Appeals Court Affirms Lower Court Finding That City’s Zoning Ordinance Permitting a Home Business Does Not Include the Business of Providing Short-Term Rental Accommodations

In People of the City of St. Clair Shores v Dorr, unpublished per curiam opinion of the Court of Appeals, issued October 29, 2020 (Docket No 349910), the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled—in a highly fractured opinion—that “a person of ordinary intelligence would reasonably understand from [a zoning ordinance that requires a home business be ‘incidental’ to the use of the dwelling as a dwelling] that the business therefore cannot be coextensive with the primary use of the dwelling as a dwelling.” As such, the Court of Appeals held that the City’s zoning ordinance prohibited him from using his home for short-term rentals through Airbnb.

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Are the CDC’s Restrictions on Halting Residential Evictions in Michigan Constitutional?

In Michigan, residential evictions are normally handled at the local District Court pursuant to Michigan’s Summary Proceedings to Recover Possession of Premises, MCL 600.5701, et seq. However, on September 1, 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the “CDC”) issued an order (the “Order“) temporarily halting some, but not all, residential evictions throughout the country, including Michigan, to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. The Order is presently in effect through December 31, 2020, but may be extended or modified in the future. The CDC’s Order upended the normal residential eviction process and thrown interpretation of the Order to the Michigan Supreme Court Administrator’s Office (“SCAO”) and the local District Courts throughout the State of Michigan.

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WHEN CAN A MUNICIPALITY IMPOSE A TAX LIEN AGAINST PROPERTY FOR UNPAID WATER CHARGES?

Most people who own real estate obtain their water for the property from the local municipality. While the timing of billing and costs for water charges vary among municipalities, all municipalities are given the right under Michigan law to collect delinquent water charges through imposing a lien against the property. Specifically, MCL 123.162 provides:

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MICHIGAN SUPREME COURT RULES THAT SURPLUS PROCEEDS FROM THE TAX-FORECLOSURE SALE OF A PROPERTY MUST BE RETURNED TO FORMER PROPERTY OWNERS

             On July 17, 2020, the Michigan Supreme Court issued an unanimous[1] decision, finding that the retention of surplus proceeds from a tax-foreclosure sale under the General Property Tax Act (“GPTA”) is an unconstitutional taking without just compensation under Article 10, § 2 of Michigan’s Constitution of 1963. Before the decision by the Court, Michigan was among a minority of states who permitted the retention of surplus proceeds from tax-foreclosure sales.  Accordingly, property owners that have lost their property as a result of a tax foreclosure sale now have a claim against the county for the difference between the amount of taxes owed and the amount realized at the tax sale by the County.

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The Impact of COVID-19 on Commercial Real Estate

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.

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Business Interruption and Loss of Use Insurance Claims Resulting from COVID-19

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.

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Landlord Tenant Issues in the Time of COVID-19

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.

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“Too Good to be True” Changes to the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance Grant

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

Checking the List Twice: Buying a Condominium Unit in Michigan During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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.

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Quit Puttering Around – Slow Property Owner Loses Land to Jack Nicklaus Signature Championship Golf Course

Introduction

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.

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