Rochester, NY Rejects Conifer’s Erie Harbor Design by Petition

September 30, 2010 by in South Wedge
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The results are in, and the verdict is clear.  Residents in Rochester’s South Wedge Neighborhood are up in arms over the proposed design of the Erie Harbor housing development on the Genesee River waterfront along Mt. Hope Avenue.  Conifer, the South Wedge Planning Committee and the City of Rochester have worked together on this development for the past four years, but you wouldn’t know it by listening to local residents.  Roughly two years ago Conifer made a series of design changes that address resident concerns about the access to the waterfront, and several other design concerns.  Spirits were high, and a letter writing campaign that brought about the changes appeared to be a rousing success.

But somewhere in the community design process something went wrong.  Earlier this September, Conifer hosted a meeting at City Hall to show off the final plans for the Erie Harbor. What resulted seemed to stun city officials and Conifer executives: outright opposition, and demands from residents that the design be radically altered. If nothing else, this will serve as a lesson to residents for not being more aggressive in their support or opposition of major development projects in the future.

Perhaps most poignant is the harsh irony of the project’s name, Erie Harbor.  This one of a kind waterfront development parcel may be the only ‘harbor’ in the country that you can’t even launch a canoe from.  There is literally no water access for boating of any kind. Another opportunity for something great passes us by…sigh.

Following the aforementioned mid-September meeting, residents created an online petition directed at city officials, asking that public funding not be made available to Conifer’s Erie Harbor project until more residents were on board with its design.  The petition exceeded its stated goal of 500 signatures, gaining 573 signatures in only 18 days, finalizing on September 30.  Here is the complete petition of local residents in opposition to the proposed design of the Erie Harbor development:

# 573

05:10, Sep 30, Ellen Solomon, NY
I agree that the current plan does not fit with the neighborhood

# 572

21:11, Sep 29, Sharlene Goodliffe, UT
I grew up in this part of Rochester, and I feel great pride in the city. I still have many friends, family members, and interests in Rochester, and I am a frequent visiter. I hope that Conifer Realty will reconsider the design for the Erie Harbor Project. If they will work with the neighbors in considering better designs, I think it could be a win-win situation. With the backing of the community, the project will be a success.

# 571

17:27, Sep 29, Rob Levy, NY
For years we had to look at flat-roofed slum dwellings. This design is remarkable in its resemblance to that which was just knocked down!

# 570

14:24, Sep 29, Irwin Solomon, NY
I agree with Ms. Morgan. The design is institutional and is unappealing.


There’s Bugs in My Bed! Who’s Gonna Pay?

September 27, 2010 by in Landlord Tips, Renter Tips
Comments (9)

Bed bugs. I challenge you to think of a topic more cringeworthy than tiny parasites that hitch a ride into your home from just about anywhere, so that they can then settle into the crevices of your mattress before proceeding to feast nightly on your very blood. Equally unnerving is the realization that once bedbugs have arrived, the only way to uninvite them is with costly, strong-handed methods. So, who gets stuck with the bill?

Generally speaking (the laws vary state to state), the responsibility for extermination will fall upon the property owner’s shoulders.  Unless a landlord has taken careful steps to protect themselves from this liability, landlords are legally obligated to provide pest control for their tenants in New York.


Winterizing Your Apartment on the Cheap

September 26, 2010 by in Green Living, Landlord Tips, Renter Tips
Comments (2)

As the leaves begin to drop, so too does the temperature.   Rochester is blessed with a beautiful fall season, but it signals something more sinister.  The dreaded winter utility bill.

house thermal image

Thermal Image of Energy Loss

Every year thousands of renters find a home in Rochester, and begin settling in. For most renters this happens in the peak moving season, June-September.  You’re feeling good about your new apartment, thinking you really landed a steal of a deal…  Suddenly, the first winter utility bill hits and you owe $350, $450 or quite possibly $600+.  What are the odds that the landlord never mentioned that the utility bill in winter cost as much as rent itself!?

