Can You Turn Your Michigan Lake House into a Short-Term Rental?

If 2020 and 2021 have taught us anything, it is how important it is to get away from home sometimes. Many Michigan families own property up north or on the lakeshore. These homes away from home can provide a great get away, but they often sit empty for months of every year. That could lead you to wonder whether you can turn your Michigan lake house into a short-term rental through sites like AirBnB, VRBO, or The answer depends on the local ordinances, and the language in your deed.

Local Ordinances Against Short-Term Rentals

The first step in determining whether you can turn your lake house into a short-term rental is to look at where it is located. Many Michigan municipalities have updated their zoning ordinances in the face of increasing use of AirBnB and similar websites. These new zoning laws may specifically ban or restrict the use of single-family dwellings as short-term rentals. If your property is zoned as residential, these local ordinances could make it illegal for you to list your home on VRBO or other short-term rental sites.

In at least one Michigan case, Reaume v Spring Lake Township, the court didn’t even require the ordinance to be on the books before rentals began. The judges in that case said that the term single-family dwelling “unambiguously excludes transient or temporary rental occupation.” That meant the property owner was already violating the zoning laws before the explicit ban on short-term rentals was passed.

Restrictive Covenants in Homeowners’ Deeds

Once you determine whether your city, township, or municipality allows short-term rentals, you need to look closer – at the deed to your property. Many properties that are sold as part of a homeowners’ association have a “restrictive covenant” written into the deed, limiting the use of the property. These restrictive covenants and the homeowners associations that enforce them could have rules against establishing short-term rentals on the property. Restrictive covenants are enforceable as long as they don’t discriminate against specific categories of people.

In another Michigan case, Eager v Peasley, one neighbor sued another after she began renting her lake house on The lake house had a restrictive covenant in the deed limiting its use to “private occupancy” and prohibiting “commercial use.” The judges in that case said that short-term rentals are not a residential purpose, since the people who visit never intend to be there permanently. Similarly, the ban on commercial use included short-term rentals since the homeowner was making money from renting out her property. Since the short-term rentals violated the restrictive covenants within the lake house’s deed, the neighbor could prevent the property owner from posting her lake house as a vacation rental.

Get Legal Advice Before Listing Your Lake House as a Short-Term Rental

Michigan law doesn’t make it easy for property owners to list their homes as short-term rentals and make money through websites like AirBnB. That’s why you should speak to a real estate attorney before you publish your listing. A real estate attorney can review the local zoning ordinances and any restrictive covenants on your deed to determine whether there is anything stopping you from making money from your lakeshore property as a vacation rental. If there is a question of whether your property can be listed on AirBnB or VBRO, a real estate attorney can also help you negotiate with your homeowners association to avoid an expensive lawsuit later on. If you are a developer hoping to convert your property into a bed & breakfast or other commercial real estate venture you may be able to apply for a variance to local zoning ordinances. These variances are often granted on a case-by-case basis, so having an experienced attorney advocate on your behalf can be essential.

At Lachman King, our real estate attorneys have been landowners on Lake Michigan for years. We understand the limits Michigan law places on short-term rentals and can help you determine if there are any barriers to you turning your family lake house into an income property. We have a heart for the Great Lakes and an understanding of the federal, state, and local laws that affect the property rights of Great Lakes property owners. Our team will meet with you to explain your rights, and help you make the right call before you list your lakeshore property as a short-term rental. Contact us today to set up a meeting.

7 Do’s and Don’ts for Homeowners’ & Condo Association Dues Collections

Acting as a homeowners’ or condo association board member often involves making demands of your neighbors. When those demands take the form of unpaid association dues collections, you need to be careful. Make certain your HOA or COA is following the law for collections by following these do’s and don’ts:

Do Have a Formal HOA Dues Collections Policy

Not every condominium complex or homeowners’ association has a written, formal dues collections policy. Federal law doesn’t require them. However, there are several state and federal laws that control how an HOA or COA collects overdue association dues and assessments. Preparing a formal HOA dues collections policy can help you make sure you stay on the right side of these laws. A well-written homeowners’ association collection policy should:

  • Define the assessments and dues the HOA may impose
  • Set due dates and overdue dates when dues are considered “delinquent”
  • Describe any fees or interest the HOA will charge
  • Outline the steps the HOA will take for delinquent assessments
  • Identify collections agencies or attorneys the HOA will work with to collect debts

Don’t Enforce Condo Association Dues Collections Unevenly

As board members, you may empathize for a neighbor you know is having a hard time. You might also want to “throw the book at” a condo owner who causes trouble. However, uneven enforcement of your condo association dues collections procedures can make it harder to take uncooperative property owners to court. Your policy may allow you to make exceptions based on need. However, there should be formal process for requesting relief, and for making sure board members consider each request in good faith.

