Detroit Swag-o-mania

Some of nature's more beautiful moments in Detroit are created by the spring and autumn fogs that rise over the city. The autumn fog season arrived in Detroit today, rolling in around 7 AM and with burn-off, shown here, starting around 10 AM. Ship horns are calling out to each other all over the Straits of the Detroit.

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  1. #1
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    Default Squatters' Rights in MI?

    Somewhere in between the thread on Jesse Jackson's remarks on urban farming, the thread in which we started talking about abandoned blocks (yet again), and just general DY background noise, I started to wonder what would happen if someone just started gardening on an abandoned lot. They have a reasonable chance of just flying under the radar for a while. Do they just own it at some point?

    It is extraordinarily difficult for a MI municipality to exercise eminent domain, IIRC. If there is something to this idea, it could open up avenues for the re-beautification of some dilapidated areas.

    Look, I'm not actually advocating theft. But - and cut me some slack, I'm no lawyer - there does seem to be a certain amount of "constructive abandonment." If I toss a twenty, is it theft for you to pick it up?

  2. #2

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    There's an old chinese dude who was just in the Windsor Star...maybe last week, who is doing exactly that on some abandonned plot in DT Windsor, where I don't know. BUT....he's growing rice rather well! I know this isn't adressing your question....just sayin' lol

    And...was I right behind you when you dropped it? I would think that was theft, but somone else would have to witness me pick it up and not say anything...I would think.

  3. #3
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    According to Michigan Law, if you openly occupy and use the land for 15 years, it's yours.

    The elements of adverse possession in Michigan are: actual, visible, open, notorious, exclusive, and uninterrupted possession of the property that was hostile to the owner and under cover of a claim of right for a fifteen-year period. Rozmarek v Plamondon, 419 Mich 287, 295; 351 NW2d 558 (1984).

  4. #4
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    Default

    15 years is a long gamble, but there's a few places downtown, abandoned now, that I might consider going for the long shot. It just kills me to come home for a week or two and tour the empty bldgs.

  5. #5
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    Default

    It's long, txlady, but it's not much of a gamble. It doesn't cost very much to openly and notoriously (etc.) occupy land, particularly if the owner is someone who doesn't come around and doesn't care.

    Interesting way for citizens to take back the city, over the long haul... hmm...

  6. #6
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    Default

    You'd have to have some way of proving you've been on the land for 15 years, though. Otherwise, the real owner might just say well, for all I know you showed up last night.

  7. #7
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    Default

    All property in the city is subject to property tax, right? If the resident or bank doesn't pay that tax, the ownership reverts to the city doesn't it?

  8. #8
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by narnarnar View Post
    According to Michigan Law, if you openly occupy and use the land for 15 years, it's yours.

    The elements of adverse possession in Michigan are: actual, visible, open, notorious, exclusive, and uninterrupted possession of the property that was hostile to the owner and under cover of a claim of right for a fifteen-year period. Rozmarek v Plamondon, 419 Mich 287, 295; 351 NW2d 558 (1984).
    This needs to be shorten to something like 7 years or even shorter in places like Detroit where abandoned land is plentiful.

  9. #9
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Nicodeme View Post
    You'd have to have some way of proving you've been on the land for 15 years, though. Otherwise, the real owner might just say well, for all I know you showed up last night.
    Notorious.

    As for that twenty: I didn't drop it, I tossed it. And I've already been in and out of that store over there, where I've had to use the bathroom, and walked right by it since. In fact, I'm looking at it right now.

    I think it's even starting to sprout some trees.

  10. #10
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    Dec 2009
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    You can shorten the 15 to 10 if you pay the taxes and to 5 if you can get yourself on as a cloud in the title.
    I think that since many thousands of homes have been left for the county to eventually take over squatting by adverse possession is not only morally right, but a necessary element to help save the neighborhoods from disappearing. I have been studying this and the process of quieting a title; which is what you do to completely own it after the required time of occupying it.
    But I've noticed something while discussing the subject with Detroiters and wonder this:
    Why in Detroit where squatting is so common that it is such a dirty word and a threatening word, squat, instilling fear so much among Detroiters?

  11. #11
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    Default

    It instills fear as, if they are in your home/property, they are hard to get out.....

  12. #12
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    Adverse possession is more complicated and harder to actually pull off than has been suggested in this thread. Generally it's not a route I would recommend over purchase after foreclosure.

  13. #13
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    Default

    Why squat when you can buy for very little?

    http://www.michigan.gov/dleg/land_bank/property

  14. #14
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    To further the difficulty mentioned in Chrystal's comment, you cannot gain adverse possession on land where the title has reverted back to the city/county or state for non payment of taxes.

    While squatting in "abandoned" houses may (and I cannot stress the "MAY") have some beneficial effects to a neighborhood - allowing this type of occupancy can bring a whole host of issues for landowners who have an investment (emotional, moral, financial, etc.) in their property and find someone squatting.

    Just my two bits.

  15. #15
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    As far as squatters go, I'm just thinking of what it would be like to legally live in a place directly next door to a squatter. I wouldn't like it one bit. What sort of commitment would they have to the place? They have none. They could torch it one day and be gone the next. Squatters are outside of the law and don't make good neighbors. They don't have any sort of investment in the area and really need to go.

