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posted: 8/16/2013 12:19 AM

Vacationeers should shut off water before hitting the road

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Planning and packing for a summer trip can be hectic, but smart homeowners don't lock the front door without first turning off their property's water supply.

Q. When we got back from our summer vacation, we found that the water hose hooked to our washing machine had burst and flooded the floor in both our laundry area and kitchen. Our insurer is cutting us a check for $3,700 to repair the damage. Will we have to claim the money as "income" when we file our next income-tax return?

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A. No. The check your homeowners insurance company is sending to you will merely restore the laundry area and kitchen to its previous condition, which the Internal Revenue Service classifies as a "nontaxable event." Taxes on the reimbursement won't be owed.

About 25 percent of all homeowners insurance claims each year involve water damage, with causes ranging from a leaking hose that feeds into an appliance to a pipe that bursts under a kitchen sink. The average claim is nearly $6,000, according to the nonprofit Insurance Information Institute, www.iii.org.

I'm sorry for the hassle this accident has caused, but glad you will be reimbursed for the needed repairs.

Summer vacationers should always shut off the water to their clothes washer, dishwasher and icemaker in their refrigerator if they plan to be away for more than a few days. Most modern water heaters have a dial that can be turned to "vacation mode," which reduces the chance that the heater will explode or leak and also reduce energy costs.

Hoses that are cracking or leaking should be replaced immediately, experts say, and those that connect to any appliance should be replaced automatically every five years or so, even if they don't show any signs of wear.

There's probably no reason to spend hundreds of dollars for a professional to do such maintenance. I replaced the four hoses in my home last weekend in about two hours, and spent less than $90 for the materials.

One other tip: Consider replacing any rubber hoses you currently have with stronger ones that are reinforced with flexible strands of steel. They're as easy to install as rubber hoses, cost only a few dollars more and will last a lot longer.

Q. What is a "pop up" store?

A. It's vacant retail space, usually in a mall or smaller shopping center, that merchandisers or other businesses rent for a short period of time -- often for just a few days, rarely for more than three months. Pop-up stores are becoming increasingly popular across the United States, in part because they give retailers a chance to show off their wares in areas with a large amount of foot traffic without locking them into expensive long-term leases.

Pop-up stores have been used by all sorts of companies. Apple Inc. has used them to test-out new or planned electronic products. Fast-food operators often use the space for makeshift restaurants to get consumer feedback on proposed additions to their menus. But the biggest users of all are Halloween-oriented stores, which magically pop up in September and then mysteriously disappear shortly after Oct. 31.

Q. Some friends and I are pooling our money to purchase a six-unit apartment building. I will be paid $250 a month to manage the property, collect the monthly rent from tenants and divvy up the net proceeds. Will I need a real estate license to do this?

A. Yes, you likely will need either a real estate license or a license to practice law to legally perform your new duties.

An investor who purchases a rental property in his or her name only doesn't need to have a license. But in most states, someone who collects rent on behalf of a group of investors must indeed be licensed. The requirement helps to ensure that the person who handles the money follows applicable laws and disperses the cash based on the original agreement co-investors signed.

A handful of states waive the licensing requirement for managers who also live in the building or maintain an on-site office. Call the agency that regulates realty transactions and licensees in your state for more information.

Real estate trivia: The first log cabins in America, built about 400 years ago, were only around 7 feet tall. That's the height that new U.S. settlers could lift the heavy logs above their head without the help of neighbors or a spouse.

• For the booklet "Straight Talk About Living Trusts," send $4 and a self-addressed, stamped envelope to David Myers/Trust, P.O. Box 4405, Culver City, CA 90231-4405.

2013, Cowles Syndicate Inc.

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