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
      • Chimney Cricket: (831) 359-1799
    • 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.

Property Maintenance: What not to put down your kitchen sink

How to avoid kitchen sink backups after dinner

As a homeowner or renter in Santa Cruz there are many little steps you can take that help you prevent having to deal with an after hours emergency and plumbing ones usually can get pricey. Best example the kitchen sink!  Even if you have a garbage disposal, certain foods can seriously gum up the works. To keep your pipes flowing freely, don’t put these things down your drain .

1. Starchy foods

Pretend your sink is on a perpetual Atkins diet and steer clear of giving it too many carbs — even if you’re lucky enough to have a garbage disposal.

“There are several foods that cause big problems in your drain when you put large quantities into the disposal,” says Abrams. “The worst offenders are pasta, potato peels, and rice. These starchy foods turn to goo inside your drain.”

How to dispose of starchy foods: Drain those items through a sieve or colander and then dump the rest into the trash. Then, use a paper towel to clean out the remnants from the strainer before you wash it. (Or compost them of course!)

2. Fat

To keep on the weight-loss theme, your sink’s meals should also be fat-restricted. It goes in as a liquid, but it will congeal like candle wax and gradually decrease the diameter of your drainpipe until the flow eventually stops altogether.

How to dispose of cooking fats: What to do instead? Keep an old coffee can nearby and pour off oil before washing the pan. Some fat is bound to slip down the drain, so to keep it from building up, run the tap at its hottest temp for a minute, followed by a few healthy squirts of grease-cutting dish soap, like Dawn. Then, run the water for one more minute.

3. Breakfast Stuff

Even though they’re small and you think they’d be no big deal, broken eggshells and coffee grinds can cause problems. It takes a lot of water to push them through your drainage system so they usually end up contributing to a clog deep inside your pipes.

How to dispose of eggshells and coffee grounds: Peel hard-boiled eggs over the trash and throw away shells once you’ve cracked them. (Or compost the shells!) Use a fine-mesh sieve when cleaning out a French press and toss the grinds it collects. If your coffee carafe tends to get grounds in it, add a bit of water to a mostly empty pot and dump it in your garden.

4. Fibrous Foods

Fibrous foods like celery chunks and carrot peels can overwhelm the disposal and clog your drain. And without a disposal, these chunks will obviously just sit in the drain and cause clogs.

How to dispose of fibrous veggies: Do your drain (and yourself!) a favor and put all veggie scraps right into the trash or compost.

5. Seeds

Seeds of all sizes are problematic. You might be tempted to see what your disposer can do with a peach seed, but know this: It won’t do much! Large seeds end up bouncing around inside the disposal like a rock. They’ll just clatter around inside and beat up your disposal until it is finally removed.  Smaller seeds, like flax seeds, will just get stuck in the curves of the pipes and cause backups.

 

Holiday Season & Safety Reminders

How to be safe and sound this season

The winter season is here and along with it the holiday season; both provide the opportunity for some recommended annual maintenance around your rental property or home.

Fire  Extinguishers:
Every homeowner or tenant should have at least one fire extinguisher in the home and know how to use it. Fire extinguishers must be periodically re-charged or replaced.  Please check your fire extinguisher today and make sure that fully charged and easily accessible in the case of a fire.

Smoke Alarms:
A smoke alarm should be installed on each floor of the home and inside each sleeping area (bedroom). In the event a fire starts inside a bedroom and the door is closed the sleeping resident will be overtaken by flames and smoke before the fire alarm outside the door awakens them. The beginning of the heating season is a good time to remember to change the batteries. If your smoke alarm is “chirping” it is telling you that the batteries are low. Never disconnect the batteries except to change them. The life you save could be your own or a family member. If you prefer to upgrade your smoke (and carbon-monoxide) detector, batteryless detectors are now available ranging from $30 to $50, which are guaranteed to work for 10 years.

Chimney Cleaning:
Another annually recommended maintenance task for your Santa Cruz Property: If your home has a fireplace or wood burning stove it needs to be periodically cleaned and inspected for damage. If your heating system is a wall furnace, remember to get it periodically checked and the filters changed annually as well.

Dryer  Vent Cleaning:
Many companies offering cleaning service for furnace and heating ducts, will also service your dryer vent. Lint  building up in those dryer ducts create a fire hazard.  If you have noticed that it takes longer to dry your clothes you have a built-up of lint inside the line. Get all your vents and ducts attended to and it easily can be a one stop shop with the right service provider.

Packages and Mail Theft:
Online holiday shopping has many of us have ordering gifts for friends and loved ones. Packages are being delivered by the truckload on front porches numerous homes in the Santa Cruz.

Packages that are left unattended make for easy targets for criminals. These thefts commonly occur during normal working hours, since many people are not at home. This is a crime that occurs in virtually every community in Santa Cruz country.

Here are the Santa Cruz Police Department recommendations to avoid becoming a victim of package theft:

  • If your employer will allow it, have packages delivered to your office.
  • Request that the shipper hold your package at their pick-up facility so you can pick it up in person at your convenience.
  • Have packages delivered to a place where they can be received in person, such as the home of a trusted neighbor who stays home during the day, or a retired relative.
  • If purchasing something from a large retailer, request that your package be delivered to a local branch of the store so you can pick it up in person at your convenience.
  • Request a specific delivery date and time from the shipper when you know you will be home.
  • Provide delivery instructions to the shipper so that packages can be left at a safe location at your home that is out of sight from the street.
  • Sign up for delivery alerts (text messages or e-mails) from the shipper; call a trusted neighbor when the packages are delivered, and ask them to take the packages inside for safekeeping until you get home.
  • Request that the shipper require a signature confirmation upon delivery; this will prevent your package from being left at an unattended home.
  • Check out other secure delivery options. For example, Amazon.com has an option for purchases made on their website called “Amazon Lockers,” which delivers your package to a secure site. There are three Amazon Locker locations in Santa Cruz.

This is a great time of year to get to know your neighbors and encourage them to keep eye out for suspicious behavior.  Call 9-1-1 to report suspicious activity immediately in your neighborhood.

If you see a theft in progress do not attempt to stop the suspect on your own. Call 911 and give the operator a detailed description of the individual, including clothing description, physical description, vehicle description, and direction of travel.

Happy holidays and a great 2017 from your Distinct Team, the premier provider for Property Management Service in Santa Cruz Cruz County!

Santa Cruz Properties – Emergency Procedures

Preparing a Family Emergency Plan

Natural disasters affect thousands of people every year, and with the increased risk of severe thunderstorms, flash flooding and tornadoes in the summer months, it’s a good idea to think about having an emergency plan in place. Consider preparing a family emergency plan now before it’s needed.

Have an open discussion with your family about the types of emergencies that could happen. These include severe weather like tornadoes, natural disasters like earthquakes and fires and even civil unrest like rioting or acts of terrorism.
Designate a meeting place in the event you cannot return home. It’s a good idea to choose both a neighborhood meeting place and a place to meet outside of your neighborhood in case you can’t access the area surrounding your home. If you have pets, ensure the meeting places you choose will accept them if you have to evacuate your home for any length of time.

Pick an out-of-town friend or relative as an emergency contact. When disaster strikes, it could be easier to make a long-distance phone call than to call across town. Your out-of-town contact could help communicate and reunite separated family members or assist with an evacuation. Make sure every member of your family has the phone number for your out-of-town emergency contact person.
If you have children, communicate with their schools and daycare providers. Make sure you know the emergency plan at your child’s school or daycare provider. Find out how they plan to communicate with families during a crisis, whether they’re prepared to “shelter in place” and where they plan to go if they must leave.

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