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Video Surveillance: Know The Rules and Your Rights

 

I am straying  a little from “home” today, but I thought this topic is an important one and needs some attention. I hope you agree, or disagree. Feel free to comment below.

I think George Orwell had it right. In his book “1984” George talks about a futuristic society where among other things our every move is being watched by “The Party”. It seems like every place you go now days there is a video surveillance camera recording our every move. Am I the only one who wonders if this is legal, and where does it stop?

VideoSurveillence

They tell us it is to protect us, to keep us safe, but where does that effort and our rights to privacy begin? Looking into  the delicate subject of video surveillance in this day and age is somewhat confusing, but I will try to bring some clarity to  it.

Video and audio recording are two separate issues when it comes to the law. We will begin by talking about video first.  Generally it is legal to record in your home, where the use of “nanny cams” has exploded. The exception to this would be  where a person would expect privacy such as a bathroom or a bedroom when the nanny or person is living there. You  must also remember it is illegal in every state to record someone with the purpose or intent of blackmail.

The same general rules apply outside your home and in most public places. Steer clear of areas where people might have a reasonable expectation of privacy.  Examples of these areas are but not limited to restrooms, locker rooms, changing rooms and other “private areas”. One confusing area could be your yard. If the camera’s field of vision also included your neighbor’s yard, and depending on any fencing or privacy screens that you by passed by the location of your camera.

In the workplace especially small businesses it is legal to have camera’s and not tell the employees. In larger businesses this may be a negotiating point with the appropriate workers union.

Audio recording is a little clearer than video.  It is illegal to record a conversation by voice recorder of video camera with sound unless at least one person consents to the recording in most states. Those states requiring both parties to consent are California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington. Hawaii has a double standard, requiring one person consent in a public place but both parties consent in a private area.

It is almost always illegal to record a phone conversation even in your own home without the recorded person/s consent, federal wiretapping and all.

One other really confusing area and one that will need a lot of clarification is the use of and recording of from drones. Probably a safe bet to follow the same requirements as if you were recording from a “land based” video camera.

There you have it, a general outline of the laws as they currently stand. Remember Big Brother is watching you! Please comment below!!

 
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Building Your Home; Finding The Perfect Lot

Finding a lot to build on is simple right?
Not so fast. First of all please understand I am not putting down sellers, or Realtors, but I have seen it happen time and time again, sellers relay incorrect information to the Realtors and or buyers such as, “utilities are on the lot” or “the lot is ready to build on” when it is anything but. A while back I signed a contract to purchase a lot and during the process the seller stated that the sewer was available to the lot, and you guessed it I found out different. During the due diligence period I found out sewer was available to the lot but only after I installed a $20,000 lift station! Fortunately I found this out early enough and was able to get out of the contract and renegotiate it. Let the buyer beware. The following is a checklist, and a to do list. Hopefully you have found this article before you have actually purchased your lot, as some of the items below are best done before the actual purchase of a lot. Evaluate your financial situation and obtain mortgage pre-approval, to set your building budget.
1.  Narrow your search to areas within 10% to 15% of your target price.
2.  Start developing a list of what you must have, what you would like, and what you do not want in your new home.
3.  You can select a builder at this point or at any point in the future and he can help guide you through the process.
4.  Is the lot in a development that has conditions and/or restrictions on what and how you can build?
5.  Do these conditions raise the price of your new home out of your price range?
6.  Is the lot of sufficient size to hold your home with all the setbacks intact?
7.  Is there public water, and sewer on the property and within close range of where the house will be built?
8.  Are electric and gas service on the property and within close range of where the house will be built?
9.  Are the soil conditions suitable for building a home?
10. If needed is the lot of sufficient size and are the soil conditions conducive to a septic system?
11. Is it in a floodplain, are there wetlands?
12. Were there any buildings previously built on he site?
13. Is there anything buried on the land?
14. Define the build-able area of the lot
15. Select an architect to design your new home
16. Share your budget and list of wants with the architect.
17. If you have not selected a builder, you should do so now.Talk to friends and ask for referrals
18. Drive the area you want to live or where you own your lot, looking for builders.
19. Be open and honest with your builder, share your budget, and time frame.
20. Communication is the key to any building project, make sure the builder you select has good communication skills.
This list is by no means all inclusive, it is a starting point and a general guide, to get you thinking.
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Selling Your Home? Create a Great 1st Impression

CurbAppeal

There is a lot of truth in the old adage “You Only Have 1 Time to Make a 1st Impression”. So it is with the appearance of your house. Of course you want your house to look nice when family and friends come by to visit, but the outside appearance of your home, curb appeal, is critical when you are selling your home. Get past the exterior and there are the first impressions when someone enters the house.