Do Have Payment Plan Options Available

One way to accommodate COA members with cash flow issues, or who simply forget to write their assessment check is to make payment plan options available. There are ways to automate the collection of regular COA dues and allow property owners to sign up for automatic payments. You could also allow them to break up annual assessments into monthly or quarterly payments. This will help your community have the money it needs to maintain the property without the need for collections.

Don’t Arbitrarily Add Late Fees, Fines, or Interest to the Bill

The threat of interest and fees are a good way to make condo owners pay dues and assessments on time. However, association boards can’t just make these up as you go along. Any late fees, fines, or interest must comply with consumer protection laws and generally should be included in the association agreement your property owners sign when joining the community.

Do Send Notices of Delinquent Assessments

It may seem like an unnecessary step, but often sending your property owners a notice of delinquent assessment can save homeowners’ associations time and trouble collecting those unpaid amounts. Be sure your notice clearly states how much is owed, and when it must be paid to avoid becoming delinquent. It should also describe the next steps the HOA will take – such as charging interest or sending the matter to collections – if the assessment becomes delinquent.

Don’t Violate the Consumer Protections Laws for Debt Collection

HOA assessments and fees are considered “consumer debts” under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Michigan Regulation of Collection Practices Act. That means your HOA board must follow collections rules and regulations designed to protect consumers against “abusive,” “unfair,” or “misleading” debt collections. There are some technical requirements involved, so if your HOA decides to pursue collections, it is wise to work with a debt collector who is familiar with the federal and state statutes.

Do Work with an Attorney to Collect Delinquent Homeowners Association Dues

If informal efforts to collect your homeowners’ association dues or condo association assessments fail, it is time to call in an attorney. While debt collectors have a number of tools at their disposal, attorneys can take collections further. By filing lawsuits and issuing liens against the property, a real estate attorney can make certain delinquent assessments get paid.

At Lachman King, our experienced real estate attorneys have been helping condo and homeowners’ association boards manage unpaid dues and assessments for years. Our team can help you create and enforce a formal dues collections policy, so your board has the money it needs to maintain a beautiful and functional community. Contact us today to set up a meeting.

Construction Liens: What General Contractors Need to Know to Get Paid

Running a commercial construction company involves big risks. General contractors often put forward substantial resources in materials and labor, trusting their customers to honor their real estate improvement contracts. When they don’t, you may need to fall back on construction liens to get paid. But collecting construction costs through the Michigan Construction Lien Act depends on having the right paperwork in place, even before you start the project.

How the Michigan Construction Lien Act Works

Michigan’s Construction Lien Act helps general contractors and subcontractors enforce their construction contracts. When a property owner fails to pay, a company with a properly registered construction lien can collect proceeds from the sale of the property, or even foreclose on the property to get the money they are owed. However, the law will not work unless you follow the proper steps and provide the proper notices to your customers and the state.

Step 1: Prepare and Sign the Commercial Construction Contract

Construction companies should always have a written construction agreement, either through a signed bid form or a fully negotiated construction contract. This contract should lay out the:

  • Scope of work to be performed
  • Estimates of materials and labor costs
  • Payment schedules and amounts
  • Agreement that the contractor may seek enforcement through a construction lien

While a contractor can sometimes take advantage of the Michigan Construction Lien Act without a formal contract, doing so makes it far more difficult to prove that the project is complete, and the property owner has failed to pay in full.

Step 2: File a Notice of Commencement with the Register of Deeds

Before your teams begin any improvement of the property, the property owner is required to record a Notice of Commencement with the Register of Deeds office. This notice should list the:

  • Legal description of the property
  • Names and addresses of the owner and/or lessee of the property
  • General contractor
  • Specific language included in the Construction Lien Act

Property owners may not realize they need to file this notice, so it may be up to you to provide the form.

