While the safest strategy for a landlord or property management company in Michigan is to remain transparent and honest with tenants, some topics should be avoided. If a potential tenant brings these points up, you’ll be put in a position where you need to discuss and answer appropriately.
Some questions, however, should be avoided at all cost. Here are the top 5 topics to avoid with renters.
1. A property manager in Michigan should never designate a neighborhood as safe or as a “low crime area.”
There is no way for an individual to know whether or not a region, area or neighborhood is completely safe--or if it will stay that way. If a property manager in Royal Oak claims the neighborhood to be safe and something terrible occurs, an individual could file a civil suit making the landlord or property management company liable for damages as a result of false claims
The best response to questions and concerns over crime is to advise the potential tenants to drive through the community and research the local statistics to form their own opinion. Even in an upper-class area such as some of the communities in Royal Oak, it’s still a good idea to make this recommendation.
2. Never discuss questions about racial or ethnic groups in the area
While some tenants may have concerns over racial groups and cultural influence where they live, property managers around Michigan will always avoid these questions. Racism, sadly, is something that is still common in different regions throughout the United States. Landlords, as well as property managers, will encounter these types of questions from time to time.
No matter how you feel about these groups, never answer these questions. It is a violation of federal law as you could be accused of discrimination and/or “steering” people in or out of a neighborhood or city based on racial factors. The best response for a property manager is to simply tell tenants that you're unable to answer that question.
3. Avoid discussing children
It's a violation of federal law to say that you cannot rent to someone with children or that children aren’t allowed. While it’s unlikely that you would ever do this, it’s also a good idea for a property manager in Michigan to avoid the subject of children altogether. If children are discussed in any way, and the tenant is turned down, they could file a suit. There are significant penalties to property owners and property management companies for discrimination. It can be difficult to prove that you were not making a judgment based on family size and children.
4. Never leave messages regarding rent and other private information
The property manager or landlord should never leave a voicemail regarding private information such as unpaid rent or property management issues, either at home or at work for the tenant. It’s a violation of the privacy of the individual. Openly sharing this type of information could be viewed as a form of harassment depending on the frequency. If you must leave a message, just provide your contact information and request that the tenant calls you back at their earliest convenience.
5. Avoid discussions of religion in your area
While it may seem like talking about the churches in the area is a fair idea, especially if a potential tenant brings it up, don’t. Religion is a protected class. If you focus on something like a Jewish synagogue in a neighborhood, you could be seen as implying there are a lot of Jewish residents in the area--for good or bad. Like the above note on race, this could also be seen as “steering” people in or out of the neighborhood.
While the risk is much lower with religious, there is still some risk for a property manager or a landlord in Michigan. If tenants are more insistent on knowing about churches, you can inform them that there are multiple churches in the neighborhood--but let them know you’re not familiar with the names or denominations.
Protect yourself from liability issues like this with a transparent, quality property management company in Michigan. JMZ Management is a leader in property management in the Metro-Detroit area, serving residential property owners throughout Oakland, Washtenaw, and Wayne Counties. Contact us today to see how you can benefit from a dedicated property manager and maintenance team. We also have a free Make-Ready Checklist to ensure your property is prepared for your next tenant.