Here are a few tips to improve the 1st impression of your house.

 

  • Looking at your own house objectively is very difficult. I suggest you contact a local designer or interior decorator. Ask them what their hourly rate is, and offer to pay them for an hour to come out and look at your house, suggesting things you could do to improve the appeal of it.

 

  • Begin with a look at the front of your house as visitors or prospective buyers would, from across the street. Take plenty of notes, and remember now is not the time to disagree.

 

  • Next enter your home with the designer and let them look around. Remember you want the prospective of someone who does not know you and has not been in your house before. Continue to take notes as you move from room to room. The look, feel and smell of the house are critically important and could sway a prospective buyer one way or the other.

 

  • When you are done walking through your house, spend some time going over your notes and clarifying things you do not understand. Ask the designer for inexpensive solutions to the problem areas they have identified.

 

After going through the above process I think you will areas of improvement you never would have thought of. A few dollars and some elbow grease and your home will make a great 1st impression.
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5 Tips To Keeping Rain Water Out Of Your Home

KeepRainWaterOut

Without a doubt water infiltration is the number one cause of damage to your home. Typically the older your home is the more likely you are to have water infiltration. Periodic inspection and preventative maintenance is the best way to avoid the damage that water brings with it. Here are 5 tips to help you win the battle.

 

  • Increase the grade from your house to quickly move water away from your homes foundation before it has a chance to soak into the ground and infiltrate your foundation. Take care not to place dirt above the top of your foundation. Do not let the ground come into contact with the brick or siding on your home.
  • Maintain gutters and downspouts. Clean gutters seasonally to avoid clogs and overflowing gutters which will pour water right against your home. Extend the downspouts 3’ to 5’ from your home and make sure there is not any debris that has traveled down from the gutters, thus clogging them.
  • If your home’s roof is less than 10 years old a visual inspection should be performed every 2 years, older than 10 year, schedule it yearly. Loose, torn or missing shingles can allow water to run into the house. Also look for nail pops especially at the peaks where the caps are nailed. A small dab of quality roof cement will seal it back up.
  • If you have window wells walk around the house monthly and check the drains.
  • Install a quality sump pump and check it for operation often. You may want to purchase a battery back-up sump pump to help protect your investment.

Most of the items above can be accomplished for minimal or no cost. Sump pumps can range from $500 to $1000 and battery backups can easily add another $1000. Whatever the cost it is cheap when compared to the damage continual water infiltration or a flooded basement can cause.

 

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Finishing Your Basement; 4 Key Points

FinishingBasement

  • Finishing a basement into a lower level living space can cost significantly less than adding an above ground addition. General cost estimates are $60 sq ft. to $120 sq ft.  Visit Remodeling Magazines Cost vs Value Report for 2016 for more detailed information at http://www.remodeling.hw.net/cost-vs-value/2016/
  • Keeping moisture out of your new lower living area is critical. Having any wall cracks professionally sealed, updating or upgrading your sump pump system, including installing a battery backup sump pump is a must have to protect your new living space. Contractor John How To Install a Battery Back-up Sump Pump Video will walk you through the installation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1jffxtTFos
  • Since your new living apace is below ground and typically exit from that space is not always easy, you will have to make sure you have at least 2 escape routes. Naturally one is the stairway from the house to the basement and the other should be a regulation escape window in the finished area of the basement.
  • Any time you are adding to the electrical system or the plumbing system, or changing any structural component of the house a permit is required. If you complete the project without a permit and the building department finds out they can make you tear out parts of the project to verify you complied with the building code. Also having an area that was completed without building inspections could be a problem when it comes time to sell your home. Always obtain a building permit when necessary.

As with any remodeling project, researching the project and time spent planning all phases of your project is a major key to a professional looking and quality project.
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Surge Protection for The Entire House

WholeHouseSurgeProtection

We have all heard of surge protectors. Surge protection is usually integrated into those power strips we use to plug all our computer equipment into. In days gone by that may have been enough protection, but not in today’s world of home electronics.

Enter the whole house surge protector. Although studies show that only about 20% to 30% of power surges originate from outside the house, the larger most dangerous surges originate from outside the house. A typical whole house surge protector installation will cost in the $200 to $500 range and will protect you from these surges originating outside our house. Most homes with 120 volt service can be adequately protected with an 80kA surge protection device.

Before you throw that surge protected power strip away remember that 60% to 70% of power surges originate from inside the house. These smaller but equally dangerous surges come from motors, larger appliances, and units cycling on and off.

Houses today have an ever growing amount of electronics that can be damaged by either type of power surge. Even LED light bulbs have a printed circuit board inside them which can be damaged by a onetime power surge or weakened over time by smaller surges.

