Minimizing Risk and Liability with Short South Realty Group’s Legal Expertise in Grand Rapids

Apr 25, 2024 | Owner Education, Property Management Education

As you begin your search for a Grand Rapids property management partner, you likely have a list of services that are important to you. It’s essential to have a property manager who can lease and market your home, screen tenants, negotiate a lease agreement, enforce that lease agreement, and collect rent. You want an expert in managing maintenance, and protecting the condition and value of your investment. 

What about legal expertise? 

The rental laws on a state, local, and federal level continue to change, and there’s a lot more risk involved in renting out a home today than there was even a decade ago. 

Your secret weapon in protecting yourself against risk and liability is a Grand Rapids property manager. Look for a management team with legal expertise. Having the resources you need to stay compliant will be invaluable. There will be fewer lawsuits, claims, disputes, and conflicts to worry about. You’ll have the peace of mind that any legal question is answered. Evictions will be handled lawfully. Security deposits will be returned accurately. Fair housing laws will be respected and understood. 

Here’s how to ensure your investment property is well-protected. 

Habitability in Grand Rapids Rental Homes

Within Michigan’s landlord tenant laws are habitability standards that landlords must meet when they’re renting out a property. If you don’t take care of the essential repairs that affect a property’s habitability, such as a broken water heater, mold, or a backed up sewer line, your tenants can take action against you. They can withhold rent until the problem is fixed or they can repair the problem themselves and deduct the amount they spent from the next rental payment. If you try to evict them for not paying rent, their defense will be the lack of habitability at the property.

This is a liability issue that’s easily avoided. Respond to repair requests with a sense of urgency. Conduct frequent inspections so you can be sure your property is safe, habitable, and well-maintained. 

Injuries at Your Rental Property

Tenants can be injured at your property, and their guests can get hurt, too. Is it your fault? Not necessarily, but there are certain conditions under which a tenant might sue you for their medical bills and other expenses. This is especially likely if there’s a condition at your property that leads to more liability for you, such as a sidewalk that’s uneven or tree roots causing trip and fall hazards. 

You can be held liable for certain accidents and problems, but only if your tenant could prove that your negligence led to the injury.

The burden of proof will be on the tenant to demonstrate that:

  • You were responsible for maintaining the part of the property where the injury occurred. 
  • You failed to take the reasonable steps to prevent the accident.
  • Fixing the problem or providing tenants with adequate warnings would not have been unreasonably difficult or expensive.
  • Your negligence caused the tenant’s injury.
  • Your tenant was genuinely hurt.

It’s possible that a tenant or their guest got hurt and you’re legitimately liable. In this case, you can expect a claim for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and permanent physical disability. You should have plenty of insurance to cover whatever you’ll have to pay, but this is not a situation you want to be in. 

Property managers can help you avoid this potential liability issue by conducting a thorough inspection before tenants move in to be sure there aren’t any safety hazards in the property. We will always inspect with safety in mind and encourage your tenants to communicate about any concerns they may have. We also know how to push back against nonsensical or unfair claims.

Dangerous Dogs are a Liability

How strong is your pet policy? 

We don’t allow dangerous breed dogs into the rental properties we manage, and there are several good reasons for that. Tenants with Pit Bulls and Dobermans love their pets, but insurance companies don’t always feel the same love for those breeds. 

Dogs considered dangerous are a risk for biting neighbors and children and even maintenance workers and other people who might be in the home. Check your insurance policy before you agree to a dog breed that they may prohibit. You don’t want to find yourself facing a dog bite claim in court without an insurance policy to cover you.

We make it safer for owners to allow pets in their rental property because we screen the animals before we accept them, we collect pet fees and pet rents, and we enforce the lease agreement and our pet policies. 

Grand Rapids Tenants and Criminal Activity 

Your lease agreement, if it’s strong and comprehensive, will prohibit criminal activity in your Grand Rapids rental property. What if a crime is committed there anyway? What if there is violence? Or drugs? Do you know where to get help and what steps to take with law enforcement? 

A property manager will reduce the likelihood of criminal activity happening at your property by conducting a thorough tenant screening. We’ll also know how to evict your tenant for the criminal activity, and how to mitigate any further damage or liability. 

Evicting a Grand Rapids Tenant 

Never will legal expertise be more welcome than when you have to evict. 

Evictions should be rare, but if they do become necessary, you’ll need to know how to take the proper steps. Michigan is pretty straightforward when it comes to evictions, but one misstep during the eviction process will send you back to the starting block. You’ll need to know what to do if a tenant stops paying rent. 

DIY landlords often have to turn to attorneys when eviction becomes necessary. That’s the best way to protect yourself and get your property back, but attorneys are expensive. How do you know you’re not being overcharged?

Your property manager is prepared for enforcing your lease and managing the eviction process in the unlikely event that it’s necessary. Professionally managed homes typically do not require evictions as often as self-managed homes. 

Contact Property ManagerThere’s a lot more liability than what we’ve talked about. Your Grand Rapids property management partner can protect you against fair housing mistakes, security deposit errors, and other potentially explosive claims and risks. 

Don’t make renting out a home more complicated and risky than it has to be. Contact us at Short South Realty Group.