Property Maintenance Tips: Preventing Grease Buildup in Your Kitchen Sink

 

We at Distinct Property Management run into maintenance requests about clogged kitchen sinks at least once a week and in 99.9% of the cases the cause was a build up of grease, which has turned into black thick goo. Grease is a normal substance found in the kitchen, and comes from cooking processes and food such as meat and dairy. It is a common misconception that pouring grease down the drain is okay if you run hot water and pour dish soap after it. In reality, grease should never go down the drain. Even if it’s hot and easy to pour out of the pan, it will eventually cool and solidify somewhere in your plumbing. This causes a gummy, goopy mess to form along the pipe walls, trapping other debris that flows down the drain. Over time, the resulting clogs could bring your drains to a standstill.

Even if the grease makes it past your home’s plumbing system, it continues to wreak havoc in the municipal sewer system. Some cities spend millions of dollars a year addressing damaged sewer systems and clearing out masses of solid waste—obstacles the industry calls “fatbergs,” which are named for the cooking oil and grease that hold the obstructions together. By never pouring grease down the drain, you can help prevent clogs and other plumbing problems further down the line.

Thankfully, there are measures you can take to avoid this common clog.

1. Don’t send fatty, greasy, or oily foods down the sink

It may seem like an easy cleanup option, but pouring any greasy, oily, or fatty food substances down the sink is the beginning of a grease clog. This includes salad dressing, coconut oil, peanut butter, butter, lard, mayonnaise, cosmetic oils and petroleum jelly.  Remove excess grease and food scraps from cookware and dishes before washing by wiping them out with a paper towel. Also, any dishes which have a bigger grease buildup should be soaked with a grease-dissolving cleaner before the washing process.

2. Hot water and grease cutting soap

Some fatty, oily, and greasy substances will find their way into your kitchen drain regardless of how carefully you wash up. To help avoid grease clogs, intermittently run lots of hot water and grease cutting soap down the drain. Use this method frequently to breakdown any accumulating grease.

3. Hot water and vinegar

You may prefer to avoid chemicals found in soaps and cleaners. There are natural products that have been found to effectively fight grease buildup in kitchen sinks. We suggest trying a 1:1 ratio of hot water and vinegar. Sending boiling water down the drain helps melt the clog, while the vinegar eats away at debris attached to the wall of the pipe. Finish the process by sending more boiling water down the drain to clear any remaining grease.

What is renters insurance and why is it important?

 

At first glance, many people assume renters insurance is only to protect their personal property.  But did you know that renters insurance actually provides three types of coverage?

1. Personal Property or Personal Belongings Coverage:

This includes items such as furniture, clothing, electronics, appliances, and bedding to name a few.  However, there are certain personal belongings that may not be covered if they are above a certain value.  For items such as jewelry, artwork, and collectibles, one must usually add-on to their policy for additional coverage. 

2. Renters Liability or Personal Liability Coverage: 

Let’s say you are having a dinner party, one of your guests slips and falls in the kitchen putting you at fault and then sues you. General liability coverage may cover court costs and attorney fees that your renters insurance otherwise wouldn’t. Think of it this way: personal property coverage covers your belongings, personal liability insurance covers you!

3. Additional Living Expenses Coverage:

This coverage can provide the policy holder with reimbursement if a covered disaster results in temporary relocation from the property.  Examples of reimbursement may include lodging, food, and other living expenses.  While the policies may vary, covered disasters often include smoke, fire, explosions, theft, vandalism, windstorms, lightning, and water damage from an internal source.  

Flood Insurance Policies/Coverage: 

Generally speaking, renter’s insurance does not cover damage to your belongings in the event of a flood (this also applied to sewage overflows that enters the home). If you live in a flood zone, we highly recommend you review flood coverage with your insurance agent as part of your renters insurance. If you are unsure about whether or not you live in a flood zone, please refer to your lease agreement or check the FEMA flood map.

Final Thoughts: 

It’s easy to fall into the mindset of “but that wouldn’t happen to me”, and chances are, it might not.  However, it’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially in an event that is out of your control.

What is in your control?

Regularly checking for leaks under you sink, at the base of your toilets and anywhere else where water can easily pool.  It is absolutely crucial that any leaks or water damage is reported to your property manager AS SOON AS THEY ARE NOTICED!  Failure to do so or negligence of the issue can cause irreversible damage the property that becomes the tenant’s responsibility.  If these things are caught right away, further damage can be avoided.  When in doubt, call and ask as soon as you notice!