Savvy renters know to ask about historic utility bills, and even confirm utilities with RG&E (1.800.743.2110) before signing a lease.  But, now you’re watching your Christmas present money literally go out the window.  What to do?

Here’s a few tips that are sure to save you a couple hundred bucks this winter.

Turn the thermostat down
Perhaps the most obvious way to save money is to use your furnace less.  The best way to do that is to set your thermostat a few degrees lower.  For every degree you turn down the thermostat, you save about 3% of your heat bill.  If money is tight, you could do what we did last year and keep it at 55 at night and no more than 65 in the day.  If you’ve got a programmable thermostat try kicking on the heat an hour before you get up, and then let it go back down during the day while you’re at work.  Wearing a sweater and socks in the house can help you save a ton of money!

Plastic your windows
Drafty windows are said to increase your heating bill by 30%, and around here that’s real money.  Once you get the hang of it, putting plastic on your windows will only take a few minutes each.  The difference it makes is immediate, and definitely worth the time and money.  One Illinois woman wrote about saving $150/mo with a $30 investment.  Here’s a great video from our friends at on how to to do the install: How To Insulate Your Windows With Plastic on Howcast

Insulate your hot water heater & turn it down
Did you know that 25% of your energy bill goes to heating water?  Landlords have the option of upgrading to tankless water heaters that last at least a decade longer than traditional heaters.  Renters still have some ability to control this expense, even with older units.  If you run your hot water and it comes out of the tap scalding hot, you’re in luck.  Just march yourself to the basement (presumably) and turn the dial down on the base of the water heater.  The next step is to buy a $15 water heater insulation ‘jacket’.  Simply wrap this around the tank, tape it in place and start saving.  A landlord should consider picking up this cost for a good tenant.

Insulate your electrical outlets
outlet insulationFighting air leaks is the biggest part of saving heat energy.  Most people would never consider the outlets on their exterior walls as possible air leaks, but they are definitely a contributor to heat loss.  While at the hardware store picking up supplies, don’t forget to pick up foam outlet insulation gaskets.  Simply remove the face plate for your outlets or switches, place the gasket in and replace the face plate.  Congratulations you’re now a proud draft dodger!

Use weather stripping
If you can notice light, air or snow making its way around your doors or windows and into your apartment, you’ve got some weather stripping to do!  This is one of the easiest ‘fixes’ out there.  Just be sure to pay attention to how large the gap is between the door or window and its frame because weather stripping comes in a few different sizes.  For less than $10 at a hardware store, you can pick up a box.  When you get home, expose the sticky side of the stripping and stick it where needed… done.

Remove window air conditioners
Having a window air conditioner still installed in the dead of winter is one of the silliest ways to waste money, and yet, I see it all winter long in Rochester.  There is no good reason to leave one in after September in our neck of the woods, but if you don’t have the ability to remove your window unit, ask your landlord or buy an insulated cover.  These units are an open door to the outside.

Close unnecessary rooms and heat registers
If you’re luck enough to have an extra room that generally goes unused, close the heat register in that room and keep the door closed.  The less space you heat, the less you spend.  You can also close off entry ways by hanging fabric in doorways.  Our apartment is on the second floor, and we hang decorative felt in the doorway that the top of the stairs so we don’t spend money heating a large (uninhabited) stairwell.

Hopefully these tips prove helpful to you this winter, especially in the face of the ongoing economic slump we’ve all found ourselves in.  If you have any tips, tricks or success stories you wish to share, please feel free to use the comments below.

Free Landlord Forms from The Rochester Housing Council

September 24, 2010 by in Free Resources, Landlord Tips, Legal Forms
Comments (0)

The majority of the apartments in America are owned by individuals who manage less than 5 units.  Many of these people don’t identify themselves as landlords, and generally don’t have office staff, standard procedures or documentation.  As part of our commitment to continually improve the professionalism of renters and landlords, we are always on the look-out for helpful tools and tips.  One of the most important parts of owning and managing property is using and recording proper documentation.  That’s why we’re happy to introduce Rochester, NY’s rental property owners to the Housing Council and their library of professional templates.

