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Michigan Landlord-Tenant Law: New change will allow for Demands for Possession/Notices to Quit to be served By E-Mail or Social Media

When Landlords seek to evict residential tenants, they must first provide notice through a Demand for Possession/Notice to Quit. These notices serve, essentially, as a warning that if a tenant does not move out after the specified period, the landlord has the option to file a summons and complaint with the local district court to seek their eviction. The amount of time varies depending upon the potential reason listed by a landlord. This notice period provides the parties a chance to resolve the dispute. Further, it provides a tenant with a reason or reasons why their landlord is seeking to evict them. Courts, in a majority of landlord-tenant disputes, require these notices to be attached to any summons and complaint asking for an eviction. New changes to the laws will permit more options for landlords to deliver these notices.

Under the old law, pursuant to MCL 600.5718, this notice must be served “by delivering it personally to the person in possession, or by delivering it on the premises to a member of his family or household or an employee, of suitable age and discretion, with a request that it be delivered to the person in possession, or by sending it by first-class mail addressed to the person in possession.

On Thursday, May 21, 2015, Governor Snyder signed a bill that will amend this law. It will permit landlords and tenants, with mutual consent, to have these notices served electronically. However, landlords are not permitted to discriminate and withhold leases from people who refuse to agree to electronic service of these documents. Id. For additional information, here are the bill summaries from the House and Senate.

It is about time for these types of changes. In my opinion, the Legislature should look for more opportunities to permit parties to use electronic service, especially in situations where the time-tables are accelerated, as they are under the Summary Proceedings Act.

If someone has an active and frequently used e-mail account, it is, in my opinion, a much more reliable and better option for service than mail. Further, this option will save landlords money on additional service costs, save tenants the hassle of possibly being confronted and personally served, and reduce some of the potential confusion over whether these notices were served. Notices to quit/demands for possession are very important documents for eviction proceedings. If they are not served properly or completed correctly, courts may throw out an eviction complaint. This option, if utilized correctly, will benefit both landlords and tenants since they will both have adequate notice and it will eliminate sources of potential confusion over service.

Our firm has a lot of experience representing landlords and tenants all over Michigan. Feel free to call us at (517) 507-5077 for a free initial consultation and ask for either Jacob or Andrew.

For more information on Michigan’s Summary Proceeding Act, click here.
For information on the differences between month-to-month versus fixed term leases, please click here.

Disclaimer: This blog-post is only general legal advice. If you need specific legal advice, please privately consult with a lawyer. Circumstances vary significantly depending on the alleged facts.

 

Crowley, Cornish, Rockafellow & Sartz, PLLC…In the news….

Crowley, Cornish, Rockafellow & Sartz, PLLC, named 10 Best Law Firm for the State of Michigan, Client Satisfaction, by the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys.

 

People v. Shan Gao (Assault w/ Intent to commit Great Bodily Harm less than Murder)

Prosecution’s allegations of our client’s “Chinese Gang” affiliations shown to be nonsense by a Not Guilty jury verdict on charges of Assault with intent to commit Great Bodily Harm Less than Murder on February 5th, 2015.

This case even garnered international news coverage due to the charges against a Chinese National.

People v. Salaam (Assault w/ Intent to Murder)

Four men were sentenced in shooting last year at an apartment that wounded a teenage girl. Check out this story on lansingstatejournal.com.

People v. Greg Basolo (Open Murder)

Defendant admits to killing father at District Court.

Defendant found not Competent for Trial.

  Pleads Guilty but Mentally Ill.

At Sentencing, Judge orders Greg Basolo to receive Mental health treatment while incarcerated.

People v. Donald Suttle (Open Murder / 2nd degree Homicide)

Ingham County Medical Examiner testifies to Blunt Force Trauma to head.

List of MLive articles here.

People v. Kimberly Hood (Assault w/ Intent to commit Great Bodily Harm less than Murder)

“Jurors in Bluebell Park trial to continue deliberations Friday:  Judge denies request for mistrial over prosecutor’s comments,” by Kevin Grasha.  (Lansing State Journal – February 10, 2011)

  Also see, “Lansing woman convicted on lesser charge in Bluebell Park incident:  Woman facing jail, fine,” by Laura Misjak.  (Lansing State Journal – February 11, 2011)

 

Michigan Property Law: Nuisance

WHAT A NUISANCE

“Good fences,” to quote Robert Frost, “make good neighbours.”

Unfortunately, for property owners, a good fence might not be enough. Actions by their neighbors may impact their quality of life and their “bundle” of property rights, including the right to use and the right to enjoy their property. Further, actions by individual property owners may be detrimental to an entire community. There may be, however, legal remedies available to assist both private individuals and groups of people with these issues.

