Avoiding Tenant Lawsuits: How to Protect Yourself

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Hand with pen and keys

Buying a small second home or apartment building to rent out to others can be a great way to generate extra income.

With many tenants, issues usually don’t arise. The job of overseeing their concerns isn’t a typical 9 to 5 schedule, giving you flexibility.

While you can have flexibility, renting out a property comes with responsibilities.

Many tenants can threaten legal action if their expectations are not met.

Don’t let it get that far.

If you’re renting property out to someone, be sure to follow these guidelines to avoid potential threats of litigation.

Know Your Local Laws

If you’re renting a property, it’s important to know what rights your tenants have, as well as what rights you have as their landlord. Housing laws vary by state, so be sure to do your research before renting out living space to anyone.

As you interview potential tenants, be sure to share your expectations as well. When you and your tenants know ahead of time what’s expected of each party, it makes everything easier in the long run.

Keep Your Property Safe and Clean

You are responsible for any living space you own, even if you rent it to someone else.

Renting out a property that is dangerous to someone’s health or well-being can lead to legal trouble. No one wants to live anywhere that’s built with rotting wood or other dangerous materials. Stay up to date on the condition of your property to quickly fix any problems.

Be There for Your Tenants

In addition to the point above, solve any issues the property may have immediately.

If your tenant needs something, such as a leaking pipe repaired or a new railing for stairs, give them an immediate response. Make sure they have multiple, easy ways to contact you, such as phone and email, and be responsive.

When they voice a concern, set a time to inspect the issue and stick to it. When you present yourself as concerned and actively listening, you appear more reasonable and they have less reason to take legal action.

Treat your Tenant with Respect, Fairness, and Firm Guidelines

There’s two important things to remember above all when you rent to someone. The first is that before you hand anyone the keys to your property, have your terms laid out explicitly for them. If they sign any paperwork agreeing to your terms, such as due dates on rent or if you don’t allow pets to live with them, you have the right to enforce those guidelines.

Being vague and making up rules arbitrarily during a lease helps no one.

The second thing to remember is that your tenants are people. If you have an issue that needs to be resolved, talk to them. Most people are reasonable enough that they can talk calmly about an issue and resolve it early on. Additionally, if you have multiple tenants, be sure to treat everyone fairly. Denying one tenant leeway or perks that you gave another can lead to discrimination charges.

When it comes to issues that arise between you and your renters, most are small and easily avoidable. With some simple pre-planning and communication, you can address any issues and potentially avoid a visit to the courtroom.

Keeping Your Car Safe

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A red car inside a building.

Michigan’s crumbling roads cost an average of $865 per motorist, according to Crain’s Detroit Business.A red car inside a building.

Beyond avoiding potholes, here are some tips to help your car avoid damage longer and keep it in good condition.

Park Away from Other Cars

Do you like squeezing into an open parking spot?

Most of us don’t enjoy that challenge and we shouldn’t for good reason.

The real “squeeze” comes as people try to get in and out of their cars. All it takes is one careless person to open their door too quickly and dent or scratch your vehicle.

Whenever possible, park away from the building instead of near the entrance.

There are more open spots. By taking a longer walk in the parking lot, you can secure a larger “bubble” of space for your car and get in some extra steps.

Keep Your Car Covered

If you have a garage or any other location to park your car inside of, use it.

Did you know that sunlight can fade your car’s color?

It can.

Keeping your car covered or indoors can protect it from falling tree branches, vandals, hail and other potential damage causing elements.

If you don’t have a structure to park in or under, consider investing in a vehicle cover. Vehicle covers can cost as little as $50 and are a good alternative if you need to park your car outside every night.

Use a Reflectorized Panel in the Windshield

Reflectorized panels are used often in warm climates, but it can help in Michigan too.

When set up, it reflects sunlight back out of the car, keeping it cooler inside and protecting your interior.

Keep Your Tires Inflated

This one may seem like common sense, but there are many reasons to maintain the right tire pressure.

Tires that are underinflated create more friction when they interact with pavement. So even when the tire has enough air to keep you rolling forward, it can overheat, damaging the tires.

A car is a large investment to take on. Don’t make it a bigger investment with unnecessary risks. Keep it safe and keep your finances secure for years to come.

Make Sure Your “Dream Home” Is a Safe Home

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Portrait Of Excited Couple Standing Outside New Home

If you’re looking to buy a new house, there can be a lot to think about.Portrait Of Excited Couple Standing Outside New Home

With factors such as where you work, where your kids go to school, and where you can shop for food and other basic needs, just finding a good location can be difficult.

It can be a relief to find a house that’s where you want it. However, don’t settle for any house because it’s in a good location.

This is where you’ll be living in for years, if not decades. It should be built safely, functionally and practically. When looking at potential houses, keep a keen eye out for a few things.

Proper Draining

Water should always be able to get away from the house.

Almost all homes rise above the street they’re on, so water will flow away from the house. Water damage is a serious issue, and any home that is built in a way that water will come towards it is susceptible it.

If a house you’re looking at can have water run toward it or even allow standing water, it’s better to look for one that doesn’t have this issue.

Overhanging Greenery

Most people like a good-looking front yard and backyard to color up the outside of the house. However, while they can be nice, maintenance is key.

Make sure none of them are too close to the house or hanging over the roof – in cases of wind or other extreme weather conditions, they can fall onto the house and cause damage. Keep them at a safe distance from the house if they’re tall, and always be sure to keep them properly trimmed.

Good, Solid Foundation

The house should not have any cracks in the foundation, nor should it appear to be sagging, slanted, or otherwise misshapen. The house should also feel leveled and flat on every floor. If your potential house is on a bad foundation, living there can be dangerous, as well as expensive to repair on your own.

It Looks Good!

If you’re walking up to the house and you already see issues, the inside is almost never worth it.

Any signs of rotting, decay, cracking, or other indications of damage should be a red flag.

Finding a home that satisfies all your needs can be difficult, but your health and safety should be first.

Look for a house that is secure and sturdy before you think about putting down an offer.

Of course, these aren’t the only things to think about. We recommend you get an inspection, but this is a good start. Happy home hunting.