Rocehster housing council The Housing Council in the Monroe County Area, Inc. is a 501 (c)(3) not-for-profit corporation founded in 1971 to advocate for the development of housing opportunities for low and moderate-income persons residing in Monroe County, NY.  Since its founding, The Housing Council has expanded its services to provide comprehensive housing counseling focusing on home ownership, mortgage default resolution, tenant and landlord issues, mobility counseling and fair housing education and outreach.

Their site provides links to a number of professional document templates for property owners and managers to use.  They offer Operating Rental Property, Landlord’s Guide to Eviction, Eviction forms and a Judgement form for a modest fee.  But be sure to check out all the free forms they provide as well.  Click on any of the forms to go to the Housing Council’s download page, or you can purchase Housing Council publications by calling 585-546-3700.

  • Renovate Right pdf (English) (1.66 Mb)
  • Renovate Right pdf (Spanish) (1.49 Mb)
  • Lead Booklet (English) (1.04 Mb)
  • Lead Booklet (Spanish) (695.79 Kb)
  • Lead Disclosure Form (English) (167.87 Kb)
  • Lead Disclosure Form (Spanish) (168.36 Kb)
  • Lease (Sample) (81.93 Kb)
  • Notice of Lease Default (28.45 Kb)
  • Notice of Lease/Tenancy Termination (28.08 Kb)
  • Notice of Non-Renewal (22.79 Kb)
  • Notice of Rent Increase (25.84 Kb)
  • Notice to Entering Dwelling Unit (38.51 Kb)
  • Rent Demand (3 days notice) (40.46 Kb)
  • Rent Demand (3 days notice) Interactive Form (99.44 Kb)
  • Rental Application (31.48 Kb)
  • Security Deposit (185.63 Kb)
  • Unit Inspection Form (23.55 Kb)
  • Notice of Non-Renewal Interactive Form (103.00 Kb)
  • Know of any other great resources like this?  Be sure to let us, and your fellow rental property managers know!

    Tenant Rights and Responsibilities in Rochester, NY

    September 22, 2010 by in Free Resources, Renter Tips
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    Whether you’re looking for your first apartment, or you’ve been renting for years, odds are you’re not aware of your rights and responsibilities as a renter.  Fortunately, our friends at the The Housing Council of Monroe County have compiled a document that renters can read online, or pick up at their offices at 75 College Ave, Suite 412.

    Across Monroe County, roughly one third of all households are rental.  When you look at the city proper, 60% of Rochester’s 100,000 households are rentals.  For all those renters, the ‘Tenant Rights & Responsibilities‘ guide is a must have resource for making sure that you’re getting the most out of your renting experience.  In fact, there is even a hot-line you can call with your renting questions at 585-546-3700.

    Here’s a few tips and resources from the guide:

    • For month-to-month contracts, under New York State Real Property Law 232-b, proper notice to terminate a lease is a one-month notice, corresponding to the rent due date.  No reason for terminating the agreement needs to be given by landlord or tenant.
    • All rental agreements, written or verbal, are binding once entered by a tenant and landlord.  There is no grace period to withdraw.  If you agree to rent an apartment and change your mind, the landlord can hold you liable for their losses, which can include losing your security deposit.
    • If severe code violations exist such as serious heating, plumbing or electrical problems, severe fire or health hazards or lack of basic services in the dwelling, a tenant can terminate their rental agreement even if there is a written lease.
    • Landlords can rent an apartment without appliances (stove and refrigerator) provided that they make it clear to the tenants applying for the apartment that they will have to furnish their own.  If landlords supply appliances, they have a duty to keep them in good working order.
    • Most landlord-tenant disputes over deposits arise over the issue of damages versus normal wear and tear.  A landlord can deduct from the deposit actual cost of damages including labor costs.  If a tenant leaves an apartment unclean the cost of cleaning can be deducted.
    • Landlords have a limited right of access to a tenant’s apartment.  The only exception to this is an emergency, during which, a landlord may enter randomly without notice.  In all other situations a landlord must work out a mutually agreeable time to enter, and provide at least a 24-hour heads up.
    • Any self-help eviction by a landlord without a court order is illegal.  Changing the locks, removing a tenant’s possessions, shutting off the utilities to force a tenant out etc. are criminal acts under New York State Real Property Law 235.
    • A landlord has no legal obligation to supply a tenant with off-street parking, storage space, use of a garage, use of yard and common areas, snow removal, garbage cans or garbage pickup.  If you live in a dwelling with two or fewer units a landlord can require you to perform basic outside maintenance such as cutting the grass.

