blog, articles & publications

Municipal Authority to Enter and Make Safe Dangerous Buildings

A recent decision of the federal U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has reaffirmed the authority of municipalities to require owners of vacant property to register the property with the municipality and permit municipal entry and abatement if it becomes dangerous.  
At issue in Benjamin v Stemple, Case No. 18-1736, was a City of Saginaw ordinance requiring owners of vacant property to register the property with the city clerk and to agree that city personnel may enter and make safe the premises if it is found to be “dangerous.”  A number of property owners in the city challenged the ordinance as unconstitutional on Fourth Amendment search and seizure grounds.
In finding for the city, the Sixth Circuit stated that the property owners were not surrendering any Fourth Amendment rights in registering their properties.  While the Fourth Amendment generally protects a person’s right to be free from unreasonable warrantless searches and seizures, an exception applies which permits administrative searches designed to assure compliance with building codes, including codes intended to prevent buildings from becoming dangerous to tenants or neighbors.  However, the Court emphasized that the “administrative search” exception is narrowly applied; it is only valid when procedures are in place that permit property owners to challenge before a neutral decision maker a building official’s request to enter a property suspected of being dangerous.  Accordingly, municipalities must provide property owners with a hearing at which both parties may make testimony, call witnesses, introduce evidence, and conduct cross examination.  Because Saginaw’s vacant building registration form and ordinance did provide for such an administrative process, the Court found that the property owners were not forced to waive any Fourth Amendment rights.
This court decision will likely be considered hereafter as a fairly limited exception to constitutional search and seizure safeguards.  Read More

New Amendment Changes the Michigan Fireworks Law

Michigan recently enacted new legislation that expands local governments’ authority to regulate the ignition, discharge, and use of consumer fireworks.  Under the new law, municipalities may enact ordinances limiting the time and days when residents may ignite fireworks.  Any such ordinances may not regulate the use of consumer fireworks between 11 a.m. and 11:45 p.m. on specified holidays, such as New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day.  Further such ordinances may not regulate the use of consumer fireworks between 11 a.m. and 11:45 p.m. on the Saturday and Sunday immediately preceding Memorial Day and Labor Day.  Failure to comply with the new restrictions could result in a fine of $1,000 for each violation. Under the prior statute, municipalities could not enact ordinances regulating the ignition, discharge, and use of consumer fireworks on the day preceding, day of or day after a national holiday.   Read More

Do Disappointed Bidders have Standing to Sue if they are not Awarded a Government Contract?

MCNA Insurance Company v. Department of Technology, unpublished decision of the Michigan Court of Appeals, No. 342646, 2019 WL 206417 (January 15, 2019).  Read More

Recent Michigan Court of Appeals Case Pertaining to Nuisance Abatement and How It is Impacted by the Statute of Limitations

Township of Fraser v. Haney, unpublished decision of the Michigan Court of Appeals, No. 337842, 2018 WL 6711290 (December 20, 2018).  Read More