As you may have gathered, there can be a lot of gray areas when it comes to what may or may not be covered depending on the company you choose to buy a policy with, and the policies themselves.  It is always a good idea to review your options with your insurance broker to make sure you’re getting the coverage you desire. 

Finally, if you haven’t done so already, please have your agent include Distinct Property Management as one of your certificate holders so we can be sure to have your policy on file. 

 

Disclaimer: Distinct Property Management is not an insurance agent and can not advise what coverage is appropriate for you. Please consult your insurance agent.

About the importance of dryer vent cleaning

 

Do you know why regular cleaning of dryer vents is so important?

As a tenant, you understand the importance of checking your smoke detectors, changing your air filters and keeping up with other preventative maintenance in your home. But how much time do you spend cleaning your dryer vent? If you’re like the average resident, the answer is probably, “not much.”

Unfortunately, according to the U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Data Center, nearly 15,000 structural fires occur each year as a result of an issue with a clothes dryer, and clogged, dirty dryer vents cause 80% of the fires.

Warning signs that it’s time to clean your vent

    • Clothes are taking much longer than normal to dry. It will often take two or three cycles to dry them.
    • Clothes have a strange, burning smell to them. This could be a sign that your dryer vent isn’t properly able to ventilate the warm air out of the appliance.
    • The laundry room feels excessively hot when the dryer is running. Again, this could be a result of a clogged vent that isn’t letting hot air escape.

    Problems caused by a clogged dryer vent

      • Fires. The lint from your clothes can build up inside the dryer vent. This material is highly flammable and can cause a fire.
      • Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. When the dryer vent is clogged, dangerous CO gases aren’t able to escape. Instead, they build up inside the vent and may seep out into the laundry room and into other areas of the home.
      • Wear and tear on the dryer. When it takes two or three cycles to get your clothes dried, this puts a lot of strain on your dryer. It can lead to excessive wear and tear on the unit.
      • Skyrocketing utility bills. Keeping the lint trap and vent cleared allows the heated air to move through the dryer efficiently, but a clogged vent or dirty lint filter could force the machine to use as much as 30% more energy. A dryer that is running more often than it should to dry clothes will use a lot of energy. This will be reflected on your monthly utility bills. Think about it: if your machine takes twice as long to dry clothes, you’re using twice as much energy. That also results in a shorter lifespan for your dryer.
      • Don’t let mold fester in your vents. Dryer vents are responsible for blowing any moisture from the dryer outside, but if it’s clogged, moisture can collect, turning into wet spots or even puddles. Lint that soaks up any humidity will get moldy. Wet lint sticks and compacts, making any existing clogs far more difficult to clear.

      Dryer maintenance tasks can be handled by the average resident. Be sure to clean the lint out of the lint trap between each drying cycle. Regularly clean the dryer’s vent cap on the exterior of your home. Ideally, you want to clean your dryer vents at least once a year; and it doesn’t hurt to have an HVAC specialist do it for you. They can better ensure the vent is completely free of blockage and that your dryer is running optimally. Regular cleaning and maintenance reduce wear, which can help you avoid unnecessary repairs in the long term and more importantly reduce the risks of fires.

       

       

COVID-19 Resources for Tenants

 

How to Stay Safe, Healthy, and Financially Sound During the Pandemic

Are you renting an apartment, townhome, duplex, or single-family home during the coronavirus pandemic? This guide is for you, as we’ve assembled a complete list of resources for combating COVID-19 germs in rental communities, keeping tenants physically and mentally active during the quarantine, and helping renters to stay financially sound during the pandemic. Read on to explore these useful tips and resources in greater detail!

Combating Germs & Bacteria in Your Rental Community

Cleaning Tips to Keep Your Home Free of Coronavirus

COVID-19 Tips: Staying Healthy in a Busy Apartment Building

COVID Cleaning and Safety Products You Can Make at Home

How to Safely Quarantine with Roommates

Staying Physically and Mentally Active During Isolation

Free Workouts from Peloton, Nike and Others to Help You Stay Active During Your Quarantine

Home Fitness: How to Choose Exercise Equipment and Where to Place It

50 Ideas to Upgrade and Decorate Your Apartment or Rental Home on a Budget

5 Ways to Learn New Career Skills for Free During the COVID-19 Crisis

 
Obtaining Other Types of Financial Assistance During COVID-19

How to Protect Yourself Financially from the Impact of the Coronavirus

What You Need to Know About Extended Unemployment Benefits for COVID-19

6 Emergency Cash Loans for Rent Payments

Check Your Eligibility for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

 

The COVID-19 pandemic is a physically, emotionally, and financially challenging time for many of us, but renters have been hit the hardest — especially those who have lost their jobs or had their hours reduced. With these tips and resources, you will have all the information you need to keep yourself as healthy, safe, and financially sound as possible during this difficult time in each of our lives.

