How Property Managers Can Prepare for Lawsuits

There are many precautionary measures property management companies or property managers can implement to avoid ending up in court. Property managers need to stay on top of proper statutory procedures to help prevent a lawsuit and subsequent lost time, energy, and even money.

Professional property managers who make an effort to keep records of their properties and tenants adequately will find that this preparation is certainly worth the while when litigation comes into play. Once a tenant becomes aware that a defendant is fully prepared, they may think twice about their attempts to sue.

It is in the property manager’s best interest to educate themselves in the proper procedures and record-keeping strategies to be ready for whatever may come.  For those who have followed the law, kept a detailed record-keeping system, and provided a strong case to the judge, the likelihood of successfully defending one of these lawsuits is relatively high.

Implement Minimal Procedures

Property owners and managers should stay educated on the necessary precautions and follow the statutory guidelines for tenant’s issues.

Important steps associated with a vacating tenant for a successful defense against lawsuits:

  • Property inspections
  • Data collection of the condition of the property
  • The amount of money a property manager is allowed to deduct
  • The statutory procedure for deductions
  • The proper method of communicating

When these things are handled with diligence, there is an excellent chance that preparing for the unfortunate incident of being sued will be the saving grace.

Pre-Tenancy Property Inspections

Property managers must conduct walk-throughs of the property with the new tenant while there is no furniture or obstacles in the unit.  Property managers should take photos, write down inspection data for every room in the unit, details of the property’s exterior, including any current issues and have the new tenant sign off to agree with the condition report.

This record will also be used to compare and contrast the pre and post condition status for the end of lease inspection.  The photos and a signed inspection report will help prove the unit’s condition before that lease began.

Plus, sometimes the notice of a pre-inspection at the end of the tenancy is given to tenants to prepare for the inspection to repair or clean the unit to help them avoid deductions from their security deposit. If this procedure is conducted properly, it can prevent many post tenancy issues from arising because the tenant will be entirely in the know about conditions that they will be judged upon for the deposit deduction. Further, they are given a fair amount of time and opportunity to correct the issues.

If a tenant was to dispute with a property manager over the security deposit deduction and ends up filing a lawsuit, the property manager who has taken the time to take photos and properly log inspection data will be amply prepared for the litigation. The property management team can prepare the file in chronological order and have printed photographs with each condition’s dates and labels.

Also, any witness of the conditions of the property (such as the gardener, the painter, the cleaner, etc.) should be contacted to inquire about witness statements and ask them to make themselves available to be witnesses in court. Along with protecting yourself with Augusta real estate insurance, you will have a better chance of success with the following in preparation for a hearing:

  • A complete property file in chronological order, including photos, invoices, and paid receipts
  • A written file of all past communications with the tenants included in the property file
  • The list of witnesses with their contact information
  • Sworn affidavits from each witness
  • A thorough review of all circumstances and facts associated with the staff members who dealt with the tenant

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