From mold to safety concerns: Tenants, homeowners and contractors expose abuses in Garno Property Management practices

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The Garno Property Management office (right) sits at the southeast corner of Michigan Avenue and Lanthrop Street. Photo screenshot from and credit to Google Maps. Google Maps is a trademark of Google LLC, and this article is not endorsed or affiliated with Google in any way.

Mold, broken pipes, water leaks, safety threats and broken heating systems are some of the items in a long list of complaints of people who did business with Garno Property Management LLC, a Lansing-based company. The Spartan Newsroom had access to these complaints from testimonies verified by emails, photos and videos that show that the property management company does not properly maintain some units, causing troubles for tenants, homeowners and contractors. 

Christopher Garno, the owner of the property management company, did not respond to various requests for an interview. The Spartan Newsroom emailed, called, left voicemails, reached out through the company website, knocked on the business door with no answer and left a note at the business.

When Keyonna Brown first moved into her Garno-managed house on Woodbine Avenue with her two daughters in early spring 2023, she didn’t notice anything obviously wrong with the property. However, after her family used the shower a few times, Brown noticed mold growing in the bathtub. 

For the rest of the 11 months Brown lived in the house, she scrubbed the bathtub often three times a week so her daughters would not have to see the mold. 

But for Brown, the mold was just the beginning of the maintenance issues with Garno Property Management.

In May 2023, Brown emailed Garno–the way she was told to put in maintenance requests. She wrote that a pipe was broken, her bathtub overflowing and water leaking into the basement.

Pipes leaked sewage and water into Brown’s basement in the Garno-managed property. She sent this picture to Chris Garno through email on Jan. 11, 2024. Photo credit to Brown.

She asked in June 2023, once again, if she could still get her things fixed. 

In November 2023, she told him the heat wasn’t working in her house.

On Dec. 13, 2023, Brown emailed Garno, telling him the heat was still not working in her rental. The stove was broken, too. 

Garno wrote back: “I told you to turn on the oven and use a fan.” 

“I had to do what I had to do because I had nowhere else to go,” Brown said. “My kids and I still needed somewhere to live.” 

March 2024, Brown moved her family out of the Garno property and said she is now in a “really nice house with a really nice landlord.” But, during this last month she lived on Woodbine, she did not pay her rent in the hopes that he would take her to court so she could “show them everything he did.” 

He did not take her to court. 

In February 2024, Garno lost a court case to a current tenant, Sharee Ashworth, and owes the deposit and all rent paid. Ashworth was deemed constructively evicted, meaning the property was not up to livable standards so she had no option but to leave.

“This was not a rentable property,” Judge Kristen Simmons said during the hearing. “There is no person under the sun that should live in this property.” 

Black mold covers parts of the ceiling and walls of the house. 

There is a hole in the roof above the bathroom, allowing in rain and other elements from the outside near an electrical outlet. 

The bathroom ceiling has a hole, allowing water to come in near an exposed outlet. Photo credit to Ashworth.

Ashworth has not had hot water in the property since July 2023, she said in court.

Ashworth was concerned about her 6-year-old daughter being exposed to these dangerous conditions. So, when the girl is not with her other mom, she stays with Ashworth’s mom and aunt. 

“It definitely is [hard],” Ashworth said. “My daughter likes to be with me.” 

However, tenants are not the only people negatively affected by Garno’s management practices. In 2013, Terri Pettit hired Garno to manage her house she rented out. Pettit rented to two tenants previously, but she moved to Colorado and thought it would be easier to use a property management company to communicate with renters. 

During the nine months Pettit worked with Garno, she never received itemized receipts for repairs like she requested. She never got quarterly check-ins she asked for in their contract. 

Once the tenants Garno rented to left, there was tens of thousands of dollars in damages, Pettit said. They settled in court for $20,000. 

“They had painted car parts in our basement, put holes in the wall and then shoved newspaper in the wall and tried to cover it with drywall mud,” Pettit said.

Pettit could not find the tenants to take them to court for the damages. When she tried to have Garno evict them, he told her that is not his job. 

“On a home we were 1,500 miles from, we trusted this guy to do his job,” Pettit said. “We paid him to do a job.” 

Pettit sold the house afterwards. 

In 2018, Megan Dowell, the owner of Do-Well Remodel, was hired by Garno to do basic repairs in rentals, like drywall, but she found the property management wanted these fixes done “cheap, fast and incorrectly.” 

The company told Dowell it would pay her in cash, but she was never paid for her contractor work. 

This happened when Do-Well was only a few months old. Dowell said during the company’s beginning, they worked with property managements and found they often cut corners on repairs and paying contractors. 

So, she no longer works with rental companies. She said her and her husband do not have the capital to sue property management companies that do not pay. 

The Garno Property Management office is on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Lathrop Street and stands out with its signs in support of former president Donald Trump, American flags and “Make Lansing Great Again” signage. 

During Lansing protests over the murder of George Floyd and police brutality in the summer of 2020, the business was vandalized. 

Within a few days of the protests, the Lansing State Journal published a photograph of Jordan Davis protesting as the cover. At the time, Davis was a tenant of Garno. Davis made signs for the protest on actions like how to contact legislators, but he did not vandalize any property–like Garno accused him.

Davis rented from Garno for a few years before the photo was published without much complaint, aside from a lack of communication and maintenance. He said it was affordable, with good neighbors and a fenced in yard for his pitbull.

However, after the newspaper ran the picture, Garno contacted Davis. 

“It was hours of texts and phone calls,” Davis said. “He was really pestering me about it at that point in time. And then he sent those pictures.” 

The pictures included a group of a dozen people outside of Garno’s business holding firearms. 

“It made me feel scared for my security. It made me feel scared for my fiance’s security and for my housing security,” Davis said.

A group of 12 people stand outside of Garno’s office on Michigan Avenue and Lathrop Street in summer 2020, some holding firearms. This was the photo Chris Garno sent to Davis. Photo courtesy of Davis.

Garno soon raised the rent for Davis and his fiance, so they moved out. The house they rented from him stayed vacant for a year. The couple moved back in before buying a house and found a box of their things in the cupboard–though they paid a cleaning fee when they originally moved out. 

Organizations that work for fair housing in Lansing say Garno has been causing issues for renters in the city for a while. Jerry Norris is the founder of The Fledge, a Lansing nonprofit organization that, among other things, advocates housing as a basic human right. The organization also hosts Rent is Too Damn High meetings.

“He’s using the system to the fullest, and we’re not doing anything about it,” Norris said of Garno. 

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