Step 3: File Notice for Professional Service Contract for Designer Subcontractors

If you are a “design and build” team, your designers may also file a Notice of Professional Services Contract with the Register of Deeds. The notice can be filed at any time after the contract is signed until 90 days after that phase of the work is complete.

Step 4: Begin Work and Send a Notice of Furnishing to the Property Owner

Once work begins, each subcontractor or supplier who provides labor or materials on the project must serve a Notice of Furnishing to the property owner’s designee, and the General Contractor within 20 days after the first delivery or day of work.

Step 5: Provide Sworn Statements to the Property Owner

When it is time to collect payment, the General Contractor needs to provide a sworn statement describing each contractor, supplier, and laborer who worked on the project, and an itemized list of amounts due to each person. This notice should reflect payments made to date, and the amount currently owed to each person in the project.

Step 6: Record a Claim of Lien if Payments are Missed

If the property owner doesn’t pay on time, you can begin collections efforts. This starts by recording a Claim of Lien at the Register of Deeds’ office within 90 days of the last improvement on the property. General contractors, subcontractors, and laborers can all file Claims of Lien.

Step 7: Enforce Construction Lien Through Foreclosure Action in Court

A construction lien is an effective way for general contractors to get paid because it allows them to file a foreclosure action in state court if property owners fail to make payments. These lawsuits must be brought within one year after the claim of lien is recorded and served on the property owner. Often there will be a countersuit for breach of contract if the property owner believes the construction was not completed properly and on time, that is why it is essential to hire an experienced real estate attorney to file and enforce your construction lien.

Step 8: Discharge the Construction Lien Upon Payment or Foreclosure Sale

Often, simply threatening the foreclosure lawsuit is enough to get a property owner to pay off their balance. In other cases, after you win your foreclosure action, the property will be sold at a Sheriff’s sale, and you will be paid from the proceeds. No matter how you receive payment, the final step is to discharge the construction lien by sending written confirmation to the owner and anyone else making payments. This will allow the property to be sold or financed in the future.

Assisting General Contractors and Subcontractors in Preparing, Perfecting, and Enforcing Construction Liens

Perfecting and enforcing construction liens can be difficult. That is why every general contractor should have a relationship with an experienced real estate attorney who knows the process and can help ensure your next contract is paid. At Lachman King, our team works with general contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers, helping them with any construction law and litigation challenges. Contact us today to set up a meeting.

Michigan’s Right to Farm Act: Is Your Family Farm Protected?

Michigan has a long history of family farms and closely held agricultural businesses. However, depending on where that farm is located, Michigan’s Right to Farm Act may or may not protect you from local ordinances limiting how you do business. Here’s what you should know about the limits on agricultural uses of urban and suburban land.

What is the Right to Farm Act?

The Michigan Right to Farm Act (RTFA) is a state law designed to protect farmers against civil nuisance lawsuits for the sights, sounds, and smells that agricultural land use involves. It also limits local cities and municipalities from passing certain local ordinances limiting covered farming activities. It is designed to keep local governments from setting limits on farmers related to:

  • Food standards
  • Site plans
  • Septic systems
  • Nutrient management plans
  • Pesticide and herbicide use including manure use
  • Seeds and planting
  • Transporting hazardous materials
  • Working with local charities
  • Possessing livestock (provided they are given adequate care)

The RTFA does this through legal “preemption.” Put simply, any local ordinance that would extend, change, or conflict with the Right to Farm Act is overruled by the state statute.

Does Your Family Farm Qualify for Protection?

For your family farm to qualify for protection under Michigan’s Right to Farm Act it must:

  • Be a “farm operation” operated and maintained for the production, harvesting, and storage of agriculture
  • Produce “farm products” including agricultural crops and animal products incorporating “the use of food, feed, fiber, or fur”
  • Sell agricultural products for “commercial purposes” including even the smallest amount of commercial activity
  • Follow the Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices (GAAMPs) in some cases

What are the Generally Accepted Agricultural and Management Practices (GAAMPs)?

GAAMPS are guidelines that the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development sets out for farm operations across the state. These guidelines are updated each year to reflect technology improvements and environmental protection concerns. While every farm must comply with federal and state environmental laws and animal abuse laws, family farms may choose not to GAAMPs. However, choosing not to can limit how much protection the Right to Farm Act provides.

What About Urban Farming Initiatives?

