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What Is California Law On Security Deposits?

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Note: this blog post was inspired by, “How to Get Your Security Deposit Back from Your Landlord.” Please read their post for more general information. This blog will specifically pertain to California.

California renters are some of the most fortunate in the nation, well, if you forget about the price of renting. California has some of the most renter friendly laws anywhere. Still, there are a lot of things landlords can do to make a renter’s life difficult and there are a lot of things you can do to make sure that you move out on good terms, get your security deposit back and ensure that you have a great reference for future rental situations.

According to the California Department of Consumer Affairs, there are four things for which a landlord can withhold part or all of a security deposit:

  • For unpaid rent
  • For cleaning the rental unit when the tenant moves out, but only to make the unit as clean as it was when the tenant first moved in
  • For repair of damages, other than normal wear and tear, caused by the tenant or the tenant’s guests
  • If the lease or rental agreement allows it, for the cost of restoring or replacing furniture, furnishings, or other items of personal property (including keys), other than because of normal wear and tear.


Of course, there are ways to protect yourself.

Before moving in – Camera phones are your best friends. Take lots and lots of pictures. If there is a spot on the carpet, document it. If the place is dirty, take pictures. If there is a scratch on cupboards, take a picture and then email all your pictures to your landlord. Keep the email so you have a record.

As you’re moving out –  If you are breaking a lease, you are sort of at the mercy of the landlord. Offer to help find a new tenant, but let the landlord do the actual screening. Offer to pay for the background check, if that’s something the landlord, and not the applicant, generally pays for. 
If you aren’t on a lease, it’s expected that you give 30 days notice before moving out. During that time, your landlord has the right to enter your home to show it to prospective tenants, but only after giving 24 hours notice. It’s best if you keep the unit clean during that time. Of course, normal moving disarray is to be expected.
Personally, I always leave a place cleaner than when I moved in, but wear and tear is natural. If there are damages, fix them. 
Again, take pictures. 
Once you’ve moved your landlord has 21 calendar days to send you your security deposit with an itemized list of any deductions.

What Are Acceptable Packing Materials?

in Advice by Ninja Movers Leave a comment
Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Of all the hassles of moving, perhaps the one area that leads to the most confusion, the most damages and the most cost, is packing. It’s important that each item be packed properly, and Ninja Movers’ moving consultants will be more than happy to provide both boxes and instruction, but what about used boxes or alternative packing materials?

Used boxes – This might surprise you, since we sell boxes, but we say go for it on used boxes. They are great for the environment and they can save you a lot of money. However, make sure they are in excellent condition. Inspect for tears and areas of possible water damage, which damages the integrity of the boxes. Also, make sure, unlike with a lot of grocery store boxes, that they have lids. Movers can’t move boxes without lids.

Ask your Ninja Movers consultant. We may be able to deliver some used boxes.

Laundry baskets – Sorry, but no. Movers stack things, that’s why boxes are cube shaped. If you pack with laundry boxes, things cannot be stacked, which could mean that your items won’t fit in one truck. In the end, saving a couple of bucks could cost you hundreds more.

Laundry baskets may be appropriate for the items you have to move in your car, though.

Garbage bags – See laundry baskets and add the very real possibility that they could rip.

Towels and sheets – Absolutely, they make great cushioning.

Bubble wrap – This one seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? Bubble wrap is the holy grail of packing materials, isn’t it? Well, yes and no. Bubble wrap is great for flat items like pictures, but it’s not always so great for not so flat items. For example, if you wrap your stemware in bubble wrap, it will conform to the goblet portion but it will leave a lot of unprotected area around the stem. For odd shaped items, paper is preferred.

Packing peanuts – There are times, like with particularly delicate and oddly shaped items, that packing peanuts are the only way to pack. However, they are an environmental nightmare (unless you get the biodegradable ones) and they make a mess. Use them only when you need them or you will regret it come time to unpack.

The most important thing that can be said about packing is to make sure you don’t overpack. No box should weigh more than 50 pounds, or the box can easily break. That’s why book boxes are small. Also, when packing breakables, before sealing the box, lift them up and shake a little. If there’s any movement at all, stuff more packing material, like towels and sheets, inside. We’ll do more on packing next week.


Why Is Moving So Stressful And What Can Be Done About It?

