Timely Topics

Free Advertising for Your Lead Free Apartments

You work hard to make your rental properties safe and healthy for your tenants. The new lead-status feature of MaineHousingSearch.org is an opportunity for landlords and property managers to advertise rental units that are maintained safely for lead-hazards directly to more than 6,000 site visitors each month.  It is free to list, and free to search!

Rental property owners can register their properties online or by phone and select a lead status to show prospective tenants their commitment to providing safe and healthy housing. Families can easily search for rental housing where landlords take real steps to prevent lead hazards. Visit MaineHousingSearch.org or call 1-877-428-8844 to get started.

Lead-based paint can be found in homes built before 1978. Dust from deteriorating lead paint is the leading cause of lead poisoning in Maine. Lead dust can collect on toys and floors where children play. Children under 6 are most at risk for lead poisoning because they are more likely to put their hands and other objects in their mouths. With proper maintenance, renters can live safely in older buildings.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection have worked together to create this listing opportunity to support landlords that take steps to keep their rental properties lead-safe. By working together to maintain units in a lead-safe way, tenants and landlords can keep their rental units and families safe from lead-hazards.

For more information, contact Beth at the Maine Department of Environmental Protection at 207-592-6157.

HOW TO PREVENT FROZEN PIPES

This is the time of year when a cold draft on exposed water pipes can cause expensive freeze-ups. Here are some of the things that you can do to help prevent frozen pipes.

  • Close hallway doors and cellar bulkheads near water pipes. Better yet, insulate the bulkhead door and weather-strip so the door fits tight to prevent¬† drafts.
  • Seal single-glazed windows above a bathroom or kitchen sink.
  • Move sofas or other furniture away from baseboards attached to an outside wall.
  • Fix dripping toilets. Water from a dripping second floor toilet may quickly form an ice block in an exit pipe if it is located on an outside wall.
  • On single digit nights, turn up the thermostat if you have vulnerable pipes.
  • Insulate or relocate vulnerable pipes that are located too close to outside walls.
  • If it is really cold and you are worried, allow a faucet to drip. This keeps water moving in pipes, but it is only a temporary solution and it can be expensive.

Few events will cause freeze-ups faster than a failed furnace or boiler system. If your building is going to be vacant for more than a day during the heating season, you can buy devices that will alert friends or neighbors should the boiler fail. One such device is a thermostat-controlled red light that flashes in a window if there is a problem.

If you do have an emergency freeze-up, the first thing you should do is shut off the water. The main shut-off is usually located at the water meter. If the frozen pipe is accessible and not broken, try thawing it with a blow dryer. Caution: Don’t leave the dryer on for more than a few minutes if it doesn’t appear to be doing the job. If your plumber is tied up and can’t make a timely appearance, you can get partial use of household water by turning off the valves closest to the frozen or broken pipe. Then, slowly turn on the main water supply. Be ready to shut the main valve again if the leak recurs.

TWO TAX-RELATED QUESTIONS ANSWERED

Question: We have a three-unit apartment building and live in one of the units. Are we able to deduct all of the maintenance cost even though we live in one unit?

Answer: You must track the maintenance costs. If a cost is specifically for one of the units being rented, you can deduct 100% of that. If a cost is for the apartment that you are living in, that would not be deductible because it is considered your home, which is personal property and not your business. If it is just a general cost for the whole property, then basically two thirds or whatever the percentage is, based on the square footage of the rental units versus the total property, would be deductible.

Question: If I use a room in my home for an office, is that deductible, and if so, how much?

Answer: This is called a home office deduction. You need to use that room exclusively (100%) for the business. It can’t be used part of the time for an extra bedroom, or for a craft room, etc. That IRS requirement knocks a lot of people out. Claiming a home office deduction is a red flag with the IRS. So you want to be on pretty good ground if you want to do it. But, if you are using it exclusively for business, then take all your pro-rated expense. These would include utilities and mortgage interest (if any). You must pro-rate the costs based on the square footage of the room to the entire house. You may also calculate depreciation on that part of the house and depreciate it over 39 years. Before doing this consult with a tax expert because on resale you have to recapture the depreciation as ordinary income along with the appreciation on that portion.