Phone: 310-729-6573
Email: martin@martinfeinberg.com

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Culver City Council Approves Flavored Tobacco Ban in Culver City

Image is a red and white "banned" sign.Martin Feinberg, Realtor, was surprised to learn that in late October Culver City’s City Council approved an ordinance that will ban the sale of flavored tobacco products, including menthol within the Culver City Real Estate area.  For most retailers and carriers, the ban will not go into effect until May of 2020.  Others will have a longer reprieve before needed to worry about compliance.

The approved ban specifies that tobacco retailers, including grocery and convenience store owners as well as gas stations and other similar venues, will have until May 25, 2020, before the ban takes effect.  Retailers that qualify as tobacco stores are not required to stop selling flavored tobacco products until November 2020.

This grace period was designed to give store owners the opportunity to sell off their flavored tobacco product inventory if possible. The hookah lounge located in Culver City on Sepulveda Blvd is the one exemption from the ban and will be allowed to continue to sell flavored tobacco products for the foreseeable future.

Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells stated, “Tobacco and other types of smoking or vaping products remain a public health problem across our country – especially with children and diverse communities, who, for decades, seem to be targets of ‘Big Tobacco.  With flavors such as strawberry and vanilla and marketing resembling that of popular candy brands, our City Council recognizes that young people, in particular, are susceptible to the appeal and addictive qualities of flavored tobacco products.  By voting in favor of a citywide ban on flavored and menthol tobacco products, the City Council strives to protect the health, safety, and welfare of our youth.”

Local listing agent Martin Feinberg notes that those seeking more information on the sale of flavored/menthol tobacco products in Culver City, and the upcoming ban, should visit the City’s web page on this issue.  It can be found at www.culvercity.org/flavorban.

Image is two flavor options for vaping tobacco.

Culver City Fire Department Shares ways to Reduce Risk in December

Image is two open doors in a home with fire behind them.Martin Feinberg, Realtor, understands that the holidays can be a time of increased risk for fire due to the amount of candles, Christmas lights, and cooking that goes on in so many homes.  The Culver City Fire Department knows that too and has provided a few fire preventative tips on the City’s website to help reduce the chances of fire within the Culver City Real Estate area.  By following some simple rules of thumb, the chances of a home fire in December can be greatly reduced.

Candles

  • Candles should be kept at least 12 inches away from anything flammable and should be extinguished when no one is in the room or occupants go to bed.
  • Candle holders should be sturdy and stable, and placed on uncluttered surfaces.
  • Never use lit candles on a Christmas tree.
  • Never leave a child or pet in a room with a burning candle.
  • Consider flameless candles to bring the fire risk down to zero.

Christmas Trees

  • Live Christmas trees should be fresh with needles that do not come off easily when touched or break when gently bent. Trunks need to be trimmed two inches from the base when brought home, and trees should immediately be placed in a tree stand and watered daily. All artificial trees should be labeled, certified, or identified by the manufacturer as fire-retardant.
  • Christmas trees (and furniture moved to create room for them) should not block exits.They also need to be at least three feet away from all heat sources.
  • Never leave a lighted tree unattended or leave lights on for prolonged periods of time. Christmas tree lights should be turned off, and the heat turned down, when leaving the house or going to sleep.
  • Christmas trees should be removed from the home as soon as possible after Christmas. Beginning December 26 through the end of January, Christmas trees can be dropped off at four locations: Veterans Memorial Park, Fox Hills Park, Culver West Park, or Syd Kronenthal Park.

Lights

  • All decoration lights should be tested by an independent testing laboratory (e.g., Underwriters Laboratories (UL)). Never connect more than three standard-size sets of lights to one extension cord.
  • Check each set of lights, whether new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, and/or loose connections. Discard all damaged sets. After inspection lights can be placed on a fireproof surface and run for 15 minutes to check for lights that show signs of overheating.
  • Always turn off Christmas lights before leaving the home or going to bed.
  • Outdoor electrical lights should be brought inside after the holidays to prevent fire hazards and increase longevity.

Cooking

  • When simmering, baking, or roasting food, check it often. Using a timer as a reminder is also a good idea.
  • There should be a “kid-free zone” of at least three feet around the stove and areas where hot food and drinks are prepared or carried.
  • If a cooking fire starts leave the house immediately, closing the door to the room if possible to help contain the fire. Call 911 or the local emergency number immediately.
  • If someone decides to attempt to stop the fire make sure that everyone else in the home leaves, and make sure the person staying behind has access to an exit.
  • Always keep a lid nearby when cooking to smother small grease fires if necessary. Slide the lid over the pan and turn off the stovetop. Leave the pan covered until it is completely cooled. For oven fires, turn off the heat and keep the door closed.

