At some point in their lives, most adults have signed a lease agreement, whether it be the leasing of an automobile, an apartment on campus while attending college or renting a home. Since most of these leases are standard forms offered on a “take it or leave it” basis by the lessor or landlord, negotiating the base rent and term of the lease is typically the main and only focus for the lessee.
When a business enters into a commercial lease however, the lease is usually signed by the business entity itself, which is typically organized as a corporation or limited liability company. By forming a corporation or LLC, the owners of a business can shield themselves from personal liability for the debts of the business in most situations. Accordingly, when a business entity signs a commercial lease to rent space in a commercial building, the entity signing the lease, as opposed to the owners of the business entity, is the one legally responsible for making the payments under the lease.
On March 30, 2017, Representatives VanSingel, Lucido, Sheppard, Webber, Howrylak and
Calley proposed House Bill 4463, which would amend MCL 600.101, et seq. by including a new section 5707. Under current Michigan law, a limited liability company (“LLC”) is required to be represented by an attorney for any landlord/tenant matters. The proposed law would allow single member LLCs (or two member LLCs if the two members are married) to handle evictions without requiring an attorney under certain circumstances.
First, the amount in dispute could not exceed the limit for small claims matters [currently $5,500]. Thus, if the damages exceeded $5,500 then an attorney would still be required. Second, the LLC may only be represented by a member, a property manager or other agent with direct and personal knowledge of the facts in the complaint.
At the beginning of any landlord/tenant relationship, it is common for a landlord and tenant to execute a Lease Agreement with a defined initial lease term. In most leases (particularly commercial leases), there is also a provision that allows for an additional extension or extensions of the lease term, commonly called an “Option to Renew” provision. Historically, Michigan courts have required tenants to strictly comply with all of the requirements of the Option to Renew in order for the extension of the lease to be valid. Recently, Michigan courts have taken a less stringent approach under appropriate circumstances and looked more toward the behavior, actions or conduct of the landlord and tenant to ascertain whether an Option to Renew was properly exercised. This article gives an example of an Option to Renew provision, discusses the historical approach compelling strict compliance with an Option to Renew and discusses recent cases that hold strict compliance for an Option to Renew is no longer required in appropriate cases. Read more