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Handshake_(Workshop_Cologne_'06)A few days ago, my husband dropped a bombshell that there might be a job offer for him in another state. The money would be irresistible, which you’d think would make the decision easy. We’d be able to afford a nicer house and we’d be close to family, but still, I hesitate, he hesitated. We looked at our tiny home. We thought about our great neighbors. We thought about the near perfect Bay Area weather. If the job offer comes through, we’ll move, but not without sadness and, yes, uncertainty.

We have a bit of a confession. We know moving is difficult. Part of our job is to empathize, but it’s also to make it less difficult. We know that, but sometimes we forget that the stress is so much more than about the work and the expense – the parts we can help with – there is also so much uncertainty and unfortunately, we can’t really help with that. Why exactly is moving so stressful? How can you make it less so?

When we move, we tend to be so focused on the logistics, that we walk into our new home almost blind. Sure, we’ve seen the home. We’ve decorated it in our minds. We’ve even checked out the neighborhood. We might know where the parks are and the schools and the grocery stores, but what about the people? Maybe you’ve researched activities for the kids, but what about for you?

When we’re caught up in moving, we typically wait for the neighbors to come to us. In some neighborhoods, they will, but how about a reverse welcome wagon type of thing? Why don’t you take a bit of time and bake some cookies and meet your neighbors? The unpacking will still be there when you get back.

Think of everything you’re interested in. Have you thought about knitting? How about rock climbing? Do you enjoy reading? Whatever your interest, has a group for you. Instantly, you’ll have something in common with a group of people.

Join the PTA. Yes, I know, that sounds rather Mad Men era, but parents with kids tend to gravitate toward parents with kids and what better way to stay on top of your kids’ educations?

Invite your coworkers for happy hour. Busy people tend to make friends through work. Sometimes, though, those relationships need a little push. Get them outside work. You may also get the scoop on what they can’t talk about during the day at the office.

Don’t rule out service people as friends. I know, this sounds weird. How can you be friends with someone with whom we exchange money? Well, we’ve made friends with a lot of our customers, but beyond that, I remember when I moved to one new city, my chiropractor became one of my closest friends. They key is to talk to people like they’re people. You might find you have a lot in common.

Finally, just get out and do stuff. Go hiking alone, as long as it’s on a well-travelled trail. Go to a movie. Go out to eat. Ride a bike. Take the dog for walks. You’d be amazed at how many people you can meet if you open yourself up to the possibilities.


The Bay Area Is Mourning One Of Its Greats: Robin Williams

in Bay Area News by Ninja Movers Leave a comment

Williams,_Robin_(USGov)_cropOne of the biggest draws of the Bay Area is the magic. The water, the landscape, the weather – they are all magical, but somehow, so are the people. The Bay Area attracts the best and brightest in the world. From Lucas Films to Pixar to Silicon Valley, the Bay Area is full of magicians; of people who make our lives just a bit brighter. On Monday, we lost one of our magic makers. R.I.P. Robin Williams.

Williams began his career playing an alien named Mork in the 70s hit show, “Happy Days.” His star shone so bright that he was given a spinoff called, “Mork and Mindy.” A megastar was launched.

It’s hard to say if Williams was better known as an actor or as a standup comedian, but he was extremely successful in both endeavors. He had over 100 film and TV credits to his name and starred in big hits such as “Good Will Hunting (for which he won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar),” “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Dead Poets Society” and “Good Morning Vietnam.”

It was through his comedy where we got glimpses into the sometimes tragic life of Robin Williams. He was open about his battles with drug addiction. His quickness and almost manic style of humor sometimes hinted that there was something darker lurking beneath. Watching him, you almost felt the pressure he felt to always be “on.” Henry Winkler, who starred in “Happy Days,” said this about Williams:

“I just realized my only job is to keep a straight face,” said Winkler, who played “The Fonz.” “And it was impossible. Because no matter what you said to him, no matter what line you gave to him, he took it in, processed it, and then it flew out of his mouth, never the same way twice. And it was incredibly funny every time.”

Source: CNN

President Obama said this:

“Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between.  But he was one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien — but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit.  He made us laugh.  He made us cry.  He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most — from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our own streets.”

Williams’ idol and greatest influence was Jonathan Winters, who died in 2013. Perhaps a light went out for Williams then. We’ll never know the depths of the pain that caused him to take his own life, but the Bay Area is a bit less funny and a bit less magic today.

Don’t Let The Movers Move These Items

in Advice by Ninja Movers Leave a comment

WLA_hmns_Peridot_and_Diamond_JewelryThe other day, I was watching TV and in some commercial, people were complaining about various things movers had done to them. Sure, there are moving horror stories everywhere. Sure, movers do sometimes break things – as does everyone. But one really stood out to me. A woman complained that movers lost her jewelry.