    I feel for the people that have no homes but squatting just isn't the way to go.

  16. #16
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    Weighing in, do live in Detroit and apparently am too lax in my opinions. Rather have a squatter then a household stripped by scrappers.

    This was actually a topic at a local meeting.

    Seen more than a few squatters, if they cut the grass, don't sell drugs, I don't give a damn. The house eventually gets sold intact.

  17. #17
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    Squatters are not illegal or breaking the law because they live in an abandoned house. There are many who appear to be just like homeowners, you would not know. What is a lot scarier than knowing one's neighbor doesn't have a mortgage like they do is the fact that they could loose and be in the same situation soon? That should be a more common fear as one sees their neighborhood disappear.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by sumas View Post
    Weighing in, do live in Detroit and apparently am too lax in my opinions. Rather have a squatter then a household stripped by scrappers.

    This was actually a topic at a local meeting.

    Seen more than a few squatters, if they cut the grass, don't sell drugs, I don't give a damn. The house eventually gets sold intact.
    In a place with as much vacancy as we do, there is a unique opportunity for squatters who actually care about their surroundings.

  19. #19
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    So Sumas and Jeanne: in your experience, most squatters have legal utilities? They move in illegally but call DTE to have the power turned on? Call the city to get water put in their names?
    In my experience they do not. Thus it is my business because they endanger their neighbors and they are stealing.

    I do speak from experience because I had two girls and their girlfriends and their Honda-stripping Latin Count boyfriends sqautting next to me one entire summer recently. They used two long nails to jump the electric meter and they continued to adjust with electrical tape and nails every time that DTE cut lines until it was cut off at the pole. They had someone work on the gas meter too. Finally, they were carrying water into the house and dumping gray water - or worse - out the back window.

    And the parties they had! Windows bashed out! Using 2X4's to assault their drunken guests!

    This is in SW Detroit where thousands of people appear to be stealing electricity.

  20. #20

    Default

    Super thread! Very interesting. I have learned a lot. Makes me think it would be interesting to see what would happen if AP was reduced to, say, five years. I'd bet it would push a lot of negligent absentee landlords off the fence.

    Yet that is complicated by Michigan's stiffened laws for eminent domain. The sudden acquisition of various plots by AP could complicate land acquisition for positive economic development as the quick AP owners become hold outs. So maybe a requirement for quick AP would be occupied ownership of adjacent property for, say, 5 years prior.

    Thinking out loud here but I think there is something of value to be found in these possibilities.

  21. #21
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    Ive talked before about a family I know who squats a house on the East side. They tore down the first house they were in and they found another. Its the only house on the street. They dont steal any electric or gas, they keep the yard clean and the house inside is as as clean as can be. They dont have a mower so I suppose the grass wont be cut this summer but the rest of the block doesnt get cut either.

  22. #22
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    Default Improvements made while Squatting

    If I squat in a house or building an make repairs or modification to said property an before the aloted time for me to take full possesion of said property is up the original owner start leagal recourse. An win a eviction judgement can I be compinsated for said repairs an modifications

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by UltraBeast View Post
    If I squat in a house or building an make repairs or modification to said property an before the aloted time for me to take full possesion of said property is up the original owner start leagal recourse. An win a eviction judgement can I be compinsated for said repairs an modifications
    No. If you break into my garage and wash my car, I don't owe you seven dollars.

  24. #24
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by jeanofarc View Post
    Squatters are not illegal or breaking the law because they live in an abandoned house.
    That is an interesting point. I assumed that was incorrect, but I bothered to look up Michigan's law against trespassing, and it appears (I copied the relevant passage, below) that you are not trespassing unless the owner or legal occupant, or their agent, asks you to leave. In the case of a typical abandoned house owned by an absentee landlord, that's not likely to happen. And the person next door is not an "agent" unless deemed so (in writing, I think) by the actual owner or legal occupant.

    Laws say what they say. Someone claimed earlier in the thread that the right of adverse possession does not apply to property that has been reclaimed for taxes. I would prefer to see the actual law that says so, rather than just believe someone's post.

    I am not an attorney; if you are, or otherwise are an expert, and any of this is incorrect, please do correct it. I would prefer to have accurate information in this particular thread and I don't take offense to being called for being wrong when I'm wrong.

    Anyhow here's the relevant statute:

    750.552 Trespass upon lands or premises of another; violation; penalty.
    Sec. 552. (1) A person shall not do any of the following:
    (a) Enter the lands or premises of another without lawful authority after having been forbidden so to do by the owner or occupant or the agent of the owner or occupant.
    (b) Remain without lawful authority on the land or premises of another after being notified to depart by the owner or occupant or the agent of the owner or occupant.
    (c) Enter or remain without lawful authority on fenced or posted farm property of another person without the consent of the owner or his or her lessee or agent. A request to leave the premises is not a necessary element for a violation of this subdivision. This subdivision does not apply to a person who is in the process of attempting, by the most direct route, to contact the owner or his or her lessee or agent to request consent.
    (2) A person who violates subsection (1) is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than 30 days or by a fine of not more than $250.00, or both.

  25. #25
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    There's no statutory authority for someone to claim adverse possession against a municipality or the State of Michigan.

    http://www.mmbjlaw.com/news?article=...h-acquiescence

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