A few years ago, I received a call from an elderly client (let's call him "Fred") in a panic. Fred told me that he went out to his lake cottage one spring for the first time since winter and found a notice of foreclosure pasted on the door indicating that the property had been foreclosed upon for non-payment of taxes. The appeal period had long expired. I asked Fred if he paid his taxes. He couldn't remember and said he thought he escrowed for taxes as part of his mortgage payment. Upon further inquiry I learned that he owned the property free and clear and that yes, he forgot to pay his property taxes. After some finagling I was able to make a deal with the County Treasurer to get Fred's property back so long as Fred paid all of the taxes, plus interest, within 48 hours. I did this by convincing the County Treasurer that Fred was elderly, had moved within the past few years and that the County had the wrong mailing address for purposes of notice. Fred was lucky. The County Treasurer accepted my story, although he didn't have to.
Prior to 1995, real property in Michigan was taxed at its "assessed value"; that is, at 50% of its true cash value, which Michigan courts deem synonymous with fair market value. This meant that taxes on real property went up or down in tandem with increases or decreases in the property's true cash value.
When Appealing a Michigan Property Tax Assessment, Must the Possibility of Obtaining a Zoning Variance Be Considered in Determining the Property's True Cash Value?
It's not always as straight forward as you might think!
Many lawyers have multiple specialties that seem to go hand in hand. People often think of lawyers with dual specialties as having only one. Tax AND estate planning, medical malpractice AND personal injury, corporate AND securities are but a few examples that come immediately to mind. Let me add another natural combination of which I am one of a very few members; real estate AND probate.
Last week's Michigan Court of Appeals decision in Stenman v. Stenman, Docket Number 321203, provides a cautionary tale: You do not always have absolute control over your own property. In Stenman, the court recognized the broad authority of a public utility company, the Detroit Edison Company ("DTE"), to install and maintain meters on their customers' property without tampering from the customer.