House Calls: Once a Duplex
Ms. Lank: I own a house in the city in an area that is older but still has mainly single-family dwellings. Years ago, the house was a duplex, but walls were removed to make it a single-family unit. The address still shows the two numbers as if it were still a duplex.
I want to restore it to a duplex. I would like to stay in it but would need rental income to do so. However, I was informed that the city will not allow the restoration because of the single-family nature of the neighborhood. And if I had to sell, potential buyers would be interested only if it could be changed back to a duplex, so I am in a bind. Do I have any recourse? -- J. D.
Answer: Maybe there's some chance to grandfather an exception to the zoning. Try consulting a lawyer, preferably one who specializes in real estate. Any details you know about when it was a two-family dwelling should help.
About Tenants Insurance
Ms. Lank: I have a question about renters insurance. I'm a senior citizen who has always had homeowners or renters insurance as required. Right now, I live in a nearly new apartment.
We have state-of-the-art fire systems with smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and a sprinkler system in every apartment in our building. Of course, I know my actual building is covered by the owner's insurance, but I have wondered whether I really need renters insurance for my individual apartment.
I pay about $145 per year for it, but I don't have a family or anybody who comes over who might get hurt, and there's no fear of being robbed. My only concern would be damage from a possible earthquake. Of course, my insurance company would tell me that I need renters insurance, because that's what those companies do, but I just wonder what a neutral third party such as yourself thinks. -- M. T.
Answer: I don't know your financial situation and how much that $145 a year means to you, but tenant insurance is a prudent investment. It covers your furniture and other personal belongings, which are not included in the landlord's insurance.