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The Advantages and Disadvantages of Locking Your Credit

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In today’s internet-driven world, finances are a mixed bag. Online banking services and tools make it easier to manage your money, but it’s also given thieves more ways to steal from unsuspecting victims. I personally have had my PayPal account hacked in the past, but fortunately, PayPal refunded the money that was illegally withdrawn.

Another common cyber crime is identity theft. Luckily, I haven’t dealt with this ordeal directly, but I recently had a close friend who did. It was an absolute nightmare trying to undo the damage that was done to her credit after accounts were opened in her name. That experience has left me much more conscious about my own risk. In my quest to learn how I can better protect my identity, I found out about a few surprising ways people can control their credit reports. I was already familiar with the credit freeze service, but I discovered a credit lock was also an option.

A credit lock is very similar, but not quite the same as freezing your credit. If you’re seriously concerned that your identity has been stolen you can request a security freeze. This will prevent creditors from accessing and looking at any of your credit reports unless you authorize it. That way thieves can’t use a person’s identity to open new lines of credit.

Each of the credit bureaus also allows consumers to use a credit lock. It’s not as draconian as a credit freeze, however, a credit lock comes with a few advantages of its own.

Advantages of a Credit Lock

A credit freeze offers identity theft protection, but lifting a freeze can be a real hassle. That’s where a credit lock has the advantage. With a credit lock, you have more control over the status and accessibility of your reports.

Better Manageability

Unlike a credit freeze, state laws don’t dictate a credit lock. You can initiate or end it at any time. If you initiate a credit freeze, your state may decide how long it remains in effect (usually several months). It’s a lot easier to lift a credit lock since you can do it yourself through your account. You can also lock and unlock your credit report as many times as you want throughout the year whether or not you’ve been a victim of identity theft.

Straightforward Fees

Depending on your state’s credit freeze laws, you may have to pay a fee to initiate a credit freeze, lift a credit freeze and/or receive a new PIN or code to access your accounts. The cost of a credit lock is very straightforward. The bureaus charge either a monthly fee or an annual fee that covers the service for the entire year. There’s no fee to end the credit lock or establish a new PIN.

You Can Still Get Credit

With a freeze, it can be difficult to establish new lines of credit since all three credit reports are simultaneously inaccessible unless you provide approval for a creditor with each credit reporting agency.

Preventative, Not Reactionary

A critical shortcoming of a credit freeze is that it’s reactionary. It may not be possible to initiate a freeze unless your identity has already been compromised. A credit lock is a preventative measure that can be used to limit access long before identity theft is a concern.

Disadvantages of a Credit Lock

The obvious disadvantage of a credit lock is its limited scope. In order to cover all three credit reports, you’ll need to set up a credit lock with each bureau. A credit lock through one credit bureau won’t impact the other two reporting agencies.

Another disadvantage alluded to above, is the cost. A credit lock isn’t ever going to be free. Typically, you’ll have to pay a monthly fee for the ability to lock and unlock your credit report. However, if your state charges fees for a credit freeze the cost is less of a factor.

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4 Rental Laws Every Seattle Landlord Should Know

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No matter what part of the country you’re looking to live in, rental laws can often be confusing. For landlords especially, it’s crucial to understand how the landlord-tenant laws operate in your area, in order to protect yourself from any unwanted conflicts. One place which has an array of quirky rental laws is the city of Seattle. With the most recent census data from Seattle finding that nearly 52 percent of housing units are occupied by renters, landlords would be prudent to brush up on their knowledge of local ordinance and steer clear of any complications.

The laws below are an overview of some key factors all Seattle landlords should keep an eye out for, especially as renters continue to flock into the city. By keeping a close tab on these laws, landlords can minimize their risk of running into obstacles in the future:

Specific Requirements in Landlord-to-Tenant Disclosures

One crucial component of the landlord-tenant relationship is the type of information that’s required to be disclosed by the property owner. These include, but are not limited to, any fees that may be refundable to the tenant, identifying any individual who may act on behalf of the landlord in his/her absence, or information regarding how to deal with issues surrounding mold in the property. You can find a full list of disclosure requirements here, to ensure you’ve got all bases covered.

Requirements to Return Security Deposits

Seattle rental laws do not necessarily place any limit on the security deposit amount a landlord can ask for, but they do have statutes of limitation on when the amount must be returned. As such, landlords must return the tenant’s security deposit within 21 days of the move-out date, otherwise the former tenant is authorized to take up the matter in small claims court.

Furthermore, certain disclosures that are required for the deposit need to be clearly written out to be valid in the lease agreement, and have specific reasons for which the security deposit may not be returned in full, or at all, depending on the condition of the property upon the tenant’s moving.

First Come First Serve Law for Tenants

This one is among the newer guidelines that Seattle landlords must follow, stating that those who express valid interest in the property first, also get the first option to rent out the home. In doing so, the “first-come” component is determined based on the date and time the applications were submitted, prioritizing the earliest applications first. Local Seattle rental property management companies can be useful in this case, helping landlords keep track of incoming applications from prospective tenants.

Restriction on Landlords Access to Rental Property

The majority of states have laws and guidelines which require a landlord to take certain actions before they are allowed to enter an occupied unit. For the city of Seattle and the broader state of Washington, this includes a two-day notice from the landlord to the tenant regarding intent of entering. However, this law is bypassed by a one-day notice to the tenant in the event that the landlord is showing the property to a new prospective renter.

The above laws, while only a quick overview of some of Seattle’s quirky renter guidelines are an introduction into many things that landlords need to keep tabs on. Whether trying to find the most qualified renter or trying to safeguard your property against unwanted future conflict, it’s crucial for landlords to have a grasp on what is expected of them when renting their properties. This way, the property owner remains within the legal boundaries to protect themselves, and tenants have a clear understanding of the guidelines they must abide by.

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