A Time For Reflection

It is always a good thing to stop every so often and take an accounting of where you have come, and how plans have matured from wherever they originated. For instance, we have made many major leaps of growth over the last few months, enacting changes both minor and major to our business model and rebuilding our client experience from the ground up.

Over the last few months, things have been moving and shaking around our office. Fortunately, the holiday season allows us a little bit of time to come up for air. During this brief moment of relative calm, we are doing a little housekeeping and planning, and have had a chance for some introspective work.

In this time of reflection, we have also been strengthening efforts to provide more informational and educational content to both our clients and the community at large. We know the community can benefit from this information, and we welcome the dialogue we hope it creates within our community. What we did not expect, however, is how quickly other pillars of the local legal community would pick up and spread our advice.

Below is included in-full the article published in the Grand Rapids Lawyer’s January/February issue:

Landlords Prepare: The Millennials Are Here

Landlords share a humble goal: create a return on investment. But in my opinion, I often see landlords in need of legal intervention before a new tenancy. There seems to be an unreasonable aversion to using a longer lease to encompass more of the expectations between landlord and tenant. Is there an award for shortest lease, or just shortest tenancy?

A Change In The Winds

I enjoyed meeting one millennial during a consultation on the issue of whether a Notice to Quit was served in retaliation for a health and safety complaint in violation of MCL 600.5720. After we start, the client promptly interrupts to clarify that my help is not being sought on the possessory issue. What followed was a client-prepared list of various legal arguments to defend against the Demand for Repossession. I challenged each piece of the puzzle, only to find that each reason was backed by strong support. I appreciated the client’s level of preparation prior to the meeting and completed the ultimate reason for the consultation. But, I also noticed, like so many clients before, that the lease was wholly inadequate to protect the landlord’s rights under this tenancy. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon.

West Michigan landlords often share a common manifestation of frustration—”Being a landlord in West Michigan is difficult!”—they exclaim. Most of them are hard-working, good-natured people who offer up investments—homes and apartments—that were contemplated long before the concept of a millennial. They now face tenants with a fierce sense of entitlement, and lack the necessary lease provisions to prevent legal issues.

Millennial tenants are here, and they are stocked with abundant access to relevant law, appear to judge every word directed at them by the landlord, and despise the concept of the post office. Millennials expect clarity, accessibility, strict and timely fulfillment of promises, immediate satisfaction, and know how to record and document everything. Above all, millennials demand landlords know the law.

Shape Up, Or Ship Out

Losing revenue is disheartening when it’s caused by missing or unclear lease provisions, especially when prevention is possible. The laws that govern leases include the Landlord-Tenant Relationship Act, the Truth in Renting Act, and the Michigan Consumer Protection Act. Without an understanding of the interplay of these statutes and supporting case law, West Michigan landlords remain at risk. I simply recommend a modern lease that better contemplates the expectations of both landlord and tenant.

Grand Rapids is worthy of investment in real property and creating rental units. My colleagues in the legal community are more than capable of protecting both landlords and tenants. Kent County judges are fair and equitable in resolving landlord-tenant disputes. But, there is no substitution for good planning. The millennials are here; landlords be prepared, and please update your lease.