I looked at my husband and said, “are you kidding me?” He was concentrating on something else, so all I got out of him was a very unsatisfactory “what?” Still, point made.

Great movers are amazing. They are strong, hard-working, meticulous and will get you from your old home to your new with nary a care. If something is damaged or lost, a good company will shine with its customer service. Still, there are certain things that you don’t want to leave in the hands of movers.

1. Jewelry – Yes, this was the one that prompted this blog. Sure, let the movers move your costume jewelry, but if it’s valuable, take it in your car. Few moving insurance policies will cover expensive jewelry.

2. Important paperwork – Mortgage papers, car titles, birth certificates, passports, etc. should always be in your possession.

3. Computer harddrives – Always backup your computer before the move and take the backup with you. Ideally, take laptops and tablets with you.

4. Cleaning supplies – Movers can’t take anything corrosive or explosive. It’s a bad idea to give movers anything that could leak all over everything else you own. Move your own cleaning supplies. You will probably need them after the movers leave and before they arrive in your new home anyway.

5. Propane tanks – Again, movers can’t move anything explosive.

6. Perishable foods – If you are just moving down the block and you ensure the movers load the food last, maybe, but the back of a moving truck gets very hot and unless the food is very accessible, it might be in there a while.

7. Pets and children – You’d think this would go without saying, but we’ve seen and heard everything. Mostly, customers want us to take their children because the children really want to ride in the truck. We’ll be happy to give your children a tour of the truck, but our insurance won’t let us take them with us. Sorry.

8. Plants – I left this one for last because it’s sort of a grey area. On local moves, movers can move plants, but again, the truck gets very hot. If it’s a short distance, stabilize the plant’s pot. Let the movers take your big plants. They can take your small plants, but it’s still recommended that you move those yourself. If you are moving out of state, you should always make other arrangements. Unfortunately, that often means leaving them behind.

10 Things You Need To Know If You’re New To The Bay Area

in Bay Area News, Your New Home by Ninja Movers Leave a comment

Sf_skyline_from_bayI’ve been in the Bay Area only about five years and while I absolutely love it here, there were a lot of things that took me by surprise. If you are moving to the Bay Area, your movers can definitely be a great resource, but here are some things that you might forget to ask about:

1. The weather – The weather here shocked me. I knew that summers were rather cool (we’ll talk about that ‘Mark Twain’ quote in a bit) and that winters were warm, relative to most of the country, but I had absolutely no idea that it literally never rained in the Bay Area during the summer. Of course, most of my years here have been during a drought, so it’s hardly rained during the winter, but that’s another story.

2. The traffic – It’s bad. It’s bad during the week. It’s bad on weekends. It’s bad when it’s not rush hour. It’s miserable when it is rush hour. Leave early and listen to books or podcasts or some great music. Don’t talk on the cell phone, though, unless you have Bluetooth, because you will get a ticket.

3. The dress code – What dress code? Yoga pants and hoodies are almost workwear. As a comfort junkie, I do feel right at home, but on rare dressy occasions, I find myself having a difficult time putting a nice outfit together. Bottom line, have a few nice things in your wardrobe.

4. The nightlife – There are so many things to do in the Bay Area, you’ll never run out. There are world-class restaurants. There are museums and galleries. There are clubs. However, unlike New York, San Francisco does sleep. Last call is at 2:00 am. You might have trouble finding places to eat past 9:00.

5. Outdoors – There are few places in the country that match the sheer variety of Bay Area activities. There is a ton of hiking. There’s rowing and kayaking. There’s rock climbing. There are running races and triathlons pretty much every weekend. There’s cycling, but beware, there aren’t as many cycle friendly roads as non-Californians might imagine.

6. Politics – The rest of the country doesn’t know this, but not everyone in the Bay Area is a Prius driving (although there are a lot of those) Democrat. No matter your political beliefs, you will find a lot of like-minded company. But, people do take being environmentally responsible pretty seriously.

7. The history – The Bay Area loves to talk about its history, and for good reason. It’s one of the most culturally rich and diverse cities in the world. The Bay Area was home to greats such as Ansel Adams, Isadora Duncan, Natalie Woods, Bruce Lee, Tony Bennett, Robert Frost, Jack London, and Joe Dimaggio (trust me, the list is far to extensive to include everyone).

San Francisco was one of the few cities that was almost untouched by the Great Depression. One Bay Area city has more dead people than living. Entire neighborhoods are built on top of landfill.

