If landlords weren’t already convinced about the dangers of self-help, the recently released case of Christie v Fick, (Mich Ct. App. docket # 285924, released March 2, 2010) should make the point very clear. In that case, the plaintiffs were living in a cabin near Grayling that they rented for $300 per month and were slightly behind in rent. The landlord moved them out and put their personal property in storage where it was subsequently damaged. The total judgment – – – $299,256.21. That’s a lot of stuff in a $300 per month cabin!!
How removing a tenant’s belongings from a $300 a month cabin led to a $300,000 judgment is another lesson in creative use of the conversion statute, MCLA 600.2919a. The jury’s verdict included an emotional distress element to the “actual damages” recoverable under the statute. These actual damages were trebled and an additional attorney fee was awarded.
Almost as concerning for the self-help landlord was the fact that the plaintiffs only needed to ask once for their stuff back. The landlord’s argument that the plaintiffs had numerous opportunities to retrieve their belongings did not matter as “once there has been a refusal of a right to possession, no further demand for the property is necessary by the plaintiff” in order to recover.
Midland Michigan business, real estate, construction and commercial lawyer W. Jay Brown provides experienced representation of businesses and individuals throughout Mid- Michigan