If your family farm is in an urban or suburban area, the local government may prefer to see you give up agriculture in favor of other land uses. In other cases, you may own property within city limits that you decide to convert to urban farming. In 2019, the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development issued a decision that stripped many backyard farmers from protection under the Right to Farm Act. It approved a Site Selection GAAMP that barred animals “if the site is determined to be primarily residential, and zoning doesn’t allow agriculture as use by right.”

This ruling can create problems for family farms, which may have been passed down through the generations while suburbs and neighborhoods grew up around them. It would allow local governments to, for example, prevent the ownership of roosters, or limit the heads of livestock within residentially zoned areas.

What Are Your Options when Local Ordinances Limit Agriculture?

The Department has a Right to Farm program designed to respond to nuisance complaints and determine whether farms are complying with the GAAMPs. However, farming families may sometimes need to may need to hire a real estate attorney to work with municipalities, applying for zoning variances and advocating for grandfathered exceptions to new ordinances. When none of that works, a real estate lawyer can also help you determine if you qualify for protection, and enforce your family’s right to farm.

At Lachman King, our experienced real estate attorneys have been farming families resolve their agricultural real property disputes for years. Our team will meet with you to explain your rights, and help you make the right call for your family farm. Contact us today to set up a meeting.

Why Your Estate May Need a Quiet Title Action

Why Your Estate May Need a Quiet Title Action

October 25, 2021
Why Your Estate May Need a Quiet Title Action

Quiet Title Actions

Problems with real estate transfers can hold up the probating of a loved one’s estate. Beneficiaries who are depending on their inheritances can find access to those assets blocked by clouds the titles of real property within the estate. When that happens, your estate may need a quiet title action to set the record straight and allow your personal representative or trustee to transfer the property properly.

What is a Quiet Title Action?

A quiet title action is a form of real estate litigation that resolves a dispute over claims on a piece of real property. It can involve:

  • Competing ownership claims
  • Encumbrances and licenses to use property
  • Security interests by lenders or mortgage companies

Any time someone claims to have a right to real property, it can “cloud” the title and make it difficult or impossible to sell the property. A quiet title action can “quiet” that claim by clarifying and resolving any outstanding property issues, paving the way for the property to be sold.

Why Your Estate May Need a Quiet Title Action

When a piece of property has been in the family for years, or a loved one dies without fully documenting their financial situation, it may take a quiet title action to put all those issues to rest and allow the family to move on. Here are some common reasons an estate may need to file a quiet title action:

Missing Heirs & Undiscovered Wills

If your loved one’s estate passes through probate – either by a will or the intestate process – their property may be passed on to a class of people and their descendants. There are cases every year where unknown cousins emerge to claim an interest in property after it has been distributed to the deceased’s beneficiaries. In other cases, a long-lost will may surface giving an intended beneficiary a claim to a title that had long-since passed to the deceased’s intestate heirs. A quiet title action can resolve these claims without needing to reopen the estate.

Will Contests Over Real Property Distributions

In other cases, the known heirs to an estate may file a will challenge or probate dispute over how the assets of that property are distributed. For example, one beneficiary could argue that a piece of property was transferred to him or her before the deceased died, removing it from the estate entirely. A quiet title action can investigate and resolve those claims.

Errors in Public Records

Quiet title actions can also resolve any procedural issues that come about because of mistakes in the transfer of property including typos on deeds. If legal descriptions or plot numbers don’t match, it can keep a personal representative from transferring the property. A quiet title action can fix the discrepancies and allow the transfer to go forward.

Unknown Liens and Security Interests

When the estate is being distributed, a title company can sometimes uncover unknown liens and security interests owned by mortgage companies, creditors, or even contractors. These balances must be addressed or paid off (they may not always continue past the deceased’s death), and the lien discharged before closing. A quiet title action can resolve the outstanding lien and remove the cloud from the title, so closing can occur.

Public and Private Easements

An easement to the government for power lines, sidewalks, or lakeshore access, or a private company for a wind turbine can all create clouds on a title as well. Heirs and beneficiaries need to know the contracts connected to the land they inherit. A quiet title action can uncover these hidden easements and the terms of the contracts that control them.

