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Bill Koenig

Bill Koenig | REALTOR®
Direct: (859) 372-6072
Office: (859) 372-6000
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4895 Houston Road, Suite 100
Florence, KY 41042 

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Home Spun Wisdom

How to Negotiate Your Rent Increase

(TNS)—Spring and summer are traditionally the busiest times in real estate, for both homes and apartments. Home shopping is more pleasant in the balmier months, moving is typically easier, and longer, sunnier days tend to give people more time to search for new digs.

Yet whether someone is hunting for a new home or staying put, tough decisions could await many this spring. For apartment tenants who found a home during the busy months of last year, lease renewals are likely approaching—and that could mean rent hikes.

A landlord’s asking price is never final, especially in today’s market. Here are some tips for negotiating.

Know your rights.
In many states, before a landlord can increase rent, a tenant’s lease must be expiring; rent cannot be changed during an active lease. In addition, your state or city may require landlords to provide advanced, written notice of any rental price change.

Often, individual leases dictate how far in advance landlords must notify tenants—typically requiring 30 or 60 days. Even if a lease does not specify, state law often does. Pennsylvania and New Jersey, for example, require landlords to give a 30-day warning of a price change before a residential, market-rate lease ends. If a landlord does not, “they cannot increase the rent,” says George Gould, a senior attorney at Community Legal Services of Philadelphia.

Philadelphia is even more specific: Unless a lease stipulates a longer period, the Philadelphia Code requires landlords to notify tenants 60 days before they increase rent for year-to-year leases, and 30 days before for shorter leases.

When it comes to actually raising the rent, however, Pennsylvania offers fewer restrictions. Pennsylvania has no statewide laws governing rent increases for market-rate units, meaning, in theory, landlords can hike rent as much as they want.

New Jersey, similarly, has no statewide law, though nearly 100 municipalities have enacted rent-control ordinances that set increase limits. New Jersey does, however, stipulate that rent increases may not be “unconscionable.” Though no formal definition of “unconscionable” exists, Legal Services of New Jersey interprets it as any increase that is “extremely harsh” or “unreasonable.” In some cases, the nonprofit says, that could mean a 20 percent hike, or even a 5 percent increase if the building’s conditions are very bad.

Understand the market.
Many cities have experienced an unprecedented housing boom in recent years, meaning there’s more supply than ever for renters to choose from.

Much of that inventory, including in the suburbs, has been high-end apartments—the kind that demand prices greater than $3 per square foot. And while such inventory has forced prices to jump, many buildings are providing “concessions”—a month of free rent, for example—to lure tenants. Accordingly, the actual price of renting is often cheaper than advertised.

In many places, rent growth has dipped as vacancy rates have gone up. As a result, you should study the market, including average prices in the neighborhood or in comparable buildings. And, simply, ask (nicely) to negotiate. Landlords may negotiate with reasonable, informed residents. 

Remind your landlord of your record.
“In the business of renting apartments, it’s very costly to turn over tenants,” says Allan Domb, a Philadelphia councilman and real estate broker. Turning over a one-bedroom unit, including repainting, carpet shampooing and cleaning, can cost $500 to $600, Domb says, and searching for a new tenant takes time—and money.

Landlords who find tenants through real estate brokers often must pay the agent a commission of one month’s rent. “Landlords really do not want to pay that one-month commission every year,” says Alan Nochumson, a Philadelphia real estate attorney.

A tenant who pays on time, maintains the apartment and complains infrequently should remind their landlord of that. Landlords would rather keep well-behaved tenants than pay turnover costs to find an unknown tenant.

Make a deal.
Often, offering to a sign a longer lease can bring the monthly price down—or mom-and-pop landlords may reduce the price if a tenant offers to pay multiple months upfront, thereby reducing the risk of missed payments. If that does not work, ask if a landlord will budge elsewhere, such as on waiving a parking fee or prioritizing maintenance. Your landlord may be willing to fix that hole in your wall if you agree to his or her rent terms.

©2018 The Philadelphia Inquirer
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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The post How to Negotiate Your Rent Increase appeared first on RISMedia.

Do You Have the Right Tools to Dig Into Spring Gardening?

As sure as winter will turn to spring, before too long folks will be looking forward to planting gardens and digging into landscaping projects around the yard. So we turned to research from, which gathered 34 gardening experts to find out their opinions on the top must-have tools for making your garden look stylish in 2018.

Among the most popular tools touted for gardeners is a mattock, which is used for clearing the ground, removing stones and digging out deep roots that create roadblocks.