Image is a bunch of lit tea light candles with Christmas lights in the background.

Property Managers Must Decide if Virtual Tours are Right for Them

Image is a simulated 360 degree view of an outdoor space.Trying to find new tenants to fill a vacant property is one of the most important responsibilities of any property manager or rental property owner.   It can also be one of the most difficult aspects of being a landlord however, typically requiring both an investment of time and money to be successful.  Some property managers choose to utilize different technological options in an attempt to gain an advantage over their competition and save money.  One such possible advantage can be found through the use of virtual tours.

Virtual tours allow perspective tenants to view a rental property anytime of the day or night, using immersive photography similar to Google Map’s street view feature.  Though they allow self-guided tours which can increase leads and decrease unnecessary showings, virtual tours also require investments in equipment and software that might not be worth the cost.  It’s the job of experienced property managers to weigh the costs of virtual tours to decide if they are right for their needs.

Benefits of Virtual Tours

  1. Optimize listings:  Virtual tours can help generate more tenant leads by improving the appeal of a listing.  Many renters in today’s markets, especially Millennials, find video tours to be incredibly important in their rental searches.
  2. No wait time for perspective tenants:  Virtual tours are on-demand so interested renters can look at a property the instant they find it.  When paired with options such as Tenant Turner—which takes lead calls 24 hours a day seven days a week—virtual tours can create a competitive edge in the rental market.
  3. Limit unnecessary showingsVirtual tours provide a possible tenant with a lot of information before a showing is scheduled.  This means that renters can weed out those properties that won’t work for them before needing to get the property manager involved.  Showing properties to tenants that are already engaged with the listing can save time and money.

Drawbacks of Virtual Tours

  1. Cost: Virtual tours normally require higher end software and more expensive cameras than most professional property managers usually use.  That’s an investment that must be considered.  While it’s possible to use outside services to create virtual tour videos, those services can also be pricey at anywhere from $150 to $300 per listing.
  2. Tours that no one sees:  Many listing sites don’t have great options for highlighting virtual tours yet.   Property managers would need to make sure that their showing scheduler supported video tours and highlighted them effectively before it would make sense to invest in creating something that few will ever see.
  3. Photography is still important: Even with a good virtual tour, property listings still need to include 11 to 15 high-quality photos, and the photos alone might be enough to gain the interested needed.

While video tours can really help some property managers increase the interest in a specific listing, they are not always worth the investment that is required. Professional property managers like Martin Feinberg must review their goals and costs to decide if virtual tours would work for them.

Image is an illustration of a group of houses.

Four Ways to Volunteer in Culver City this Holiday Season

Image is a group of people doing service in a park with a woman standing in the foreground smiling, wearing a shirt that says volunteer.

Volunteering is a good way to give back to any community, and that is never more true than during the holidays.  Local listing agent Martin Feinberg is excited that there are many different opportunities to volunteer within the Culver City Real Estate area.  Below are four ways to get involved during the month of December.

Ballona Creek Cleanup: Saturday, December 7

“The Ballona Creek Renaissance team welcomes volunteers of all ages for this fun and worthwhile activity where the inland water and incoming tide meet. It’s also a great way for students to earn community service credits! Volunteers meet this Saturday December 7 from 9 a.m. to noon at Centinela Ave and Milton Street. This will especially be needed after the rains of the past week!”

Ballona Creek Renaissance

Habitat for Humanity Site Host Orientation: Saturday, December 7

“Are you a morning person? Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles is looking for Culver City site hosts to provide wonderful hospitality service to volunteers each morning on the construction site. Habitat LA is seeking volunteers that can dedicate one day a week from 7:45 a.m. to 9 a.m., Wednesday through Saturday. Orientation for this position is happening this Saturday, December 7 from 7:45 a.m. to 9 a.m. You must register on the Habitat website as a volunteer to attend.”

Habitat for Humanity

A Child’s Dream Annual Outreach: Saturday, December 14

“Please join A Child’s Dream for their Annual Holiday Outreach on Saturday, December 14. Volunteers are needed for shifts of at least two hours between 7:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. to help distribute gifts, personal hygiene products, dry and canned good items to children and their families in our community. There are a variety of service options available including doing crafts, providing security, setting up for the event, etc.”

Martin Feinberg, Realtor, encourages all who are interested to  sign up on their website.  A Child’s Dream asks volunteers to sign up in advance.