The Beatles gave their last concert in San Francisco. Again, space limits me for all the interesting facts that one can learn about the Bay Area. However, one quote that you will hear a lot as a new transplant is, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco,” which is usually attributed to Mark Twain. He didn’t say it.

8. The cost – Everyone you’ve spoken to is right about this one. It’s expensive here. You can save some money by moving across the bay from San Francisco, but even there, it’s expensive.

9. Dogs – Not everyone has one, but they are everywhere. You might as well get one. And, the biggest off-leash dog park is in the East Bay. It’s Point Isabel, which is a gorgeous three (give or take) mile loop along the Bay. The dogs can go for a dip (beware muddy low tide) and they can be cleaned off at the dog wash or you can hose them off yourself. It even has a cafe for you and the pooches.

10. Nothing is as close as you think – Silicon Valley is actually pretty far from San Francisco. Plan on a 30 minutes to an hour or more to get anywhere, even just across the bridge.


Is Your Furniture Too Big For Your New Home?

in Preparing for a move by Ninja Movers 1 Comment

945883899_e8aece9e5e_zMaybe it’s the fact that I like to live in smallish urban homes, but for some reason, I’m jinxed when it comes to sofas. In fact, I lived in one spacious (by local standards) New York apartment which had 19 inch hallways. I couldn’t even fit a sofa into the living room. For five years, I was stuck with a college-ish futon.

Even today, my older Bay Area home was definitely not built for overstuffed comfy sofas. Even getting a low-profile, shallower than normal sofa through our doors was a challenge. Ninja’s movers got it through with no damage to the sofa or door, but as much as we want to replace the not-too-comfortable sofa, we’re not sure how to get its replacement in.

Despite the fact that ultimately my sofa fit, there were moments of frustration, bordering on blame. Movers hear it every day. They do everything they can to get a piece of furniture to fit, but, sometimes to no avail. In the vast majority of cases, of course, it’s not the movers’ fault, but stressed out customers don’t always see it that way and for good reason- they paid good money to have their furniture moved. No one is happy if the job can’t be completed.

The best way to prevent a less than satisfactory moving experience is to measure. If you have any relatively large furniture, make sure it will fit before you decide to move it.

1. Measure furniture from every dimension. You might not think that sofa height would be what prevents it from entering a doorway, but if it’s a narrow doorway, it might be the very problem.

2. See if the legs come off and if they do, measure again.

3. Measure every doorway, including back doors.

4. Measure stairways and elevators, if they are involved.

5. Measure each and every turn. That might involve a little high school geometry, but here’s a fairly easy formula.

If your beloved buffet cabinet or armoire won’t fit through the doors or around the turns, there might be alternatives, but be prepared, they can be expensive. If you have large windows, removing the window may be an option. If it’s on the first floor, that’s not usually too difficult, but second floor and up requires extra equipment and expertise for hoisting. Occasionally, with tall apartment buildings, a crane can be called in. At that point, though, you might want to ask yourself if the furniture is worth the extra cost.

If your furniture absolutely won’t fit, there are alternatives. You can do like I did and buy a futon, but, if a futon is not exactly your style, three sections of a sectional can make a nice sofa. Some companies, like Jennifer Convertibles, make furniture that can be disassembled and reassembled in preparation for your move. In fact, they even do it for you!

Even larger case goods, like wardrobe closets and large desks, can be disassembled and reassembled in some cases.

Another option is to forgo the big furniture altogether. If you own, build storage, which can add character to your home. Instead of a large sofa, buy a love seat and and an extra chair. You could even buy several chairs instead of a sofa or love seat. Four chairs gathered around a round coffee table make a wonderful conversation pit.

Moving To A Smaller Place (VIDEO)

in Your New Home by Ninja Movers Leave a comment


Whether because of cost or for environmental reasons, Americans are downsizing. Some are moving into houses as small as 100 square feet or less. For most people, moving to a smaller place can be a challenge. How do you prepare?

1. Get rid of absolutely everything you don’t need. This can be tough. Organizers often tell you that if you haven’t used something in two years, get rid of it. Craigslist, consignment shops and thrift stores are your friends.

2. Map your new home. Take exact measurements and plug them into a room planner like this or like one of several apps you can download for either Androids, iPhones or iPads. Personally, I recommend it be done on at least a tablet, if not a full-sized computer.

Once you have your room dimensions uploaded, then upload the exact dimensions of your furniture. See if it will fit. If it doesn’t, get rid of it.