A nuisance, broadly stated, is something that interferes with either the use or enjoyment of property. Nuisance tort-law is certainly not a new concept. These types of legal concerns have been adjudicated for centuries in various forms.  There are numerous categories and sub-categories for this term. Generally speaking, all nuisances start with a key division between actions that are classified as either private nuisances or public nuisances.

A private nuisance is a civil wrong that occurs when one person uses their property in a way that interferes with the use or enjoyment of another person’s property. Examples of private nuisances include: pollution of soil; streams; or underground water supplies, any interference with comfort such as foul odors, noxious gas, smoke, loud noises, excessive lighting, and more. Robert Frost, for example, in his poem Mending Wall, describes some additional scenarios which could be classified legally as private nuisances.

While a private nuisance is aimed at use and enjoyment of an individual or small group’s personal property, a public nuisance concerns an interest shared by the public as a whole, and is considered a minor crime. While the interest of deterring a private nuisance is to increase the use and enjoyment of land, the interest of deterring a public nuisance is to maintain the safety, comfort, and convenience of a community. Examples of public nuisances under Michigan law include, firing fireworks in a street, obstructing a roadway, polluting a waterway, harboring a dangerous animal, and more. As stated previously, public nuisances are a crime, and are dealt with in criminal court.

In Michigan, nuisances can be broken down even further into four additional categories: nuisance per-se, nuisance in fact, intentional nuisance, and negligent nuisance. A nuisance per-se, broadly stated, is an act, occupation, or structure that is at all times and under any circumstances considered hurtful to the health, tranquility, or morals of the community, regardless of location or surroundings.

A nuisance in fact, broadly stated, is an act, occupation, or structure that is considered becomes a nuisance because of its relation to certain circumstances or surroundings. Thus, a nuisance in fact can be caused by either the location of the premises, or the type of business being conducted on the premises.

An intentional nuisance is simply a nuisance caused by the intentional act to cause such nuisance, where a negligent nuisance is when there is an unreasonable risk of injury to others because of the failure to act by the person charged with causing a nuisance.

NUISANCE STATUTES/EXAMPLES OF NUISANCES

MCL 600.2940 is Michigan’s private nuisance statute, and awards damages to a party that can prevail on a nuisance claim.

MCL 600.3801 is Michigan’s public nuisance statute, and it bans the use of property for activities that are harmful to a community, such as, prostitution, gambling, illicit transfer of intoxicants, animal fighting, and human trafficking.

Other types of Michigan public nuisance statutes are: MCL 41.411 (for township and village public services), MCL 46.201 (concerning county parking lots), MCL 252.202 (concerning the use of junkyards), MCL 259.441 (concerning airports), MCL 280.423 (concerning sewage), MCL 286.218 (concerning pests and plant disease), MCL 286.473 (concerning farms), MCL 324.11520 (concerning the environmental protection act), MCL 324.3109 (concerning water resources), and MCL 287.277 (concerning dogs). This is not an exhaustive list, but it provides an idea of the type of public nuisances that exist.

ELEMENTS OF A NUISANCE/STATUE OF LIMITATIONS

In order to be liable for damage caused by a nuisance, the defendant must have 1) created the nuisance, 2) owned or controlled the property from which the nuisance arose, OR (3) employed another to do work that he or she knew was likely to create a nuisance. Gelman Sciences v. Dow Chem Co., 202 Mich. App. 250 (Mich. 1993).

Other elements may exist, and depend on what type of nuisance is claimed, who the parties are, and a variety of other factors. Finally, the statute of limitations to bring a claim is three-years, and is controlled by MCL 600.5805 (10). If you are dealing with the abatement of a public nuisance, however, this timeline is more complicated and may vary. MCL 600.3815.

REMEDIES

A plaintiff can recover money damages if s/he has suffered actual damages from the nuisance. Injunctive relief may also be appropriate in situations where money damages are inappropriate or inadequate. For example, if a nuisance is on-going, injunctive relief may be appropriate to stop the nuisance.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Nuisances come in many different shapes and sizes. For example, if a neighbor puts up a large building that blocks all of the sunlight from getting to your property, you may have a private nuisance claim against that neighbor. Similarly, if your neighbor is continuously working with loud power tools that are so loud that they interfere with the use and enjoyment of your property, you may have a private nuisance claim. These are only some possible examples of a private nuisance claim.

