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Michigan Business Law Update: Bill Stuck in Committee that would Allowing Single Member LLCs To Evict Tenants without Legal Representation

December 11, 2018 1 comment

Once again, we are reaching the end of the year. One of the signs that the year is ending:

december

Rosa Parks Circle becomes an ice rink.

See the photo I took from a few days ago.

Another sign that the year is ending, interest groups are pushing to get legislation pushed through the legislature before they die in committees.

One such Bill would give Certain Landlords who own their real estate in a Limited Liability Company the ability to evict tenants without retaining an attorney

 

 

Today

Kent County Rental Property Owners Association  published a post pushing constituents to contact their State Senators to push this bill out of committee.

This Bill was passed by the Michigan House and since September of 2017 has been sitting in the Senate Judiciary Committee

As the RPOA indicates:

 

“For the first time in two decades, the “LLC bill” has a chance of passing.  The bill, HB 4463, would enable single-member LLC’s and LLC’s owned by married couples to handle their own evictions in court without an attorney.  The cases would be limited to the amount of small claims cases—which is the majority of all landlord-tenant eviction cases”

 

History Behind the Bill…

As background, a common scenario in my legal practice:

Investor purchases property in an LLC. Investor locates a tenant. Tenant falls behind in rent. Investor hires attorney to evict Tenant.

 

Why hold real estate in an LLC?

Most of my investor clients own investment real estate in a Limited Liability Company.

This is for liability protection.

Once a limited liability company comes into existence, limited liability applies, and a member or manager is not liable for the acts, debts, or obligations of the company. “Duray Dev., LLC v. Perrin, 288 Mich. App. 143, 151 (2010).

 

Why not hold real estate in an LLC?

Some investment property owners decide not to do so. The primary driving reason from my experience is cost.

Cost associated with setting up the LLC; and

Cost associated with hiring an attorney and evicting non-paying tenants.

Some landlords don’t want to hire an attorney to evict a tenant.

Under current Michigan law, since an LLC is a separate legal person independent of the actual owners of the LLC, unless such owner is a licensed attorney, an owner of an LLC cannot file a lawsuit on behalf of the LLC.

To do so would be the unauthorized practice of law.

You can practice law on your own behalf – just not on behalf of someone else.

Although, the saying goes – he who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client.

 

House Bill 4463 – Would Allow LLCs to Evict without Legal Representation.

House Bill 4463 was introduced in March 2017 and referred to the  committee on law and justice. It has been passed by the House and sent to the State Senate.

The Bill would allow owners of a single-member LLC (or a married couple under certain conditions) to file their own eviction actions on behalf of the LLC without the need for legal representation.

If the Landlord is seeking money damages, the amount, not including taxable costs, must be under the small claims Court maximum.

I commented that I would be surprised if this bill passes, although other states have similar laws. The Kent County RPOA mentions in its post that it is the closest in over decade that such a bill has come to passing – so the RPOA is pushing hard to get this Bill out of committee.

 

As mentioned, the Bill  came out of the committee on law and justice and a substitute bill was referred for a second reading.  The Bill was passed by the House and sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee over a year ago.

 

The Major Difference in the Substitute Bill

The major revision that came out of the committee affects property managers.

The Bill as introduced would have allowed property managers or agents to represent the LLC under certain circumstances – e.g. – having personal knowledge of the relevant facts related to the Property and tenancy.

That language was removed from the first version of the bill.

Under the substitute bill, Property Managers or other Agents would not be allowed to represent the LLC.

Further, this is a “burden shifting” mechanism in the substitute bill – the law would place the burden on the LLC owner to prove he or she is in compliance with the statute. That makes sense – since the legislature would be creating an exception to the rule – only lawyers practice law.

 

It looks like this Bill will die in committee unless constituents can convince their local state Senators to do something about it.

 

 

 

Questions? Comments?

e-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

http://www.dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

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