Yuletide Caroling at Local Senior Centers: Sunday, December 15, and Sunday, December 22

“Come raise your voice in song and help lift the spirits of Culver City seniors and elderly “family members” during the holiday season with One Incredible Family. Two opportunities to sing yuletide carols and Hanukkah songs with GLEE at local Senior Centers! Volunteers will sing seasonal songs and yuletide carols, will shake sleigh bells and will interact with senior citizens. Visits are from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. All are welcome even if you can’t carry a tune!”

OIF website.

Image is an illustration of a group of hands, in different colors, being raised, with the word volunteer over them.

Sixth Annual Culver City Film Festival Coming December 6-12

Image is a drawing of a movie projector screening a film.The 6thannual Culver City Film Festival will be held within the Culver City Real Estate area December 6-12 this year.  The yearly Culver City Film Festival is widely known among both professional and amateur filmmakers, along with filmgoers, as a well respected event focused on promoting independent filmmaking.

Martin Feinberg, Culver City Realtor, notes that Festival Director Jon Gursha and Festival Programmer Peter Greene expect this year to be a huge success.  The festival is set to screen of hundreds of films from all around the world.

Gursha stated, “Film Festivals inspire people to make a point and show their talents through the art of filmmaking.”

Films will play at the Cinemark 18 and XD as well as The Promenade at Howard Hughes Center this year. Film screenings will begin at 10 am on Friday, December 6th and will go through Thursday, December 12th.

“Filmgoers can anticipate a wide range and variety of interesting and original films,” said Greene.

According to the Culver City Film Festival press release, “this year’s Opener Meet-Up will take place at The Warehouse Restaurant in Marina del Rey on Thursday, December 5th at 7pm. Come early and enjoy the fun and friendly atmosphere and the opportunity to network with others. Award-winning filmmaker, actor, and producer Kirk Ryde will moderate an Actors Panel discussion beginning at 7pm featuring well known actors, writers and producers including Madeleine Wade, Kevin Caliber, Scott Butler, Karen Knotts, Carlos Ragas, and Diana Lu.”

Image is the inside of a movie theater.The ceremonial post-festival awards presentation will be held at The Proud Bird restaurant this year, which is near LAX, on Friday, December 13th at 8:30 pm.

Festival and and other information can be found on the festival website, www.culvercityfilmfestival.com. Local listing agent Martin Feinberg encourages all who are interested in submitting films for the festival to do so at FilmFreeway.

The Tree Lighting Sled-Tacular Happening in Culver City On December 5

Image is a close up of a lit Christmas tree.It’s that time of year again, and Martin Feinberg, Realtor, is looking forward to the many local holiday celebrations that happen in and around the Culver City Real Estate area in December.  One such event is the annual lighting of the holiday tree, which is being billed this year as The Tree Lighting Sled-Tacular.

The City of Culver City’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Services (Culver City PRCS) and Culver City Downtown Business Association are joining forces on Thursday December 5 to create an impressive holiday kickoff celebration for residents of all ages.

According to the City’s website, The Tree Lighting Sled-Tacular will be taking place from 5 to 8 PM in Culver City’s Town Plaza (outdoors at the intersection of Culver Boulevard and Van Buren Place).  The event is free.

Culver City Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells stated, “There isn’t a better way to gear up and celebrate the holidays than with our annual tree lighting.  A product of a number of local groups, the Sled-Tacular is a fine example of Culver City coming together to kickoff the holidays with celebration and community. I look forward to seeing everyone at the festivities!”

Tree Lighting Sled-Tacular Schedule

  • 5-8 PM: There will be bounce houses for kids, performances by local community groups, a life-size snow globe, snow sledding (on 25 tons of snow!), carnival games from Culver City’s Kiwanis Club and Joymode, a photo-op station and live performances during the entirety of the event.
  • 6 PM: The tree lighting ceremony begins
  • 6:30 PM – Santa Claus arrives

The entertainment stage will include presenters and performs ranging from the Mayor and City Council to the Culver City School Choirs, AVPA Brass Ensemble, Jazz Combos, Tiny Tots Ballet & Tap, Beyond Pre-K En Español and more.

The Culver City press release also states that “a treat station with sweets, hot chocolate and coffee will be provided courtesy of the members of the Culver City Downtown Business Association.”

Drivers to the event can find parking at City lots on Cardiff and Watseka (first hour is free) and The Culver Steps complex.  They can also take advantage downtown’s universal valet parking system. Non-drivers can check out the Culver City Bicycle Coalition’s bike valet, utilize the Culver City CityBus, or walk to the venue.

Local listing agent Martin Feinberg notes that The Tree Lighting Sled-Tacular is made possible by co-sponsors Culver Studios and Culver Steps.  Those with questions should contact the recreation office by phone at (310) 253-6650, through email at info.recreation@culvercity.org, or online at the Culver City PRCS webpage or Downtown Culver City website.

