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Todays Home Wisdom

How to Avoid Problems With Your Spring Renovations and Repairs

As soon as winter weather starts giving way to fairer days, folks start itching to get any planned repairs, maintenance and renovations started.

If you want to protect yourself from rogue and incompetent builders, take some advice from the Connecticut Better Business Bureau’s Howard Schwartz, who suggests a few time-honored procedures.

Schwartz says it is essential to obtain multiple estimates before signing a contract. Study these estimates to learn what type of work is needed, the quality of materials they plan to use, how long the job may take, and its total cost.

Schwartz says details may vary, but if one estimate is substantially lower than the others, ask why. Here are a few more tips:

Check bbb.org to learn how long a contractor has been in business, contact information, verified customer reviews, complaint details, and how the business responded.

Don’t be lured into signing a contract if someone offers a “today only” special. That is a sales tactic designed to get you to sign a contract or put down a deposit without giving you an opportunity to do your research.

Obtain references from recent customers. You may want to speak with other property owners who had work done recently.

Get everything in writing. All verbal promises should be contained in the contract, as well as a detailed description of the type of work needed, the quality of materials, how long the job may take, specifics about the deposit and payment schedule, and guarantees for the quality of work and materials.

Pulling permits. Contractors should obtain necessary permits as part of the job. If they’d rather not go for permits, it might be a warning sign.

Compare apples to apples. Choosing a prospective contractor is simpler if you ask for quotes based on the number of hours needed and the same quality of materials.

Finally, avoid putting down a large deposit. Schwartz says a typical schedule follows the “Rule of Thirds.” The first payment is made when signing the contract, the second when work begins, and the final payment when the job is finished and you are satisfied with the quality of work.

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Real Estate Q&A: Can I Get My Neighbor to Pay for Her Tree’s Damage to My House?

(TNS)—Q: My neighbor’s large, seemingly dead tree overhangs my screened-in pool and has long made me nervous. I have repeatedly asked her to remove it. She always ignored or rejected my requests. During a hurricane, the tree finally came down, like I knew it would, and damaged my pool cage and house. The damage, while expensive, was less than my insurance deductible. Can I get my neighbor to pay for the damage?

A: The rules regarding neighbors’ trees that overhang or intrude on your property are long settled and have been discussed in this space before: If a branch or root extends on your property, you may trim the tree back to the property line but may not kill or unnecessarily damage the tree. If you do not take the opportunity to do this, and your property is damaged as a result, you would bear the repair costs.

The concept is, simply stated, that it is better to let you protect your own property in a reasonable way, then subject your neighbors to the burden—and the public to the numerous lawsuits that would ensue if the rule were any different.

However, your situation was not typical since the tree may have been dead and you had repeatedly warned your neighbor of the problem it could cause. In determining whether you can seek reimbursement from your neighbor, the health of the fallen tree should be considered. If the tree was dead, and your neighbor knew it could cause a problem, she can be held responsible for the repairs in court.

Generally speaking, when a neighbor’s living tree falls on your house, you need to make your own repairs—but if the tree is dead, then your neighbor is on the hook.

Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar.

©2018 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
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Planning Your Spring ‘To Do’ List? Don’t Forget to Go Outside!

I know it’s warm and cozy doing your spring cleaning inside, but remember that spring cleaning plans should include a thorough walk around outside, as well.

The Marsh & McLennan Agency LLC (MMA) in Minneapolis tells homeowners that an early inspection and maintenance of their property is extremely important to prevent risk. To assist in that, MMA has compiled a checklist of things to inspect each year:

Review the roof. The company suggests starting by inspecting your roof for broken or missing shingles and interior rafters for water stains. Most water stains will be found around or below an inadequately flashed chimney, skylight and other openings.

Gut the gutters. MMA says gutters are able to perform when kept clean, so remove dirt and debris from all gutters and downspouts.

Look at lights. Lighting maintenance includes inspecting street lights, outdoor light fixtures, and indoor common-area lighting to promote safety and security. Make sure lights are clean and void of any dust, dirt or salt, which can result in lost energy and money. If lights are burnt out, think about replacing them with high efficiency CFL or LED bulbs.

Don’t miss the deck. When inspecting a deck or porch, look for peeling, splintering or rotting boards, and whether the wood is unprotected. If left unprotected, wood will soak up moisture and could lead to very serious damage. If a deck or porch needs to be resealed, clean it first with soap and water to clear off any mildew or mold, then after it is clean and dry, apply sealant, stain or paint.

Take care of trees. Remove dead wood and broken branches from trees or bushes. Replant shrubs, bushes and/or flowers that have worked their way out of the soil, and rake the ground.

Freshen with fertilizer. If necessary, add new soil, mulch and/or sod and lay fertilizer. Then, plant any new seeds or plants and implement a watering schedule.

Patch potholes. Finally, MMA says spring is a great time to repair cracks and potholes. First, determine the source of the issue so you can address and fix the root of the problem. It is always best to make these repairs as quickly as possible to prevent any type of hazardous conditions.

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About Chautauqua

Chautauqua County occupies the extreme southwest corner of New York State. The county takes its name from the largest lake in the area, which is twenty miles long and 1,308 feet above sea level. At one end is located Mayville, the county seat and at the other end is the city of Jamestown. 

Outstanding recreational opportunities exist in the county, from hiking and biking on the county's public trail systems, to fishing, boating and canoeing on the lakes, to skiing and snowmobiling. The famous Chautauqua Institution, founded in 1874 and located on Chautauqua Lake, hosts educational and cultural programs each summer. 
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