Battle Creek, MI asked in Real Estate Law for Michigan

Q: My father and mother passed away In 2018. There are still renters at one of their properties. They have been there over

10 yrs. The agreement was for them to pay property taxes for rent. I have not been able to hire an estate atty to get this switched to my name. My brother wants them to have the property free of charge. My parents left a Will with me as executor back in the 1980’s (before I was 18). So these people have squatter rights? Does my brother have the right to give his friends this property free without my feedback? Is it worth it to hire an attorney for this? The property is worth about 125K…

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2 Lawyer Answers
Trent Harris
Trent Harris
Answered
  • Jackson, MI
  • Licensed in Michigan

A: Well, it depends. Let's take the questions one at a time. First, can those people continue to rent at the property, notwithstanding your parents' deaths? Yes. When the landlord dies, the tenants' leases continue, but they are now with the landlord's estate, instead of with the landlord. So the estate is now the landlord. By the same token, the estate has the same rights (under the lease and under the law) to evict the tenants if the estate no longer wishes for the tenants to be there anymore. So, to remove the tenants, a personal representative needs to be represented for the estate, and a 30-day notice to quit or 7-day demand for nonpayment needs to be sent to the tenants to start an eviction.

Second, regarding whether you or your brother gets to make this decision: what does the will say? You mention you are nominated as the executor. That is a good sign. But what does the will say about who is supposed to inherit the property in question? Is it to go to you? The question says you haven't been able to get it switched "to my name." If the property is supposed to be yours, then it's your call whether the tenants stay or go, or on what terms. On the other hand, if the property is supposed to go to your brother, it's your brother's call. If the property is supposed to go to both you and your brother equally, then it's a little more difficult. Again, does the will require the property to be distributed in kind (i.e. by deed), or does the will leave open the option to sell the property and divide the proceeds between your brother? That is where I would start.

With the property being worth $125k, it would definitely be worth your while to get an attorney involved. The issues you discuss are common, and while a probate estate that also involves sale of a home and possible eviction might take a while, it should not be terribly expensive. I would budget $4,000 to $8,000 depending on how things go with your brother.

Thomas. R. Morris , Kenneth V Zichi and Brent T. Geers agree with this answer

Thomas. R. Morris
Thomas. R. Morris
Answered
  • Dexter, MI
  • Licensed in Michigan

A: I agree with the prior answer generally, but it seems to me that the tenants either stayed beyond the expiration of the written lease, or there was no written lease.

In either event, they occupy the property on a month-to-month basis. The question then becomes: Who has the authority to evict them? The will needs to be reviewed to determine who has standing to enforce ownership rights.

The tenants do not have squatter rights. No such thing is recognized by Michigan law.

Brent T. Geers and Kenneth V Zichi agree with this answer

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