A public nuisance may exist if a stream in your community is being polluted by a business. In that case you, and the rest of the members of the community, may have a public nuisance claim against the polluting business. Another possible public nuisance claim would be if a business is opened that deals in the type of unlawful activities noted above, such as gambling or prostitution. If this happens, you, as well as the rest of your community members, may have a public nuisance claim against that establishment.

Nuisance law can be very complicated, depending on the situation at hand, and should not be taken lightly. If you think you might have a nuisance claim, or are the defendant in a nuisance action, I highly you recommend that you seek an attorney.

Our experienced trial attorneys fight hard for our Michigan clients. We represent clients statewide. For a free initial consultation, feel free to contact us at (517) 507-5077.

For information on Deeds under Michigan Law, click here.
For information on the Summary Proceedings Act, under Michigan Law, click here.
For information on real-estate litigation, notably lawsuits involving homeowners and builders, click here.

The attorneys at Crowley, Cornish, Rockafellow and Sartz, PLLC would like to thank the contributions of Dan Barnett, second-year law student at Michigan State University College of Law, and legal assistant for Crowley, Cornish, Rockafellow & Sartz, PLLC for his contributions as co-author of this blog post.

Michigan Criminal Law: Theft/Larceny Crimes; Retail Fraud, Second Degree

Loss and theft prevention is a big issue for retailers. Stores, especially larger chains, often have advanced surveillance, loss-prevention employees, and train their staff in techniques designed to deter or minimize losses from theft. However, even with all of these measures, theft offenses still cost larger retailers millions of dollars in losses and these cases still comprise a significant portion of a local court’s misdemeanor docket.

“Retail Fraud, Second Degree”, MCL 750.356 (4), is more severe offense than retail fraud third degree, MCL 750.356 (5), and is often charged against people who allegedly “shop-lift” merchandise from merchants and retailers when the value of the allegedly stolen merchandise has a value over $200.00 and less than $1,000.00.
If the accused individual already has a prior conviction for retail fraud third degree, MCL 750.356 (5), they may be charged with retail fraud second degree even if the value is under $200.00 pursuant to MCL 750.356 (4)(b).
Retail fraud, second degree a misdemeanor punishable upon conviction by “imprisonment for not more than 1 year or a fine of not more than $2,000.00 or 3 times the value of the property stolen, whichever is greater, or both imprisonment and a fine,” MCL 750.356 (4),costs, restitution, probation up to two years, or other sanctions at the court’s discretion.
In general terms, this particular charge MCL 750.356 (4) carries significantly greater sanctions for a conviction than a retail fraud third degree. However, it is not as severe as some of the other theft offenses which will be discussed in later posts because it is still a considered a misdemeanor. It is also considered a “crime against dishonesty.” As with any theft offense, there are collateral consequences that go well beyond the courts if a person is convicted of this charge.
As noted in the Michigan Rules of Evidence, convictions involving a “crime against dishonesty” may be used against someone by an opposing lawyer if they ever testify in another court-proceeding to attack their credibility.
A conviction for this type of charge, for example, may also impact a person’s ability to find work in certain fields. A lot of employers, especially those professions involving the financial industry, may be deeply concerned about an applicant or employee if they have this type of conviction on their record.
If convicted, as a misdemeanor, it could stay on a person’s record for a long period of time.
However, certain people, especially younger alleged offenders between the ages of 17-20 who are interested in potentially pleading guilty may be eligible for diversionary programs such the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (see MCL 762.11-762.16), which, if completed, could keep a conviction from being entered in their public record. Diversionary programs often require probation and generally need to be negotiated through the plea-bargaining process prior to any trials.

Our dedicated and experienced attorneys frequently represent clients on a variety of different charges, including Retail Fraud, Second Degree. For a free initial consultation, feel free to call us at (517) 507-5077.

For information on Michigan’s charge “Uttering & Publishing,” click here.
For information on the Felony charge under Michigan Law, Retail Fraud, First Degree, click here.
For information on the less severe, misdemeanor charge called, under Michigan law, Retail Fraud, Third Degree, click here.

Disclaimer: This blog-post is only general legal advice. If you need specific legal advice, please privately consult with a lawyer. Circumstances vary significantly depending on the alleged facts.