What to Do if There is a Problem Transferring Probate Property

When title issues arise on property belonging to an estate, the personal representative or trustee is wise to consult with a real estate attorney, as well as their estate administration attorney. Often, a real estate attorney will have access to tools, like a quiet title action, that are not available in probate court. These tools can resolve the title issue relatively quickly and allow the family’s beneficiaries to receive their inheritances sooner than through the probate court.

At Lachman King, our experienced real estate attorneys have been helping trustees and estates resolve their real property probate disputes for years. Our team will meet with you to explain your rights, and help you make the right call for developing and using your lakeshore property. Contact us today to set up a meeting.

Riparian Rights on the Great Lakes: Who Owns the Shore?

Michigan has thousands of miles of shoreline, on the Great Lakes and over 10,000 inland lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water. However, limits on Great Lakes riparian rights can affect the way you use and develop your property, and which government you must approach before building a dock, wharf, or privacy fence on your property.

Riparian Rights on the Great Lakes: Who Owns the Shore?

What are Lakeshore Owners’ Riparian Rights?

If your property buts up against a natural body of water, then you have “riparian rights” related to its lakeshore or riverfront status. (Artificial canals or water access routes don’t count). If your property includes riparian rights, you may:

  • Use the water for swimming, fishing, waterskiing, ice-skating, diving, etc.
  • Build a dock or wharf to improve your use of the water (after obtaining a permit from the State of Michigan)
  • Access navigable water
  • Use any part of the surface of the water as long as your use doesn’t unreasonable interfere with your fellow property owners’ use (i.e. boating or waterskiing over the whole lake or canoeing down the length of the river)

Generally, who has riparian rights is a question of land ownership. However, you may also have an “easement” to lake access or other riparian rights on property owned by someone else. For example, your lakefront cabin may have come with an easement or license to use the common boat launch controlled by the lake’s property owners’ association.

Great Lakes vs Inland Lakes: What’s the Difference?

Your rights as a lakeshore property owner in the Great Lakes are slightly different than if you owned waterfront property on an inland lake or river. Riparian owners generally own the submerged land under the river or lake out to the center of the body of water. If you owned property on a perfectly circular inland lake, each piece of property would have a pie-wedge of submerged land extending out to the middle of the lake.

However, riparian rights work differently if your lakefront property abuts Lake Michigan, another Great Lake, or other federally “navigable” waters that can be travelled by vessels (including larger rivers). As a riparian owner on these bodies of water, you may not impair vessels’ ability to navigate the waterway. Most importantly, your dock or wharf cannot extend into the navigable part of the waterway. Even shorter docks and structures must be permitted through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, rather than the State of Michigan.

In addition, the State of Michigan holds the title to the center of each Great Lake that touches it. Unlike with inland lakes, ownership of lakeshore property on the Great Lakes generally only extends to the ordinary high-water mark, vegetation line, or beach shoreline, sometimes called the “wet sand line.” When long-term weather or climate change causes the level of the Great Lakes to rise or fall, this can cause lakeshore properties to get larger or smaller as the ordinary high-water line recedes or encroaches on that property. Whatever is regularly submerged at high tide belongs to the State.

Private Rights to Maintain Great Lakes Shoreline

Since 2003, Michigan has modified some laws relating to riparian owners’ right to groom or maintain their beachfronts. Before 2003, landowners needed a permit from the State to remove unattractive vegetation or change the shape of the beach. There have been several changes, over the years. However, now, Great Lakes property owners maintaining sandy or rocky beaches no longer need a permit to:

  • Level sand
  • Mow or remove vegetation
  • Groom soil
  • Remove debris

However, the Army Corp of Engineers may still require a permit, for some activities that could affect navigability or shoreline preservation efforts.

Public Use of Beaches on Shoreline Properties on the Great Lakes

Since the State owns up to the high-water line, it holds these properties as a “public trust,” giving the general public the right to use everything below that high point. A lakeshore property owner can’t do anything to obstruct that right – such as building a fence or gate below the ordinary high-water line. This can create privacy and security concerns for some lakefront property owners.

Get Clarity on Great Lakes Riparian Rights

If you are seeking to secure your property, or if you have questions about maintenance or submerged land use, you should speak to a real estate attorney who knows the ins and outs of lakeshore law. At Lachman King, we have been representing developers and landowners on Lake Michigan for years. We have a heart for the Great Lakes and an understanding of the federal, state, and local laws that impact riparian rights of Great Lakes property owners. Our team will meet with you to explain your rights, and help you make the right call for developing and using your lakeshore property. Contact us today to set up a meeting.

