Escanaba, MI asked in Real Estate Law and Landlord - Tenant for Michigan

Q: Can a township bill you for a tenant's past-due utility bills in their name?

I had a tenant on a land contract purchase agreement that put the utilities in his name including the sewer bill. He could not make payments and violated the land contract with illegal drug activity so he was kicked out by the court of Menominee County, MI. He had left a sewer bill of $661.29 and now the township is threatening that if I don't pay it they will add it to my winter property taxes. Wouldn't the tenant be responsible for the bill in his name and not me? Adding the bill to the property tax does not sound right either.

1 Lawyer Answer
Kenneth V Zichi
Kenneth V Zichi
  • Landlord Tenant Lawyer
  • Fowlerville, MI
  • Licensed in Michigan

A: Municipality owned/operated utilities for water and/or sewer CAN under state law, add unpaid bills into the property taxes. This doesn't sound 'unusual' to me.

What DOES matter is your misuse of the word 'tenant' which makes me think you didn't get legal advice ahead of time to understand fully what you were doing with this property. If you SOLD your property on a land contract, you didn't have a tenant. You had a purchaser who then apparently violated the terms of the land contract and was either foreclosed upon or had the land contract forfeited. These are DIFFERENT than a 'landlord tenant' situation (although they can share the same sort of 'summary proceedings' and the forms often mention both, with a 'checkbox' to differentiate things).

Bottom line, I assume you got a 'down payment' on the land contract? I hope it was for more than $660! That is where the 'unfairness' is evened out. You're not getting a 'windfall' like some people who recover property in a land contract forfeiture get, but you shouldn't be 'out of pocket' too much. And don't forget, you can still sell the property to a third party now and recover some of your costs that way too.

Whatever you decide. get local legal assistance to insure you structure the sale in a way that protects your interests. There are LOTS of ways to do things wrong, but in this case, it sounds like you didn't make any mistakes, but your expectations don't jive with reality. Legal advice can't CHANGE that, but it will help you prepare better.

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