide to leave the tenant selection process in the hands of a property manager, it is sensible to have a solid set of vetting criteria in place.

When it comes to vetting potential tenants, landlords should:

  1. Require them to fill out a detailed application form.
  2. Get both professional and personal references and thoroughly verify them.
  3. Request at least three months bank statements.
  4. Use a credit referencing service.
  5. Get extra information – eg: a utility bill in the tenant’s name.
  6. Ask them to show evidence of assets.
  7. Speak to their current real estate agency and, if possible, some previous landlords to establish their rental history.
  8. Call their current employer and, if possible, a past employer to establish their employment record.
  9. Ask for a copy of their passport and/or driver’s license.
  10. Secure a guarantor – eg: a parent.
  11. Check tenancy databases to see if they have been listed as a bad tenant.
  12. Always meet them in person to assess them and get a feel of who they are.

Essentially, you should be looking for a tenant who is in stable employment and has a regular income; has a solid rental history; and who is reliable, diligent, responsible and house-proud. Finally, it is also a good idea not to rush into a decision too quickly… An extra week or two of rent might pale in significance compared to a bad tenant decision made in a hurry.

How To Help Louisiana Flood Victims

After historic floods ravaged parts of southern Louisiana over the weekend and left thousands evacuated, waters are beginning to recede and cleanup efforts are underway. Many organizations are lending a helping hand with food, supplies and cleanup efforts. There are many ways you can support victims as they pick up the pieces and begin again.

Here are a few organizations that need your help as residents recover from what the American Red Cross calls the worst disaster since Hurricane Sandy.

American Red Cross

The Louisiana branch of the American Red Cross is providing meals and dozens of shelters for residents needing a safe place to sleep. A detailed listing of the organization’s efforts, facilities and needs can be found here and you can contribute financially by either visiting here or by texting the word LAFLOODS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Salvation Army

The Salvation Army is working from its Baton Rouge facility to help those evacuated during the flood. The organization has sent extra personnel to the area to provide mobile feeding units, hygiene kits and to help in cleanup efforts. You can volunteer or donate money to the Salvation Army’s Gulf Coast fund.

The United Way

Donations for flood relief can be made through the United Way of Southeast Louisiana website. They are also seeking volunteers.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans & Acadiana

This organization is seeking financial support as they distribute thousands of pounds of food, water and supplies to flood victims.

Convoy of Hope

This faith-based, nonprofit organization is providing food, water, equipment and relief supplies to southern Louisiana. You can donate here and specify that you would like your donation to go to the Louisiana August 2016 flood relief efforts.

Operation Blessing International

Operation Blessing International is another faith-based, nonprofit that has already deployed volunteers to help in cleanup efforts and reconstruction. For more on their relief efforts in Louisiana, you can find information here. If you’re interested in volunteering, email and to offer financial support, you can donate here.

LSU Fund

Louisiana State University’s Zeta Phi Beta sorority has a GoFundMe site, which is aiming to raise $10,000 and disburse it to students impacted by the flooding.

Save the Children

This organization that serves children and their families around the world is providing support to help with emergency assistance in flooding areas. To support their efforts, you can donate to the Gulf Coast Floods Children’s Relief Fund.

Animal Shelters

There are several animal shelters in the area that are seeking donations, volunteers and foster parents for hundreds of rescued pets, including Companion Animal Alliance, as well as a GoFundMe site for Denham Springs Animal Shelter.

Drop Off Items

If you live in the area, there are a number of places where you can drop off items like diapers, pillows, bedding, toiletries, clothing, car seats, mattresses, food, gift cards, stuffed animals, pet food and water bottles. See a full list of locations accepting donations here.

Inspect Even When Renting

For many people, renting a house or apartment isn’t because they can’t afford to purchase one, but rather the comfort in knowing they can leave when their lease is up and repairs are not their responsibility.  With that being said, many never consider inspecting the apartment prior to signing a lease.  But insuring the apartment’s utilities function properly and everything is in working order can save you the hassle of going back and forth with your landlord.  And you should also check if the apartment has been affected by water damage and mold.  Mold inspections are quite affordable, ranging from $300 to $400 for air sampling and will be key for telling you whether or not the dwelling is safe.  Many calls are fielded by us each week with tenants suspecting or knowing they have mold issues and having no success with their landlord for the proper repairs.  By performing a mold inspection prior to the lease, this whole mess can be avoided.  You can also ask the landlord to supply you with one or maybe even work out a deal to pay half each.  If a landlord is confident their apartment is safe, then they should have no problem having the dwelling checked.  It’s easier to spend the upfront costs for proper inspections prior to moving into a new rental, rather than dealing with what could turn out to an issue lasting months and even ending up in court.

Thanks to Philadelphia Police

As a resident of Philadelphia, the Democratic National Convention has come to an end and with it, thousands and thousands of visitors will be leaving the city and doing so without incident.  First handedly, I watched protestors peacefully demonstrate while others yelled at police and all the while, the men and women in blue said nothing and kept composed. At Broad and Pattison Avenue, the city truly looked like nothing I’ve ever seen before, with people sleeping in tents in FDR park, a farming protestor walking with an alpaca, hundreds of flags in various colors and an eight foot fence stretching all the way to the Navy Yard.  Along the streets, hundreds of police officers stood by, keeping the mass crowds in order while enduring the first major heat wave of the summer.  Real feel temperatures were over one hundred degrees, and through all the people, the emotions and the fact that the DNC didn’t want a uniformed officer to be shown on camera, the police department maintained the streets to be safe.  They endured shouts from frustrated pedestrians and motorists because of the heavy traffic and road closures, and still kept composed and did a fantastic job.  So we would like to thank the Police department and all members of law enforcement who worked the long hours in the heat to keep the streets, the residents and even the protestors safe during this convention.