Michigan Marketable Record Title Act: What to Know about the Recent 2020 Amendment January 28, 2021 Michigan Marketable Record Title Act   Author: Michael King Introduction Interests held in real property are often extremely valuable to the interest holders, and can affect the character and uses of the land in which they are held. The … Read more

Variance Requests: Navigating Zoning Regulations and the Zoning Board of Appeals January 21, 2021 Variance Requests: Navigating Zoning Regulations and the Zoning Board of Appeals Author: Jake Vande Zande Almost any time you want to do something with your property, zoning is going to play a role in that project. Whether you want to build … Read more

Michigan Adopts Remote Witnessing and Notarization Legislation January 21, 2021 Michigan Adopts Remote Witnessing and Notarization Legislation Author: Jake Vande Zande Governor Whitmore signed several new bills into law related to remote witnessing and notarization due to the hardships created by the COVID-19 pandemic, which will be advantageous for people and businesses that frequently work … Read more

Michigan Zoning Board Appeals (ZBA) & How to Appeal Unfavorable Decisions

Author: Jake Vande Zande
January 13, 2021
Untitled design-3

Michigan Zoning Board Appeals (ZBA) & How to Appeal Unfavorable Decisions

Learning how to appeal unfavorable zoning decisions, and legislative decisions in Michigan & judicial remedies to zoning decisions that your attorney can assist you with.

As discussed in “Variance Requests: Navigating Zoning Regulations and the Zoning Board of Appeals,” almost any time you want to do something with your property, zoning is going to play a role. This often includes a decision made by your city or township’s Zoning Board of Appeals (“ZBA”). Besides being difficult, expensive, and time consuming, zoning requests and their subsequent decisions can be subject to outside influences. The governmental entity, such as city council, the planning commission, or the ZBA, that will make the decision on your zoning request may be influenced by numerous factors including personal relationships, business interests, news reports, neighbors, or other external pressures. As a result, the correct decision does not always get made. Fortunately, when this occurs, you have the right to appeal the unfavorable decision to the Circuit Court.

Today’s blog will outline everything you need to know about appealing your city or township’s zoning decision to the Circuit Court.


There are two types of zoning appeal cases: an appeal of an unfavorable zoning decision and an appeal of a legislative decision.

Unfavorable Zoning Decision

This is the basic and most common type of appeal.  This involves the denial of a zoning request or variance or another unfavorable decision involving administrative approval.

Unfavorable Legislative Decision

In contrast, the other type of case is one involving a legislative decision. Where the validity of a zoning classification or other legislative decision is involved, a plenary lawsuit is available, which is an action, independent of any other proceeding, in which the merits of the claims are fully inquired into and determined. The key procedural difference is that in a case involving a legislative decision, there will be a trial to determine the facts of the case, as opposed to a case involving an administrative decision where the facts are contained in a record made before a municipal board.


There is a short zoning appeal deadline so timing and promptly retaining an attorney is critical. This is particularly important where the cases involve an administrative decision like a variance denial from the ZBA. In short, there is either a 30 or 21day limitation in appealing decisions made by the ZBA to the Circuit Court. MCL 125.3606(3). More specifically, the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act (MCL 125.3606(3)) provides the following relevant time periods for Circuit Court appeals:

An appeal from a decision of a zoning board of appeals shall be filed within whichever of the following deadlines come first:

  • Thirty days after the zoning board of appeals issues its decision in writing signed by the chairperson, if there is a chairperson, or signed by the members of the zoning board of appeals, if there is no chairperson.
  • Twenty-one days after the zoning board of appeals approves the minutes of its decision. The deadline to file an appeal to the Circuit Court is calculated differently depending on how the ZBA publishes its decision, and the shorter of the two deadlines applies. Either way, you do not have very much time to retain counsel and act.

The process of getting a zoning request granted is a lot easier when you retain an attorney before the city or township’s decision. If you are thinking about pursuing a zoning request, particularly one that may be difficult, the best approach is to reach out to an attorney before you face the need to appeal an unfavorable zoning decision to the Circuit Court. The costs of preparing a zoning request are minimal compared to the costs of preparing a lawsuit, so it’s much better to get it right the first time.