Image is a girl on a sled in the snow with a Christmas tree in the background.

Good Property Managers Know how to set and Collect Rent Efficiently

Image is a close up of a hand holding property keys with townhouses in the background.The income received from owning a rental property is the most important aspect of investment property ownership.  As such, the ability to set competitive rent prices, and collect that rent in a timely and efficient manner, is essential.   Rental property owners should look for experienced property managers who can handle both issues with ease.

Choosing the Rental Rate

Not every rental property owner is aware that finding a good rental rate is actually a fairly precise science.  Property managers must be knowledgeable of the local market and also do regular market research to come up with the best rental price for the units they manage.   Though most experts believe that rent should be 1% of a property’s value per month, experienced property managers like Martin Feinberg know that such rules can’t always predict the current market’s value or what perspective tenants will be willing to pay.

Raising Rent

Setting an initial rent rate for a property is important, but it’s not the end of the process.  Regular rental rate surveys should be performed, at least annually if not more frequently, to make sure that each property is continuing to go for market value.

Collecting Rent

Collecting rent is one of the most important duties of a property manager because how rent is collected has a direct impact on a property owner’s cash flow. Professional property managers need to have a proven system in place for processing tenants’ rent and getting it to their owners each month.  They should also have a system for handling late rent payments, bounced checks, and/or nonpayment of rent.

A good property management company is one that is both firm but also reasonable when it comes to rent collection.  Tenants will take advantage of a property manager who is too lenient, but will quickly become unhappy with one that is too strict.  Property managers should have detailed leases that explain exactly what is expected of tenants while also outlining possible grace periods for when unexpected things happen.

Image is an illustration of a for rent sign.Evictions

Dealing with evictions for nonpayment of rent is one of the most difficult aspects of working with rental properties.  Many owners choose to utilize a property management company for that reason alone.  As such a property manager’s eviction process should be well-documented and also in full compliance with all federal, state, and local laws.

Grace Diner Serves Restaurant-Style Meals to Those in Need all Year Long

Image is a close up of a table set for a nice meal.Though many people become more aware of the less fortunate during the holiday season, the need to help feed the hungry and homeless never goes away.  That is why The Grace Diner serves free weekly meals to those in need all year long.

Martin Feinberg, Realtor, was interested to learn that The Grace Diner is a non-profit organization run by the Grace Lutheran Church, with a restaurant-style setting of tables and waiters that serve patrons freshly cooked meals.  Meals are served every Monday from 4:30 to 6 p.m. in Parish Hall as a way to provide those in need a guaranteed place and time to eat, unwind, and socialize.  Parish Hall is located within the Culver City Real Estate area at the Grace Lutheran Church on 4427 Overland Ave.

Yolanda D., a diner at the event, said, “It’s really well done because it’s clean tablecloths, it’s open for two hours, and you have a full-course meal cooked.”

Lisa Skelley, manager of The Grace Diner, explained how the diner helps the marginalized feel cared for.  She stated, “it’s interesting because when people come to the diner, they automatically think they should get a tray and go up to our window to get food.  They’re always a little shocked when I say, ‘Oh no, go ahead and get a seat, and we’ll have our wait staff come over to serve you.’”

Diners are given a three-course meal during their stay: a salad, entree, and dessert.  The Grace Diner typically makes 110 meals each week, usually serving about 90 regulars with a couple of new faces each Monday.  The Grace Diner never turns anyone away however, making it available for any individual in need of food. They even have a takeout option.

If the amount of food that is needing is more than is readily available, workers at the Grace Diner are not afraid to improvise.

“One time, I had to go to Jack in the Box and order 220 tacos,” Skelley shared.

Though providing a weekly meal—they have now provided meals for 541 consecutive weeks—is The Grace Diner’s objective, their primary aim is much grander in scope.

Image is a close up of a bunch of food, such as tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers, green beans, and garlic.“Our goal when we started the diner is that churches would take over each night,” Skelly said. “That has not happened, but this is the beginning.”

Culver Palms United Methodist Church has begun to follow the example set by the diner and is now providing a free meal every last Wednesday of the month from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at their church on 4464 Sepulveda Blvd in Culver City.

Local listing agent Martin Feinberg notes that The Grace Diner has plenty of volunteers, but depends primarily on donations to keep the meals coming, which are always in need. Interested parties can donate through their website www.gracediner.org under the section “Donate Now.”