3. Purge again. Once you figure out what will fit in your new home, it’s amazing how easy it is to get rid of even more. If certain items have either sentimental attachment or if they are valuable but still won’t fit in your new home, ask a family member if they will keep it for you. If not, even long-term storage is less expensive than moving into a bigger home.

If you need some inspiration for small home organization, see how people who live in truly tiny homes do it.

How Does Apartment Moving Differ From House Moving?

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You live frugally or maybe you like the amenities of full-service condo living. Regardless of the reasons you chose apartment life, moving offers different challenges than does moving from a typical suburban home. What can you expect if you are moving in or out of an apartment or condo?

1. It might cost more – This is an unfortunate reality of apartment and condo living. Often, the parking situation is less than ideal, especially if you live on a narrow and steep San Francisco street. Some buildings have loading docks, which of course, is ideal, but most don’t. Once the truck is parked, movers will have to maneuver up and down stairs or wait for elevators. Depending on how many stairs are involved, expect one or two extra movers. They will work like an assembly line, ensuring that the move will happen as quickly as possible. In the end, extra movers won’t cost you more, but the extra steps involved may add to the time.

2. The building – Most condo and apartment buildings have strict rules when it comes to moving. Alert your management company of your moving date. You might need to reserve the elevator. You also might not be able to move on weekends or in the evenings, depending on the rules of the building. Elevator reservations tend to go fast, especially toward the end of the month and during the summer, so plan ahead. If your building has a loading dock or commercial parking, you will also need to alert management of that. Ask your mover, but typically, they will bring at least one 24 or 26 foot truck. If you are moving out of state, you might need to accommodate a 53 foot tractor trailer. Buildings that don’t have elevators tend not to have as many rules, but it’s better safe than sorry.

4. The city – We all know how awful parking is in San Francisco. Fortunately, the city will accommodate you, at a price. You can reserve parking spaces in advance, to allow space for your moving truck. They will give you temporary signs to put out.

Unfortunately, that’s not always enough. Small moving trucks – the type used for local moving – can usually maneuver through the city, but larger trucks – the type used for interstate moves, might not. With many movers, especially with major van lines, you might find yourself paying an additional fee for a small truck to move you out. The movers will then transfer your items to the larger truck for the interstate move.

While apartment and condo living offer conveniences that house living doesn’t, it definitely offers moving challenges. Plan well and you can help ensure that your moving day will go smoothly and as inexpensively as possible.

How To Help Your Spouse Through The Move

in Advice, Long-Distance moving by Ninja Movers Leave a comment
Image from Flickr

Image from Flickr

I have a confession to make. I’m addicted to a show called, “House Hunters.” In particular, I’m hooked on the international version. If you’ve never seen it, the premise is pretty straightforward. A realtor shows buyers three homes and they are (allegedly) supposed to choose one of the three. While my focus is supposed to be on the presence or absence of double vanities and granite countertops, charm or modernity, their conflict often comes from spousal differences in opinion. Some of the worst have been in episodes where one spouse is clearly ambivalent about the move altogether. This may or may not be fake, but moving tension is a very real phenomenon. How does an otherwise happy couple adjust when one member would rather just stay put?

Moving is stressful even if everyone in the family is onboard. Whether it be about a job transfer or to be closer to one side of the family, big moves are often quite one-sided. But, with a little understanding and support, the move can be less stressful for even the people who want to stay put.

1. Ask your spouse what they need in a home – Before selecting a home, sit down with your spouse and ask what his or her priorities are. You already got a big concession. Give the next one or two to your spouse.

2. Make it as easy on your spouse as possible – It’s bad enough that your spouse is less than enthusiastic about the move, but you’re making them do all the work? Hire a mover or a move coordinator. Let the mover pack if you can afford it. If not, arrange for some help. Hire a cleaning person to clean both the old and new home.

3. Take your spouse on a romantic date in the new area – Find a nice restaurant. Take an evening stroll through the town. Walk by your new home. Help your spouse fall in love with the new community.

4. Help your spouse find people with common interests – Remember, you have a built in social network – your coworkers. Your spouse won’t have that. Help her or him meet new people. is a great way to start. Look into various groups with common interests.

5. Don’t leave your spouse with all the work of finding service professionals. Help find daycare, pet care, hair salons, gyms, etc. Yelp is a great resource. So is word of mouth.

6. Be patient – It’s possible that your spouse won’t be very happy the first few months after a move. Try to be understanding and ask what you can do to help.

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