Landlord liability protection

Dear Karen: I'm considering renting the guest suite in my L.A. home to people released from the hospital who require nonmedical assistance. What kind of license is required?

Answer: No license is required unless you're operating a group home, said Warren Cooley, vice president of the Valley Economic Development Center. But you need to protect yourself from legal liability.

"A rental agreement would not be required, but a person would be foolish not to have one," Cooley said. Make sure you include hold-harmless clauses and proof of insurance in the agreement. Ask your attorney whether you'd need separate agreements, one for the rent and another for your services.

"You'd want to buy an umbrella insurance policy or ask about adding a rider to your homeowner's policy," Cooley said. Your agreement should require that your clients carry adequate insurance as well.


Offering benefits needn't be costly

Dear Karen: How much does it cost to offer employee benefits other than health insurance?

Answer: Even in this economy, small-business owners recognize the importance of retaining key employees. Offering supplemental benefits is a good way to do that, and they don't have to cost a lot, said Georgette Piligian, senior vice president of MetLife's small-business division.

"We did a trend study recently with a small-business supplement. It showed that 43% of small-business employees are taking a greater interest in employer-sponsored benefits, and 53% said they appreciate those benefits more than ever," Piligian said.

Offering nonmedical benefits such as life insurance, disability and dental coverage can improve your employees' engagement and loyalty, the survey showed. It also showed that 88% of employees were willing to pay more for additional benefit options.

"Many benefits, such as wellness programs, are easy to offer and reasonably low-cost," Piligian said. Talk to your insurance broker about the specific costs of adding a supplemental benefit package for your employees.


Getting your ad on mobile phones

Dear Karen: How can my restaurant advertise on mobile phones?

Answer: Anyone, whether big brands or local pizza shops, can set up, target and distribute mobile ads under a pricing model similar to Google AdWords, said Krish Arvapally of Mojiva, a mobile ad firm based in New York.

Talk to an ad agency that creates local mobile ad campaigns, Arvapally said. "Your ads will only show up where you want people to see them. And you can include embedded GPS so there's a link pointing to your location," he said.

The first step is to create a dedicated Web page optimized for viewing on small mobile phone screens. For a restaurant, it should load quickly, show your location and menu and have a phone number for takeout or delivery, Arvapally said.

"The pricing is fairly competitive, since this is so new, and you'll find it a little cheaper than on the Web," he said. "You can choose to pay only for clicks on your ads or only for leads if you want to capture e-mail addresses or phone numbers."


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