You cannot protect everything in your home for every possible surge, but it is a good practice to have a whole house surge protection unit installed in your home by a qualified electrician, and keep the surge protected power strips for all your computer, audio and video equipment.
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4 Tips For A Smoother Home Closing

HomeBuyingTips

Purchasing a home can be a sometimes overwhelming process, wrought with emotion. Following these 4 tips will help smooth out those emotions and the entire home buying process.

  • Stay Calm

Staying calm in an emotionally charged situation such as home buying is much easier said than done, but it is imperative. Your emotion will spill over to other members of the team and the result will more than likely not be in your favor.

  • Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage

Getting pre-approved for your mortgage is a huge signal to your realtor, the buyer’s realtor and the seller that you are serious about purchasing. Home shopping with a pre-approval will save you and your realtor valuable time and energy showing you only those homes within your financial reach.

  • Respond Quickly To Lender Requests

Home loans require a ridiculous amount of documentation. You will be asked for proof of everything you say and often proof of things you didn’t say. There isn’t any sense arguing with the lender, just produce the required document quickly before your loan package gets shuffled off to the side and delayed.

  • Ask Questions If You Do Not Understand

This is all new territory for you and there will be more than a few things you will not understand. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I suggest you do some general research before you begin your home search about the process. Understanding how the process flows and how the parts are sometimes dependant on each other will benefit you.

 

Following the tips above will enable everyone involved in your home buying process to work together smoothly and efficiently.

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Wood Toys From Yester-Year

My wife, Sue, and I were walking through an antique store in some small town in eastern Iowa, a few weeks ago and I came upon this old wood toy truck.

PlywoodTruck1

Antique Truck Made From Plywood

PlywoodTruck2

Antique Toy Truck Made From Plywood

Every part of it is made from plywood including the frame and wheels. I just though it was pretty cool.

Maybe somebody out there would like to tackle building it as a weekend project?

Let me know your thoughts

Contractor John……..

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What Insurance Should Contractors Have?

 

All contractors are required to have some kind of insurance to comply with local, state, and national laws. Insurance also protects contractors and their businesses from liability, while also helping employees who suffer through an accident. However, many contractors will feel overwhelmed while trying to navigate the intimidating, complicated world of insurance. Here, we want to provide you with the right resources for the right insurance plan without making you feel like you’re paying a bundle for insurance you may not need.

 

General Liability Insurance: Cover The Basics

 

While there are specialized forms of contractor insurance available—some of which may very well pertain to your business—all contractors need to start out with some kind of general liability coverage in order to protect themselves. General Liability Insurance (sometimes called “GL” for short) will protect you from lawsuits and financial liabilities in the case of accidents or mishaps at your work site. Property damage and personal injury will generally be covered by a general liability insurance policy. Sometimes general liability insurance will be combined with a few other kinds of coverage in the form of a Business Owner’s Policy, but you may find you don’t need all aspects of BOP coverage.

 

Types of Specialized Insurance

 

If you perform specialized work—common examples include carpentry, plumbing, cleaning, landscaping, or electric work—you might want to consider an insurance policy that is particular to your field. Because different kinds of risks and accidents are more common or more likely in certain trades and types of work, your liability changes the more specialized you are. Think about your particular set of risks and consider a specialized, extensive policy that keeps these risks in mind.

 

Workers’ Compensation Insurance

 

Similarly, you’ll need to be prepared for on-site accidents with workers’ compensation insurance. Accidents happen all the time, whether from malfunctioning equipment or exposure to harmful materials while on the job. Workers’ comp protects your business by helping injured or sick employees during their recovery. It traditionally covers medical bills related to the workplace injury, lost wages, and legal fees. Without workers’ compensation insurance, you’re responsible for these expenses.

 

Vehicle Insurance for Contractors

 

Chances are your work requires at least one type of commercial vehicle in order to get your jobs done. If you use a trailer, a pickup truck, a commercial van, or any other kind of vehicle to conduct your business, you’ll want sufficient coverage for damage and injury. You are also required by law to have a sufficient level of insurance, so you’ll want to make sure your work vehicles are properly protected in order to cover your legal obligations.

 

Where to Learn More about Insurance

 

Most insurance companies will be able to provide information and advice on the types of commercial insurance that they offer for contractors and make recommendations as to what kind of insurance is right for you and your work. However, the building business is always changing, as are licensing and insurance needs. There are some great references to be found, and working with a contractor license school can help keep business owners in the know when it comes to the various insurance and legal stipulations that are key to maintaining a healthy, growing business. Do yourself and your business a favor by investing in insurance and education so you can rest easy knowing you’re completely covered.
Post submitted by Guest Blogger Albert Krav

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