 

Sanitary Wipes Reminder

These little fellas still don’t belong into the toilet

Please remember the following when using paper towels and disinfecting wipes. This could save you money in plumbing repairs and an after-hours nightmare. Please read on here.

As Americans stockpile disinfecting wipes and paper towels to clean their homes more often to reduce the risk of coronavirus, California’s state water regulators on Tuesday urged them to keep one thing in mind: Don’t flush them down the toilet.

Wipes and paper towels do not break down like toilet paper does in water. They are stronger, and many wipes include plastics and materials like nylon. That means bad news for sewer systems. 

“Flushing wipes, paper towels and similar products down toilets will clog sewers and cause backups and overflows at wastewater treatment facilities, creating an additional public health risk in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic,” the California’s State Water Resources Control Board said. “Even wipes labeled “flushable” will clog pipes and interfere with sewage collection and treatment.”

Distinct’s services during COVID-19 and shelter in place restrictions

Distinct Property Management’s will continue with business operations, please read for further information

In compliance with the new Shelter in Place ordinance, Distinct Property Management is implementing the following changes in the day-to-day management of your property(ies). These changes will go into effect immediately and have been put in place to help keep you, our employees, our contractors and the general public as safe as possible. Thank you for your patience while we navigate these unchartered waters and please know we are here to help you through these challenging times.

What to expect

        • Office visits will be by appointment only. You can request an appointment by calling our office at 831.420.0202 x3 or by email to stacy@mydistinct.com
        • We offer 24/7 emergency service at 800.395.9136. Please review the attached Emergency Policy for more information on events that justify an after hours emergency call to management.
        • Property showings will be scheduled by appointment only to minimize person-to-person contact. Other technology is being explored for remote viewings.
        • Property inspections that are not time sensitive will be postponed through April 7th, then re-evaluated for scheduling or postponing further based on local ordinance.
        • Repairs & Maintenance: For units that are currently occupied, we are addressing repair items that are concerns for health & safety, as well as repairs that can potentially lead to property damage or the like. Exterior repairs can also be made without person-to-person contact so we are moving forward with those as planned as long as service providers are available. All other repairs will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis to determine the best way to make the repairs as well as to minimize person-to-person contact, and to postpone if needed.
        • Notification: Due to privacy laws, we are not able to share specific health information of any tenants living in properties we manage without obtaining prior written consent. Fortunately, we have not received any reports of positive COVID-19 test results in any of the properties we manage. Should any tenant, contractor, employee or other person notify us of positive test results, we provide you with as much information as we are legally permitted to provide so all our tenants and owners are aware of the situation and can plan accordingly.
        • Lease Agreements: If you anticipate any changes to your housing situation (early move out, etc.), you will need to review your rental agreement and provide proper notice as outlined in your contract. Many leases do not expire until the summer months and these leases will remain in effect until the lease expiration date. We can help find a tenant to replace your lease, however, you are responsible for fulfilling your lease obligations and paying rent until a new tenant can be placed, as well as covering any costs related to finding this new tenant.

Distinct’s Emergency Policy

Distinct’s normal office hours are Monday through Friday, 9 am to noon and 1 pm to 4 pm.

Please call our regular office line at 81.420.0202 x0 during normal office hours to report your maintenance emergency.

 Distinct offers an After-Hours Emergency Service. You can reach us by calling 800.395.9136. When you call our After-Hours Emergency line, you will be connected to the answering service who will take your message. The answering service will then contact the designated on-call Distinct team member who will respond within the hour.

Please be prepared to share photos or videos of the repair item and as much information as possible to assist us in determining the next steps.

A. Examples of things we can help with after hours:

        • Plumbing Emergencies
          • Irrigation leaks – please be prepared to check the leak again in 15 minutes to see if it continues after the irrigation cycle ends
          • Broken water mains
          • Overflowing drains and toilets
        • Loss of heat
        • Roof Leaks (will be addresses as soon as rain stops or lightens enough for roof access)
        • Fallen Trees

B. Things we CANNOT help with after hours:

        • Power Outages – Call PG&E
        • Parties or Noise Concerns – Call the Police
        • Parking Violations (unless health and safety related)

C. Items to be addressed the next business day (leave a message for a Distinct member, DO NOT call the After-Hours Emergency Service):

        • Accounting Questions
        • Rodent or Pest Activity
        • Appliance Repair (unless there’s also a related water leak)
        • Chirping Smoke Detector
        • Neighbor Disputes
        • Parking Questions

Please note that any calls placed to the on-call service that are not considered an emergency, as described in Section A, can potentially results in charges to the caller.

