For some people, handling home maintenance is a routine and maybe effortless exercise performed on a regular basis.
However, for our active duty military men and women, home maintenance can become a little more complicated. For example, if you’re going to be routinely stationed at different bases or even deployed, how do you ensure your home maintenance issues are tended to in your absence?
We’ve put together a few tips and insights from experienced ex-military and home maintenance service providers that will help you protect your home while you protect our country.
Military Power of Attorney (POA)
If you have a spouse, close family members or friends, you might want to consider granting them power of attorney (POA) via a Military POA, which is a document that gives designated individuals, referred to as agents, the authority to act on your behalf in legal or financial matters.
This can come in handy should any pressing matters arise with your mortgage, as your POA is able to endorse checks, sign contracts, access banks accounts and perform a number of other legal functions. Should you consider refinancing, this also allows your POA the authority to do so.
The document can be created so that it’s only good for a limited timeframe, giving your agent the authority to act on your behalf only while you’re gone. It can even be set up to grant only a certain level of authority to the agent, giving them the power that you indicate on the form but no more than that.
With a POA, you aren’t transferring your rights or ownership. It’s simply designating a person who can act on your behalf until you return.
Most people designate a spouse, family member or trusted friend to be their agent in their POA, but those who might not have someone in one of those categories can instead designate an attorney.
There are a few different types of POAs, each with different purposes and granting different levels of power to your agent. If you’re currently on active duty, consult your legal assistance staff to create a POA that fits your current situation.
Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)
It’s important to know the rights you have with regard to your home while preparing for long-term deployment.
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) provides protection to servicemembers, deployed overseas and domestically, who may experience difficulty meeting legal or financial commitments.
Simply put, the SCRA postpones possible stresses of certain civil obligations, such as outstanding credit card debt, mortgage payments, pending trials, taxes and termination of a lease.
This act seeks to eliminate the stress of civil obligations so that the active service member can devote their attention to their current term of service.
In addition, the law protects servicemembers and their families from home foreclosure and eviction and ensures a 6% interest cap for credit obligations or mortgages established prior to active duty.
If you’re on active duty, consult your legal assistance staff to learn more about your SCRA rights and how to invoke protections for your home and finances.
Scheduled Exterior Maintenance
For those who might not have a family member or friend to take care of their home while overseas, the key is to start planning today.
The best way to handle exterior home care is to seek out a home maintenance service provider that can schedule recurring services.
Typical exterior home maintenance can include landscaping, yard care, and gutter and drain cleanup, in addition to seasonal maintenance like leaf and snow cleanup.
“Military members who are deployed or anyone who will be away from their home for an extended period should consider a professional lawn care service to keep their home’s exterior in good shape,” says Ryan Farley, co-founder and chief operating officer of LawnStarter.
LawnStarter allows you to choose your service and corresponding pricing and select the date(s) that the service is needed.
“Through an online platform like LawnStarter, they can order recurring lawn mowing and pay by credit card through our website or app. For those using LawnStarter, they can also schedule seasonal services like fertilizing, aeration, tree trimming or overseeding to be done while they’re away, so they can focus on enjoying being home, not their to-do list, when they return.”
The last thing you want on your mind is planning out your lawn care and landscaping when you return home. By scheduling recurring services, including seasonal services, you’ll be able to enjoy your time in your home.
Scheduled Interior Maintenance
Interior home care typically includes drains, pipes, air filters and hot water heater maintenance.
Eric Bowlin, a real estate investor and former infantry officer, shared a few of his insights. As a former platoon leader deployed to Afghanistan in 2010, Bowlin knows firsthand the importance of maintaining your property while overseas.
He suggests that an often overlooked home care essential is drain maintenance, which is vital to your home’s overall function.
“Since every drain also acts as a natural trap to prevent sewer gas from entering your home, it’s imperative that every drain maintains a certain level of water in it,” explains Bowlin. “Water is constantly evaporating, even out of a drain, and it only takes a few weeks until a drain is completely dry. So, make sure your maintenance person runs every faucet and flushes every toilet a couple times a month. Don’t forget about the bathtubs and showers as well.”
If your bathroom has poor airflow and experiences severe drops in temperature, Bowlin further suggests adding a touch of antifreeze to all the drains and toilets to avoid cracked porcelain and drains.
While most things can be planned and scheduled while you’re away, a few unplanned and even emergency situations could arise and impact your home.
“I think there are probably hundreds of potential issues that can arise and you can’t have a different contingency for every one,” Bowlin explains. “The key is to catch problems before they become big issues. A burst pipe running for two weeks between inspections will quite possibly cause a total loss on the property.”
Bowlin suggests two ways to monitor your home for unexpected situations:
First, you can let someone live in your home, perhaps family or friends, in exchange for maintaining it and handling any issues. However, if this isn’t an option, you can schedule a maintenance worker to come in and check on your home periodically.
You can also winterize the property by shutting off all the pipes, draining the water heater and heating system, and filling the drains with antifreeze. Even so, you may still want to have a family member, friend or hired individual inspect your home every so often.
John Bodrozic, co-founder of HomeZada, a digital home management service, confirms Bowlin’s home management suggestions and adds that you should also have digital access to your home.
Having digital access to all the important information about your home, like photos, documents, owner’s manuals, warranties, equipment, appliances, building materials, etc., could help you ensure that maintenance tasks are scheduled successfully while you’re overseas, Bodrozic suggests.
“Having a property maintenance schedule of recurring tasks to remind you of what and when preventative maintenance tasks need to be done is important because many tasks are seasonal, and based on the time of year,” he adds.
HomeZada offers an automated home maintenance schedule that can be personalized based on your preferences and timeline.
“Having a digital home management system helps you know what and when things need to get done, and helps you create instruction that you can send to someone to go do those tasks for you to keep the home in great condition,” says Bodrozic.
Whether that designated individual is a family member, friend or hired professional, the app can send instructions to your appointed maintenance contact that allows them to keep up with the upkeep of your home.
There’s an App for That
Both LawnStarter and HomeZada have an online platform and app service that helps users remotely keep track of all the important aspects and schedule recurring services for their home.
The LawnStarter app, available for both iPhone and Android, offers account management for payment scheduling and feedback, along with services such as mowing, fertilization, aeration, bush trimming and anything else you may need for exterior home maintenance.
HomeZada’s app, available for both iPhone and Android, is a secure, cloud-based service where you can access information on your home from a desktop computer, tablet or smartphone, allowing you to maintain a property calendar with important tasks and maintenance scheduled based on your preferences.
Start Planning Today
The key to planning home care while you’re deployed is preparation.
By planning for the many aspects of home upkeep upfront, you’ll be better equipped to handle the maintenance that your home will need while you’re away.
Now that you’ve learned how to handle these tasks while you’re deployed, consider starting a plan for your finances to create an easier transition from military to civilian life.
If you have any tips for fellow Zing readers, let us know in the comments below!