Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Q: I just bought a house here and it’s really in need of remodeling.

It was built in the 60’s and it needs a lot of work. I’d like to incorporate some elements of “green” building into the remodel but don’t know where to start. Also, is that going to make it more expensive?

Funny you should ask. I am sponsoring a 10 week class on sustainable/green building and remodeling starting Thursday, March 1st. I’m bringing in an exciting group of speakers covering things like using recycled products and used building materials, designing for passive solar, “green” remodeling and sustainable landscaping. You can call my office to sign up.

Most people assume that doing a “green” project will cost more money. That isn’t true. Most “green” products are competitively priced, such as carpeting from recycled soda bottles and non-toxic paints. They are also beautiful and easy to use! What can make an impact on your project is time. Many contractors are too busy to take the extra time to locate appropriate used materials or shop for specifically recycled products. That’s where you can make the difference. If you’re willing to do some of the shopping, you can save yourself a lot of money and the contractor a lot of time.

I have a friend who built her entire house using recycled materials. It’s a stunning, dramatic home. She went to the stores that sell recycled products, as well as those that sell used building materials, and got some fantastic deals! She got marble, slate, granite, period fixtures, and top of the line appliances. Her house was made of Rastra, (a concrete form system, made from recycled plastics, that stays in place once the concrete is poured) and positioned her house for passive solar. She did it all on a budget.

I was recently awarded the EcoBroker designation from the National Association of Realtors. There are only 40 such EcoBrokers in the state of Washington. It is a rigorous course of study that I took on because I think it’s critical that we all wake up and realize that the old saying is still true: “waste not, want not."

Monday, February 05, 2007

Q: We have a problem and don’t know who to consult.

Maybe you can recommend a lawyer or someone. We own a rental house here on Vashon and have decided that we want to sell it. We’ve had an appraisal and are really happy with the price we were quoted. The problem is the renters. Their lease isn’t up for a couple of months and we want them out of there now so we can sell the place. My husband has been calling them and asking them to leave and also we’ve been over there with some real estate people who say the house would show better empty. How can we get these people out?

I think that if you plan to engage an attorney it should be to explain Washington Landlord Tenant Law to you. I believe that you are in violation of that law and the renters could have a case against you for harassment. For instance, are you aware that they are entitled to at least a two day notice before you intend to enter the house? They have the right to enjoy their home in peace with no harassment from you or anyone else. The home is theirs until the end of their lease unless they have broken the lease agreement or caused some major nuisance.

You should also understand that selling the house does not automatically end a lease. In addition, I suggest you read the provision of the law concerning taking retaliatory actions against a renter. That could get you into some trouble too.

I would recommend that you speak to them and see if you could buy them out of their lease. If they aren’t willing to leave early, I suggest you wait until they move out to put your house on the market. You made a contract with these people and you need to keep it. They could make it very difficult for you if they wanted to, so it’s in your own best interests to work with them, not against them.