Distinct Property Management’s Green Living Tips*

Distinct Property Management’s Green Living Tips

As a homeowner or renter in Santa Cruz there are many little steps you can take to live a more “green” life and conserve natural resources. Please see the useful tips below.

Save Energy

        • Switch interior lights to LEDs.  They’re inexpensive (oftentimes under $3 a bulb), last much longer than other bulb types and save energy compared with inefficient incandescent and somewhat-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs.
        • Lower your thermostat. You should set it at 68 max in the winter. Instead of gas/electric heat, throw on another layer – it’s good for you (cooler temperatures help you keep off extra pounds), your wallet and the environment.
        • Wash laundry with cold water. It saves energy, prevents some stains from becoming permanent and makes your clothes last longer (warm water removes more of the color from your clothing). Learn more from Gizmodo.
        • Switch off electronics.Get in a habit of switching off your computer, sleep/hibernate/shutdown your laptop, turn off your TV, when not in use and unplugging lights/small appliances when not actively using.
        • Check weather stripping. Make sure cold air isn’t getting through around your doors and windows. 

Save Water

        • Use the shortest cycle for washing clothes.
        • Report all leaks immediately. 
        • Curious if your toilet has a hidden leak? Drop a few drops of food dye into your toilet tank, wait 30 – 60 minutes and see if there is any color in the bowl.
        • Take short (<5 minute if possible) showers. This saves water AND energy.
        • Turn off the tap. Gallons of water will be wasted each time you brush your teeth or shave if the tap is on.
        • Boil less water. Boil only the amount of water you need for tea/coffee, this saves energy too!

Shop Local, In Season, and Organic

        • Choose local, seasonal produce. The produce doesn’t have to travel as far and is usually more flavorful and nutrient dense. 
        • Reduce meat intake. If everyone didn’t eat meat a day a week it would have a huge impact on global warming. As an example, it takes 1,800 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef.
        • Avoid wasteful packaging. Many types of food packaging is not recyclable – buy in bulk, return strawberry baskets and produce clam shells, bring your own bags to the farmer’s market, etc.! If eating out, pack your own food containers to take any leftovers with you!
        • Avoid single-use products. Most plastic items have a “usable life” of 15 minutes but can take more than 500 years to break down. Use reusable products such as bamboo/metal straws, wooden/metal cutlery, cotton rounds, cotton ear buds, mesh produce bags, reusable coffee cups or beeswax wrap.
        • Buy USDA Organic. When feasible, buying USDA Organic certified products means rigorous, verified standards that reduce farm worker exposure, environmental damage, and possible health effective from synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fungicides are being followed.
        • Drink tap water. Santa Cruz has great water – use a basic filter (faucet mounted/pitcher style) to remove chlorine for taste – fill up your reusable water bottle and take it with you and utilize many of the free water fill up stations, or ask for refills while out at any restaurant or coffee shop.
        • Buy used. Thrift stores, Habitat for Humanity Restore, yard sales = cheaper prices and less waste in our landfill.

Reduce Pollution and Toxics

        • Homemade cleaning supplies. Vinegar, lemon, soap flakes, baking soda, Bon Ami, and many other common household items are effective for cleaning lots of types of surfaces. EXAMPLE: Mix 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/4 cup baking soda into 1/2 gallon (2 liters) water. Store and keep. Use for removal of water deposit stains on shower stall panels, bathroom chrome fixtures, windows, bathroom mirrors, etc. Find more solutions here.
        • Buy recycled paper. Toilet paper, paper towels, and printer paper all come in 50-100% recycled variants. Use them!
        • Recycle batteries by dropping them off at Santa Cruz Public Libraries, Best Buy, some hardware stores, etc.
        • Avoid toxic pesticides! Use traps, barriers and cleaning to prevent/eliminate pests.
        • End junk mail! Remove yourself from junk mail lists by using www.catalogchoice.org

If you’d like to learn more about reusable and more environmentally friendly products you can easily swap out in your day to day life – read more in this article.

