Chicago, IL asked in Real Estate Law and Land Use & Zoning for Michigan

Q: Is there a Michigan law that states property owners are responsible for costs to maintain a private road?

2 long existing, private roads, servicing approximately 50+ properties. (large acreage parcels) These roads are in Menominee County, Holmes Township, in the woods. Ownership of the roads fall on about 10 owners, owning different stretches of the roads. There was never a maintenance agreement (roads are over 40 years old) Many, if not all original parcels had deeded access use of the roads. There was also an indication of road fees up to $500, but there has been changes in ownership and division of parcels over the years. We have a road association (informal) and most people pay the $200.00 yearly fee for gravel, grading and snowplowing each year, but there are about 10 that never pay their share, yet get the benefit of a well kept roadway for their property.

1 Lawyer Answer
Kenneth V Zichi
Kenneth V Zichi
  • Real Estate Law Lawyer
  • Fowlerville, MI
  • Licensed in Michigan

A: Without actually examining the title it is impossible to say what to do. If there were some sort of road maintenance agreement, either created before the splits, or agreed to by ALL the property owners afterward, this is going to be difficult. You 'complicate' things by saying there is a provision of road fees up to $500 but it is unclear HOW that is structured.

If, as is more likely, each person OWNS their portion of the road, and the others merely have the right to USE it as an easement, there MAY (And note that is VERY 'may' and most certainly not a 'shall'!) be and argument that all property owners must agree to maintain the easement for use but the 'counter' argument is that 'I don't need to use THAT easement so I don't have to pay to maintain it' or 'I don't get the same benefit so I shouldn't pay as much' etc. Without an actual agreement, there are lots of ambiguities, and who knows what the courts may do. Again, that '$500' thing adds complications.

You need to show an LOCAL lawyer all the documents and get a real legal opinion on your facts. That attorney can also provide you a cost estimate of what straightening this out will run, and you can make an 'economic decision' as to what to do next. (eg it will cost $50,000 in legal fees, and the annual amount in question is $100, then maybe you don't fight. If those figures are reversed, then maybe you do!) Real legal advice based on your specific facts is beyond the scope of what can be done in a general q and a forum like this. But it is the ONLY way to be sure you're getting real advice and not just generalities!

Good luck.

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