 

Residential Leases: Fixed Term v. Month-to-Month

FIXED-TERM VERSUS MONTH-TO-MONTH LEASES

With residential leases, finding the right kind of lease is a common issue for both landlords and tenants. Each type of lease has their own set of pros and cons. The right lease depends on a person’s particular circumstances and how they anticipate their circumstances will be for the duration of the proposed lease. In more practical terms and in a broader, more general sense, the key issue is the trade-off of cost versus flexibility. The following is a general list of some of the pros and cons of two of the more common residential lease options, depending on most markets:

Month-to-Month Leases:

  • More flexible, in general, for both the parties;
  • May be terminated by either party with a thirty days’ notice;
  • May cost more per month, depending on the landlord, than a fixed term lease;
  • Less potential long-term costs;
  • Less stability; either party, for a litany of potential reasons, could just provide the thirty-days’ notice and terminate the lease;
  • A better fit for people who are uncertain about their long-term plans, whether it’s due to a possible sale of the property, career changes, life changes, school, etc.;
  • A better fit for people who may need to move on short-notice;
  • A better fit if a tenant is concerned about the condition of the property;
  • A better fit for both parties if they have respective concerns, in general, about the other party;
  • Legally easier, usually, for a landlord to evict a tenant;
  • Availability varies depending on the market; certain markets are so saturated, landlords do not typically offer this option.

Fixed Term Leases:

  • more stable for both the parties; both parties should reasonably expect the tenancy will last the listed term on the lease;
  • usually require a thirty days’ notice to terminate near the end of the lease, but the termination provision for a fixed-term lease may be amended depending on the written provision for termination in the written lease;
  • generally speaking, landlords in most markets charge less rent per-month for a fixed-term versus a month-to-month;
  • a better fit for most tenants if they plan on staying in a particular area, long term;
  • a better fit for most tenants if they do not anticipate any need to move quickly for the duration of the lease;
  • in certain markets, especially college towns, this may be the only viable option for a vast majority of landlords given the saturation of tenants, the cycle of moving patterns, and relative scarcity of rental-housing;
  • legally more complicated and costly if the parties wish to terminate the tenancy and if the matter proceeds to an eviction proceeding through the courts;
  • tenants may find it necessary to sublease if they wish to leave early, if their landlord permits them to sublease; otherwise, they may be in breach of the lease and could risk a potentially significant amount of rent being owed;
  • may be more costly, in general, for a tenant if they did need to leave early;
  • Landlords usually have more leverage if a tenant wants to leave early;

Regardless of the type of lease, a residential lease should always be in writing and in compliance with the numerous provisions applicable to residential leases according to Michigan law.

If you need specific legal advice, please privately consult with a lawyer. This blog post is a general discussion about leases, only, and is not intended as specific legal advice. Circumstances vary significantly depending on the parties and areas.

Our office frequently handles this types of matters. For a free initial consultation, feel free to contact us at (517) 507-5077.

For information on Deeds under Michigan Law, click here.
For information on Nuisance claims under Michigan law, click here.
For information on the Summary Proceedings Act, under Michigan Law, click here.
For information on real-estate litigation, notably lawsuits involving homeowners and builders, click here.

For more information on Notices to quit/terminate tenancy, a key form required to be provided to a vast majority of tenants prior to commencing eviction proceedings, click here.

Michigan Practice Areas

The following provides some general information about the various practice areas covered by the firm. All our lawyers are licensed to practice law in Michigan and several are licensed to practice law in the federal courts as well.

Our blog topics are frequently updated and cover issues related to our practice areas. Jacob P. Sartz IV focuses on issues related to real-property and criminal law, while Stephen Cornish and Patrick J. Crowley contribute their thoughts on a variety of different practice areas.

Family Law

Criminal Law: For more information on certain types of charges and issues, please click on the links listed below:

-Assault Offenses:

  1. Assault or Assault and Battery
  2. Domestic Violence

-Discovery: Michigan Law and Court Rules require the disclosure of certain types of information during pending criminal cases.

Criminal Sexual Conduct Offenses;

  1. Michigan’s Sex Offender Registration Act, “SORA”

-Theft Offenses,

  1. Retail Fraud Third Degree;
  2. Retail Fraud Second Degree;
  3. Retail Fraud, First Degree;
  4. Uttering & Publishing;

-Michigan Traffic Offenses:

  1. -OUI/OWI’s;
  2. OUI/OWI’s and Vehicle Owner Liabilities;
  3. -Operating on a Suspended/Revoked/Denied License

-Pleas:

  1. No-contest or “Nolo-Contendere Pleas”

-Post Conviction:

  1. -Expunging Prior Convictions under the new Amended Law;
  2. Probation & Probation Violations

Estate Planning

  1. Small Estates

General Practice

Social Security Disability

Real Property: For more information on certain types of issues, please click on the links below:

-Landlord Tenant Summary Proceeding Act

-Landlord Tenant: Leases

-Construction Litigation and Real-Estate Litigation

-Deeds and Deed Requirements