*Adapted from LifeHacker’s 20 Green Tips and Aussie.com Life Hacks for Sustainable Living    

Distinct’s Winter Tips

As we move into the winter season there are a few things you can do to help prepare yourself and your home for all the surprises that winter weather and can bring. Being mindful of these things and familiarizing yourself with your home before an emergency, power outage or weather related concern arises can both help prevent issues and make you better prepared should anything happen.

    • Locate the electrical panel to your home and familiarize yourself with how to reset the breakers. Here is a helpful video to walk you through the process.
    • Locate the water and gas lines and shut off valves to your home.
    • Check that all smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are working properly, replace any batteries if needed.
    • Make sure dryer vents are being cleaned regularly, here are three vendors you may call to have this done who we have worked with in the past:
      • Daniel’s Cleaning Services: (831) 233-1333
      • Affordable Heating: (831) 477-9276
    • If you have a garage, familiarize yourself with how to open your garage when there is no power with the use of the quick release to disengage the opener
    • Clean or replace the filters to your heater, and clean the air ducts to avoid dust spreading when you turn it on if it has been off during the warmer season.
    • Test your heater, turn it on and make sure the air being blown out is warm, if you turn it on but the air is not warm, this may mean that the pilot light is out – you can call PG&E at 1.877.660.6789 and they will relight it. Please keep in mind if your heater stops working on a weekend we will likely not be able to get a vendor out until the following Monday. Additionally, having a space heater handy can help bridge the gap between when your heater goes out to a service appointment.
    • If heavy rain is forecasted, please evaluate if you will be needing sandbags to keep water flow away from garages and doorways

As many California residents have experienced throughout this Fall season, there are times when PG&E may cut electrical and/or gas services to their customers. With the current state of much of their equipment and new laws in place this is something to always be prepared for. You can be better prepared for a power outage by keeping extra water for all the members of your household as well as any pets on hand, and keeping a stock of extra batteries, lanterns and non-perishable food items like canned soups and vegetables, dry pasta, etc. 

Thank you for your attention to this letter, and we hope you have a happy and safe Winter this year!

PG&E Wildfire Season & Safety Reminders

As many of you may know, California is very prone to wildfires during this dry and hot season of the year. To ensure that residents are as safe as possible when wildfires become a threat PG&E has issued a notice that in order to limit danger and damages they may temporarily turn off electricity to certain areas to protect the public. Additionally, they have released some safety tips for homeowners to keep in mind:

    • Avoid hitting electrical lines: check your surroundings when doing work outside. Look above you before lifting or moving pipes and ladders. Keep yourself and any tools at least 10 feet away from overhead power lines. Do not prune trees close to lines unless you are a qualified line-clearance tree worker.
    • If you are doing any digging (planting a garden, installing a fence or something larger) call 811 or visit california811.org two business days before you dig. PG&E will come out to place markers on any underground lines you need to avoid.
    • Know where PG&E’s larger transmission pipelines are located: look for pipeline markers and know that the pipes do not always follow a straight path between two markers.
    • Learn to spot natural gas leaks: If you smell a “rotten egg” odor it could be an indication of a leak. Listen for any hissing, whistling or roaring sounds coming from underground appliances. Look for dirt spraying into the air, bubbling in a pond or creak, or dying plants in an otherwise moist area
    • If you suspect a gas leak or damage an underground line, alert anyone in the area to move upwind, call 911 and then contact PG&E at 1.800.743.5000.
    • If you suspect a gas leak do not use anything that could be a source of ignition in the immediate area. Items such as vehicles, cell phones, matches, electric switches, doorbells or garage door openers could cause a spark.

    Additionally, in the event that PG&E must shut off power it is important that you have the correct contact information up to date on your account. Visit pge.com/mywildfirealerts or call 1.866.743.6589 to update your contact information.

    Thank you for taking the time to review this information. Distinct hopes you all stay safe during this time and are able to enjoy the end of summer.

Distinct is a Santa Cruz Green Certified Business

Distinct Property Management became certified as a Green Business through the California Green Business Program on March 22, 2017.

At this time, Distinct is the only Property Management company within Santa Cruz County that is Green Certified. Certified Green Businesses in the City of Santa Cruz have gone above and beyond regulatory requirements to prevent pollution and conserve resources by: reducing water use, conserving energy, purchasing recycled content products, eliminating toxic cleaning chemicals, improving worker safety and reducing waste to landfill.

For additional information about Green Businesses, please visit the City’s informational page here: here.

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