Composting is another way that homeowners can promote environmental responsibility. Making compost can now become much easier when you make use of a chipper shredder. While a leaf shredder can be used primarily for shredding small-sized leaves and twigs, if you want to chop and shred branches, then recommends buying a chipper.

At, Jennifer Nelson says gardening can turn into a thorny and splintery hassle without the right pair of gloves.

Madaline Sparks at agrees that while one good pair of garden gloves can be as essential a tool as a shovel or a rake, owning three pairs will make a multitude of tasks easier:

Washable synthetic gloves – For general maintenance, such as deadheading, weeding in dry soil, and handling seeds, the thin fabric and snug fit allow fingers maximum dexterity.

Latex-coated cotton gloves – For dirty, wet jobs, like picking up leaves or planting shrubs, and for working with thorny plants (the latex coating is puncture-resistant)

Heavy-duty leather gloves – For tough jobs, like digging holes, clearing brush, and carrying firewood

Brendan Huggins of Moore Farms Botanical Garden ( says pruners are one of the most used tools in the garden, and are often one that people skimp on, but a high-quality set of pruners can last a lifetime.

Huggins suggests looking for replaceable blades, a sturdy lock, a replaceable spring, and a place that you can readily purchase replacement parts from when deciding what pruners to buy.

Moore Farms’ Kirk Laminack, on the other hand, says a Japanese planting hoe is an ideal addition to your gardening arsenal when it comes to loosening soil and removing weeds.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark

The post Do You Have the Right Tools to Dig Into Spring Gardening? appeared first on RISMedia.

6 Tax Breaks for Pet Owners You Can Actually Get

(TNS)—You love your pet—he’s like your child, after all—but the IRS doesn’t quite see it that way. The IRS takes the position that the money you spend on Fido or Fluffy is generally a personal expense. Your pet gives you pleasure like that latte you bought on your way to work this morning, but just like your cup of coffee isn’t tax deductible, neither is your pet.

There are a few loopholes, however. You might be able to deduct costs related to your pet if he serves another purpose in addition to accepting your undying devotion—and if you can prove it.

  1. Guard Dogs
    Generally, it’s difficult to claim your pet as a business expense, but if your pet guards your business location, you might be able to deduct the costs of keeping him fed and healthy.

“The IRS has taken a fairly hard-nosed stance when it comes to deducting the cost of animals as business expenses—and the courts have agreed with them,” says Micah Fraim, a CPA in Roanoke, Va., and author of “The Little Big Small Business Book.” “But one area that has been consistently upheld is when you own a guard dog. In fact, in Raleigh Cox and Brenda J. Cox v. Commissioner, the IRS didn’t even attempt to disallow deductions for a guard dog. The business was in a bad part of town, and the IRS felt that it was a legitimate expense.”

How to Get the Deduction
You might have a hard time convincing the IRS that your Yorkie or teacup Chihuahua serves in this capacity.

“Size and breed do matter here,” says Fraim. “A mastiff, pit bull or other large breed would be believable. A Maltese or Chihuahua would not.”

Kristina Grasso, master tax advisor with H&R Block, says you might be able to deduct guard dog-related expenses—dog food, training and veterinary bills—on Schedule C if he guards your work premise. So, make sure you “keep records about the dog’s hours and work-related purpose,” she says.

  1. Cats Used for Pest Control
    You might also be able to deduct costs associated with your kitty who keeps your business property free of mice, rats and other vermin.

“Cats or other animals that are kept primarily for pest control are also deductible,” says Fraim.

Fraim noted that in Samuel T. Seawright, et ux. v. Commissioner, the petitioners were entitled to a $300 business expense deduction for cat food.

“The couple owned a junkyard and put the food out to attract feral cats,” he says. “The court upheld the deduction as cats were there ‘to deter snakes and rats.'”

Choose wisely when picking which type of cat prowls your business.

How to Get the Deduction
Remember that if you’re trying to claim your working pets to deduct business expenses, you’ll likely have to convince the IRS that keeping the animal is “ordinary and necessary.” In other words, “hiring” a cat or dog must be “common and accepted in your trade or business.” And, it must be “helpful and appropriate.”

  1. Offsetting Hobby Income
    If you make money showing your pet—which the IRS might consider hobby income—you might be able to claim a tax break for related expenses.

“Pets used in hobbies, such as show dogs, might be deductible,” says Grasso. “If the dog wins prize money in the endeavor, then the expenses incurred to train, show, etc., are deductible up to the winnings.”

You can expet to receive a 1099 at the end of the year if you earn hobby income.

“You can also deduct related expenses up to the amount of income earned on Schedule A of the 1040,” says Fraim.

How to Get the Deduction
The process to deduct these expenses can get tricky.