    Familiarizing yourself with your rights and responsibilities will make you a better tenant and save you a lot of aggravation and expense as a renter.  Since the majority of apartments in the Rochester, NY metro are owned by private individuals, renters should share this guide with their landlords to make sure they’re aware too.  Being a landlord is often a part  time job for the property owner, and it can be difficult for them to be on top of all the rights and rules.

    Help us professionalize the Rochester rental market by forwarding this article to others who may need it.

    10 Tips for Writing Great Apartment Listing Descriptions

    September 19, 2010 by in Apartment Marketing, Landlord Tips
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    Ok, you managed to take a bunch of great apartment photos, and get them uploaded to your Newdigs listing. Now you need to write a compelling description of your rental unit. The more life you can breathe into your online listing, the easier it is for a prospective renter to see themselves living in your unit. As with most other purchases in life, an apartment is generally sold on emotion… so get them fried up about living at YOUR apartment!

    Here are Newdigs’ Top 10 Tips for Great Apartment Listing Copy:

    1. Include all the information you can about the property itself.
    the street it’s on, the size of the unit, access to parking and laundry, how many units in the property, special features like water views or a gas fireplace. Build up a clear picture of what you’re marketing.

    2. Describe the neighborhood in detail.
    Renters can find demographics and other stats, but what’s within walking distance? Is this a hip neighborhood with lots to do at night, or is it a ‘bedroom community’ where there is nothing but residential housing in every direction?   Why would someone want to live in your place?

    3. Avoid going crazy with the superlatives.
    Describing an apartment as “charming” or “amazing” might sound nice, but ultimately it doesn’t give apartment hunters any real information.

    4. Help apartment hunters see themselves in your property.
    Instead of saying that the apartment has a balcony and a fenced yard, you might say, “Imagine yourself relaxing with your morning coffee on the back balcony while you effortlessly keep watch of your dog secured in your fenced back yard.”

    5. DON’T violate Fair Housing Laws. It should go without saying that apartment ads should never be excluding of ‘protected classes’ by suggesting that the owner will only rent to Catholics or non-gay tenants. But it can be easier than you think to be in violation. Suggesting that the unit is perfect for handicap tenants or seniors because of its ramp access and low counters can be considered steering. You can however, highlight that the unit does have ramps and low counters. See HUD’s website for more information.

    6. Let them know you’re a great landlord.
    Because the rental market is still terribly inefficient, renters often have no way of knowing if they are dealing with a reputable landlord. Put prospective renters at ease by offering past tenant referrals, or mentioning any accolades you may have received.

    7. Give buyers a sense of the property’s history.
    Mentioning recent renovations, or the fact that it has had the same owner for 30 years, will show apartment hunters that you know all there is to know about this apartment.

    8. Correct grammar and spelling count.
    If you don’t have someone who can proofread your work, try reading it aloud to spot any errors.

    9. Address any cost of living in your apartment beyond rent. In Rochester, NY and much of the North East, utility costs in older apartment units can often exceed $300-$500/month. You’ll have a very angry renter if they budgeted for $600 rent and $100 in utilities.

    10. Be Original. Statements like, “can’t miss” or “must see” get seriously overused in property listings. Take the time to think of a new way to describe what the property offers.

    There you have it. Now you’ve got the framework to go out and create a rockin’ listing. With these tips you should have your vacancy filled in days, not weeks.