Golden State Water Emergency Disaster Relief Program Available to Help

California Stat Flag flies amid raging fire in Paradise California.  Local listing agent Martin Feinberg was surprised to learn that there is a Golden State Water Emergency Disaster Relief Program that offers protections for customers impacted by wildfires or other natural disasters. The program, which is available to both residential and business customers, offers support, fee waivers, and flexible payment plans.  It also complies with California Public Utilities Commission Resolution No. M-4833 and Decision No. 19-07-015

The Emergency Disaster Relief Program becomes available to customers, including those within the Culver City Real Estate area, in the event that a State of Emergency is declared at the state or federal levels.  Should that occur, customers who suffer disaster-related loss or disruption of delivery or receipt of service, and/or face a loss of the quality of service, are eligible to receive the following:

  • Support and help with resolving prior unpaid bills;
  • Waiver of reconnection or facilities fees along with suspension of deposits for those who have to reconnect to the system;
  • Additional flexibility in payment options;
  • Waiver of bills for those who lose their homes or whose homes are rendered uninhabitable;
  • Waiver of any fixed portion of a water bill, such as a meter charge, for the time that the home is declared uninhabitable. This applies even if the home is uninhabitable regardless of the state of the water service.

Denise Kruger, Senior Vice President of Regulated Utilities, stated, “Devastating wildfires and other natural disasters like earthquakes are a reality for all Californians, and Golden State Water wants customers to know they will be protected if they are ever impacted by a life-changing disaster.  We have been a water provider in California for more than 90 years, and our customers are our families, friends and neighbors. We have programs like this in place so our communities affected by disaster can focus on the things that matter most.”

To learn more about the Golden State Water Emergency Disaster Relief Program customers should visit http://www.gswater.com/disaster-relief.

Martin Feinberg, Realtor notes that the Golden State Water website provides all protection information in English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Russian and Tagalog.

Image is the Golden State Water Company logo.

Avoid Unnecessary Costs and Collect Payment During Tenant Turnover

Image is a cartoon of a hand stretched out with dollar bills hovering over it.Tenant turnover can be a costly endeavor for rental property owners.  Losing a good tenant without another one to fill the vacancy means a loss of steady revenue for an unknown length of time.  Plus, new tenants often mean cleaning, maintenance, and repairs that can’t always be charged to the previous renter.   Though there can be some challenges to overcoming lost revenue during tenant turnover, experienced property managers know ways to avoid revenue loss and increase profits during the search for new renters.

PRIOR TO SCHEDULED MOVE OUT

As soon as a resident has submitted a move out notice property managers can take some immediate steps to limit lost revenue.  Some of these steps are:

  1. Acknowledge the move out notice and date in writing so that there are no misunderstandings about when the property will be vacant and the keys returned.
  2. Schedule a pre-move-out inspection to so the tenant knows they need to repair or replace and what needs to be cleaned.
  3. Make sure the tenant understands the purpose of the security deposit and doesn’t believe they can withhold the last month’s rent.
  4. Do the final walk-through inspection with the tenant, after the property is empty.  Take pictures and discuss any problems that will result in a deduction from the security deposit.
  5. Make sure to have the tenant’s forwarding address and verify contact information.

PREPARE A DISPOSITION OF DEPOSIT

A disposition of deposit is an itemized accounting of the cost that the property manager or property owner will spend to bring the property back to a rentable condition.  It cannot include costs due to common wear and tear but should include all other amounts owed or due by or to the tenant.  These amounts can include outstanding past due rent, prorated rent charges, and/or refunds of rent.

Providing a disposition of deposit does not guarantee repayment as tenants sometimes dispute fees assessed from their security deposit.  Good documentation, photographs, cleaning and repair receipts, and convincing communication can sometimes help convince former tenants to comply.   If a tenant continues to refuse to pay what they owe, efforts to recover lost revenue may be needed.

DEBT RECOVERY AFTER THE TENANT HAS MOVED

When a former tenant ignores an initial request for repayment a professional property manager such as Martin Feinberg understands that oftentimes consistency is key.  Certified letters sent periodically reminding former tenants of the debt that is due can help renters realize that the issue isn’t going to disappear. A formal demand letter from an attorney or paralegal can also send a clear message that repayment is required. 

If a former tenant is withholding payment because they disagree with an assessment of debt owed, property managers can offer a dispute resolution meeting with or without an arbitrator to help expedite the process.

Image is a close up of dollar bills.If a tenant still refuses to acknowledge or pay their debt, professional debt collectors might be the next step.   Rent recovery services need to be reputable and law abiding, and should also specialize in debt collection for the rental industry if possible.

When all else fails, suing a former tenant for unpaid rent or other lost revenue can be the option of last resort. Winning a civil suit case gives a landlord greater recourse in pursuing repayment by way of wage and tax garnishments.