“You must itemize to take the deduction at all, which many taxpayers do not,” says Fraim. And, some restrictions apply that might not result in substantial tax savings.

“These deductions are subject to a threshold of 2 percent of your adjusted gross income or AGI,” says Fraim. “For easy math, let’s say you made $1,000 from pet shows, had $3,000 in expenses and your AGI is $100,000…You can deduct $1,000 of expenses—not the full $3,000—ecause you’re only allowed to take a deduction up to the amount of income earned. Even then, you don’t actually get any tax break.”

That $1,000 is less than 2 percent of your AGI, so you actually lose $2,000 from the pet shows—and you still have to pay taxes on the $1,000 in income you earned.

“Two percent of a lower AGI is an easier threshold to execute,” says Grasso. So, the lower your AGI, the more likely it becomes that this tax deduction for hobby-related expenses will result in more tax savings.

  1. Foster Pet Parent Deductions
    If you foster animals, you might be able to take advantage of tax benefits for charitable contributions.

“Any expenses you incur caring for foster animals from a qualified nonprofit are deductible on Schedule A as charitable donations,” says Fraim.

These must be unreimbursed expenses if you want to get the deduction, though, Grasso adds. And, the expenses should go toward caring for these animals, such as pet food, supplies and veterinary bills.

“Thankfully, most of these organizations provide the medical care and food for these animals,” says Fraim, “but any expenses paid out of pocket that are necessary for their care that are not provided for or reimbursed are deductible.”

What about if you volunteer at a shelter or rescue organization?

“Keep track of mileage for trips made to further the organization’s work because this is deductible at 14 cents per mile,” says Grasso.

How to Get the Deduction
When it comes to fostering animals from municipal shelters, both Fraim and Grasso say to be careful. According to Fraim, most are not 501(c)(3)s and do not qualify for these types of tax deductions, unless they’re somehow tied to a charity.

“Some private agencies take on responsibility for animal control (law enforcement) functions or handle sheltering for a municipal animal control department by contracting with one or more municipalities,” says Grasso. “Thus, if the private agency is set up as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, the volunteers should qualify for any applicable deductions.”

Still, “people should foster animals because it increases the animal’s chances of being placed in permanent, forever homes and the animals get needed socialization—not because it potentially gets them a tax deduction,” she adds.

  1. Guide Dogs and Service Animals
    Medical expenses are tax deductible if you itemize. Let’s say your pet helps you in a health-related capacity. If so, you’ll likely get a tax break.

You can also include the costs of purchasing and training guide dogs for the blind or hearing impaired. This also includes veterinary, food and grooming expenses. Pets are also used in therapy, such as in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. These animals are covered as well, say Fraim and Grasso.

How to Get the Deduction
“Make sure to get a prescription from your doctor—or some other documentation that shows your medical necessity—prior to obtaining any pet that you claim,” says Grasso. Otherwise, “the IRS may conclude that your pet does not meet the requirements to deduct these pet expenses. Keep any documentation that shows how the animal was specially trained to help you with your medical condition, too.”

Also, the IRS doesn’t consider Fido to be a therapy dog unless he’s been trained and certified.

“The animal must be trained or certified as treatment for a diagnosed illness or condition for the IRS to approve the deduction,” says Grasso.

You don’t actually have to use the dog yourself to get a deduction, though. If you raise dogs for a charitable organization such as Guide Dogs for the Blind, costs associated with providing for them qualify as a charitable deduction, as well.

Taking advantage of these types of medical and charitable deductions related to animals can help you save a lot of money on your taxes this year.

  1. Moving Expenses
    The IRS won’t let you claim your pet as a dependent—but it’s not so heartless as to make you leave him behind if you’re forced to move due to work.

You can deduct costs associated with transferring your pet to your new home, but there are some requirements you have to follow, according to the IRS.

How to Get the Deduction

  • Your move must be closely related to the start of your work
  • You have to pass the distance test
  • You have to pass the time test

For example, your new workplace must be at least 50 miles farther from your old home than your old workplace was. So, if your old workplace was only 10 miles away from your old home, your new workplace must be at least 60 miles from your old home. And if you’re an employee, you must work full-time for 39 weeks or more during the first year after you relocate.

Once you satisfy the IRS requirements, you can deduct the cost of shipping your household pets to your new home, along with other move-related expenses. is a leading portal for personal finance news and features, offering visitors the latest information on everything from interest rates to strategies on saving money, managing a budget and getting out of debt.

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The post 6 Tax Breaks for Pet Owners You Can Actually Get appeared first on RISMedia.

Bill Koenig | (859) 372-6072 | Contact Me
4895 Houston Rd Ste 100 - Florence, KY 41042
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