In Michigan, as in most states, the state authority has significantly limited access to public places, stores, restaurants, movie theaters, offices, and other businesses through the issuance of executive orders prohibiting such access. For businesses whose viability depends on the public’s ability to access that business’ physical location, the issuance of such orders has resulted in a loss of use of the property and a severe interruption in business. For some, their insurance policies may appear to insure against loss of use of the insured property when a civil authority prohibits the insured from using the insured property, such as through issuance of an executive prohibiting such access, or there is damage to the property resulting in its loss of use. While it may seem as though the business climate created by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is unique to our generation, this is not the first time a Governor’s executive order has impacted businesses in Michigan and there are several cases from the Michigan Court of Appeals which can provide guidance.
The Coronavirus and the State of Emergency
On March 10, 2020, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services identified the first two presumptive cases of coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, in the State of Michigan. On March 16, 2020 Governor Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-9 which closed restaurants, bars, cigar lounges, movie theaters, casinos, libraries, and gyms from the public. On March 23, 2020, Governor Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-21 which imposed a temporary stay-at-home order for non-essential matters, which was later extended and expanded through Executive Orders 2020-42, 2020-59, 2020-70, 2020-77, and 2020-92, and is currently in effect for the majority of the State through at least May 28, 2020.
The novel coronavirus disease (“COVID-19”) has impacted nearly every aspect of life, including residential housing. People living in communal living spaces and apartment buildings need to take particular care to prevent and address community spread. Landlords and tenants alike may be affected by economic uncertainty and strain due to the pandemic. In is therefore crucial that landlords and tenants prepare to respond to the unique issues raised by the spread of COVID-19. This article will highlight some of those concerns and give insight into how landlords and tenants may tackle them.Read more
The full economic impact of COVID-19 and its related “stay at home” orders cannot be measured right now. Anecdotal evidence suggests that widespread delinquencies and defaults have begun. Condominium and homeowner associations are not immune and can rightly expect negative consequences. As homeowners struggle with job disruptions and loss of income, the likelihood of delay or default in payment of assessments becomes a stark reality. And the association’s ability to collect past due assessments is substantially affected by unpaid property taxes, by delinquent mortgages having priority over assessments and by homeowner bankruptcies. This environment poses unique challenges for associations to continue services uninterrupted, especially when vendors and employees expect timely payment. Read more
Buying a new home can be a stressful, frustrating experience – buying a home during the COVID-19 pandemic may be even worse. By the time you have found the perfect home, you may just want to sign all the papers put in front of you; however, whether buying a condominium unit during a pandemic or not, you should carefully review these documents and ensure you have been provided with all the information you need to make an informed purchase.
Quit Puttering Around – Slow Property Owner Loses Land to Jack Nicklaus Signature Championship Golf Course
On March 17, 2020, the Michigan Court of Appeals approved for publication its December 19, 2019 opinion in New Products Corporation v Harbor Shores BHBT Land Development, LLC, __ Mich App __; __ NW2d __ (2019) (Docket No. 344211), holding that a property owner abutting a Jack Nicklaus Signature championship golf course lost its rights to a disputed parcel of land when it did not object during construction of the golf course’s 18th hole in the disputed area. The Michigan Court of Appeals determined the golf course’s potential loss of status as a Jack Nicklaus Signature championship golf course outweighed the property owner’s rights in the disputed parcel in light of the fact the property owner did not object to the construction until the golf course was completed and open to the public.
Law & Crime Network recently interviewed Kevin Hirzel regarding national issues that are arising due to the Covid-19 crisis . In this Q & A, Kevin Hirzel addresses rent and mortgage concerns, loan modifications, State Executive Orders and Federal stimulus efforts. Viewers from around the nation have questions and concerns about this pandemic and want to know what rights they have. Covid-19 is causing housing concerns across the nation and Kevin Hirzel provides advice on how to navigate this national crisis. The interview can he found here.
Kevin Hirzel is the Managing Member of Hirzel Law, PLC and concentrates his practice on commercial litigation, community association law, condominium law, Fair Housing Act compliance, homeowners association and real estate law. Mr. Hirzel is a fellow in the College of Community Association Lawyers, a prestigious designation given to less than 175 attorneys in the country. He has been a Michigan Super Lawyer’s Rising Star in Real Estate Law from 2013-2019, an award given to only 2.5% of the attorneys in Michigan each year. Mr. Hirzel has been named a Leading Lawyer in Condominium & HOA law by Leading Lawyers Magazine in 2018 and 2019, an award given to less than 5% of the attorneys in Michigan each year. He represents community associations, condominium associations, cooperatives, homeowners associations, property owners and property managers throughout Michigan. He may be reached at (248) 478-1800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On February 12, 2020, the Ottawa County Circuit Court issued a decision in the consolidated cases Duke, et al v Wittenbach, et al, Case No 19-5989-CH and Wittenbach v Duke, et al, Case No 19-5995-CH. The Duke cases are interesting because at first glance they appear to arise out of the intersection of riparian rights and property owner rights but are ultimately resolved through the application of the ordinary easement principles described in more detail below. Nonetheless, given the increase in Great Lakes water levels, the issues presented in the Duke cases may resurface in future cases, and the Court’s means of resolving the dispute could be applied in any such future cases.
Locked Out? The Court of Appeals Decides Whether an Unlocked Gate Can Be Installed Within an Easement
On January 28, 2020, the Michigan Court of Appeals issued a published opinion in Smith v Straughn, __ Mich App __; __ NW2d __ (2020) (Docket No. 345391), holding that a landowner can install a gate across an easement so long as the gate is not erected for the purpose of interfering with another’s use of the easement and the gate does not actually interfere with the use of the easement. The Michigan Court of Appeals utilized a reasonableness-under-the-circumstances test that will be relied on in future disputes between fee owners and easement holders as to whether a fee owner’s use of the easement interferes with the easement holder’s use.
There are several ways in which property can be held by multiple owners. For married couples, one of the most commonly used estates is the tenancy by the entireties. It provides a right of survivorship that enables a surviving spouse to hold property without having to proceed with probate. In Michigan, this estate is only available to married couples. In some instances, parties may seek to mimic the right of survivorship contained in a tenancy by the entirety by holding property as joint tenants with a full right of survivorship. Similar to a tenancy by the entireties, this estate cannot be unilaterally severed by the act of one of the parties, and it provides an indestructible right of survivorship to the surviving joint tenants. This may make it appear to be a more attractive option, in some circumstances, to a tenancy in common which is the presumptive estate for unmarried individuals in Michigan. However, parties seeking to utilize a joint tenancy with full right of survivorship should be aware of the risks that come with such an estate.