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Grand Rapids Real Estate Lawyers

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From commercial development to land use laws, our real estate attorneys at Scozzari Graham, PLLC can help you. We have significant years of professional experience and can guide you through the legal process of whatever real estate matters you are facing in Grand Rapids, whether you have questions about condominium ownership or zoning ordinances and water rights. Our team of attorneys will work together to guide you through your real estate process in Michigan.

Commercial Lease Laws

There are a few elements of a commercial lease to be aware of in Michigan. For one, a landlord generally does not have the right to enter the premises without notice unless this is negotiated and drafted into a provision in the lease. They also do not have an explicit right to evict a tenant merely due to a simple breach of the lease, though such a power of termination could again be established preemptively in the lease.

Note that enacting lease provisions are solely at the discretion of the landlord and/or the tenant, and generally, a valid commercial lease only needs to contain the following:

  • the parties to the lease agreement;
  • the property in question;
  • the amount of rent payment; and
  • the length of the lease.

An experienced commercial real estate attorney at Scozzari Graham, PLLC can provide more specific information about your commercial lease, purchase, or sale in Michigan.

Commercial Development in Michigan

Another important set of real estate laws to be aware of are those related to commercial development. The state’s commercial development laws generally refer to property like facilities related to a commercial business enterprise including office, engineering, research and development, warehousing, parts distribution, retail sales, and other commercial activities.

Development, referred to as "rehabilitation" in the legal statute, refers to changes to a qualified facility to restore or modify the property to an economically efficient condition. Rehabilitation includes major renovation and modification including, but not limited to:

  • improvement of floor loads;
  • correction of deficient or excessive height;
  • new or improved fixed building equipment, including heating, ventilation, and lighting;
  • reduction of multistory facilities to 1 or 2 stories;
  • improvement of structural support including foundations;
  • improvement of roof structure and cover;
  • floor replacement;
  • improvement of exterior and interior appearance of buildings.

Condominium Laws

Another important real estate concern in Michigan is condominium law. Condominium developments in the state are regulated by the Michigan Condominium Act, which provides regulations for condominium living, including selling, voting, financing, assessing, and terminating a condominium association and its units. Relevant points addressed by the act are:

  • Each condo unit owner is required to pay fees covering the common expenses of the condo, and they are not exempt from paying their share of expenses even if they claim non-use or abandon the unit.
  • If a condo owner fails to pay their monthly association fees, those fees will constitute a lien on the condo unit, which can be foreclosed upon for this reason.
  • A condo owner may sue the condo association or another owner for failure to comply with the law, and, if successful, recover costs and reasonable fees from the association.
  • Condo associations that have annual revenues over $20,000 must receive a formal audit of their year-end financial statements or have a majority of their members vote to opt out annually.
  • A developer can withdraw all undeveloped portions of land from a project within 10 years of the date on which construction commenced or within 6 years of the developer exercising their rights of conversion, contraction, or expansion. If they do not withdraw the undeveloped land, it will automatically convert to common elements, which belong to all condo owners.

Land Use Laws in Michigan

One of the most nuanced real estate laws in Michigan are perhaps those addressing land use, particularly in relation to zoning, variance, and water rights. An experienced real estate lawyer at Scozzari Graham, PLLC can better help navigate this process and the applicable laws, but here are a few important provisions to keep in mind about land use in Michigan.

In Michigan, zoning is implemented under the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act (MZEA). The MZEA authorizes a local unit of government to regulate land and to create zoning districts in which it may regulate land use. A municipality’s zoning efforts are generally comprised of:

  • the zoning ordinance; and
  • the zoning map.

Be aware that there are certain limitations to a local municipality’s authority to regulate land use, though. For example, the MZEA allows nonconforming uses if the use of the land was lawful at the time of the enactment of a zoning ordinance or amendment. A zoning ordinance also may not regulate the drilling, completion, or operation of oil or gas wells, nor may it prevent the extraction (by mining) of valuable natural resources. A zoning ordinance also may not engage in exclusionary zoning.

A variance refers to the approval by a local zoning board of appeals (ZBA) for a property owner to avoid a requirement that would otherwise apply to their property. The 2 types of variances in Michigan are use variances and dimensional variances. A use variance allows an owner to engage in activities on their property otherwise prohibited by the zoning code, and a dimensional variance, also called a nonuse variance, seeks to modify zoning provisions that apply to the size, height, dimensions, and other aspects of structures that an owner can build on their property. The attorneys at Scozzari Graham, PLLC can provide legal advice for individuals interested in obtaining variances, from helping to prove unnecessary hardship for a use variance, for instance, or showing practical difficulties to obtain a dimensional variance.

Lastly, Michigan also has laws addressing riparian land, or land that touches a river or any natural body of water like a lake or a sea. Landowners have the legal right to use the surface waters immediately adjacent to their property, whether that be maintaining docks or anchoring boats permanently off their shores. These water rights are not absolute, though, and must be exercised in a reasonable manner so as not to interfere with the rights of the public. Note that non-riparian landowners and members of the public who gain access to a body of water also have the right to use the surface of the water in a reasonable manner for boating, fishing, and swimming.

Questions? Contact Scozzari Graham, PLLC.

Michigan has numerous different real estate laws in place addressing specific legal concepts like commercial leases, commercial development, condominium ownership, and land use related to zoning and water rights. If you have questions or concerns about your property use or ownership in Grand Rapids, contact our team at Scozzari Graham, PLLC for legal guidance. We can take a look at your situation to help you navigate your real estate matter.

Schedule a free consultation with our lawyers at Scozzari Graham, PLLC to learn more about how we can help. Call (616) 229-3002 or contact us online.