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Should Landlords Hire a Lawyer?

All Michigan landlords should familiarize themselves with the landlord-tenant laws to avoid costly mistakes. Is knowing the laws enough, or should landlords hire a lawyer “just in case?”

Landlords are business owners, whether on a small scale (one property), a large scale (large multi-family complexes), or anywhere in-between, and most landlords (like all business owners) probably understand that a reliable team is essential to the success of their enterprise.

If you own or manage rental properties, you may want to consider having a lawyer “on retainer,” which means engaging your lawyer in advance to handle routine questions and legal matters (and to ensure your lawyer of choice does not end up representing one of your tenants). Your retained lawyer will serve as your “in house corporate counsel” and will be a trusted advisor who will help you avoid potentially costly legal issues.

Should landlords hire a lawyer? Yes, and here are the reasons why:

Assistance evicting a tenant – Landlords should hire a lawyer if they’re pursuing eviction, if the tenant has filed for bankruptcy, if the tenant is fighting the eviction and has hired an attorney, or if the tenant is an employee they’ve fired. Since you’re dealing with someone’s home, many judges will set the bar high when it comes to ruling in favor of the landlords. Therefore, your attorney is an essential business partner. Further an individual is prohibited by Michigan law from appearing in court on behalf of a corporation or LLC, so unless you own the property in your individual capacity, you must have a lawyer represent you in court.

The landlord is faced with a lawsuit – Tenants and their guests may sue landlords for any number of complaints, from a leaky roof to uneven pavement leading to a twisted ankle. If a tenant gets hurt and blames the landlord for the injury, the landlord should ask his attorney for advice. Also, if a prospective tenant or current tenant sues the landlord for illegal discrimination, the landlord, if he or she loses the battle, could face costly damages, fines, and civil fees.

A state or IRS audit – If there is a large amount of money at risk, the landlord should hire an attorney for assistance. If it’s not a considerable amount, then the landlord’s “on retainer” lawyer will probably be able to offer valuable advice.

Although landlords probably won’t need a lawyer to help them get through every business day, it’s essential to have a lawyer readily available for a quick phone call when legal questions arise. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Contact your next trusted business advisor by visiting the O’Reilly Rancilio website or call 586-726-1000

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