Landlords can no longer turn a blind eye to crime committed on rental property

The Michigan Legislature recently amended the civil forfeiture statutes regarding the circumstances under which real property can be forfeited because it is "the proceeds of a crime, the substituted proceeds of a crime, or an instrumentality of a crime.”

An “Instrumentality” merely means that the property was used to store stolen goods, or that the crime was planned at that location, or that the property is otherwise somehow connected directly to the crime (e.g., the site of a crime).

The statute provides that property is not subject to forfeiture if "The owner of the property did not have prior knowledge of, or consent to the commission of, the crime, if the lack of prior knowledge is not the result of the owner’s willful blindness” OR if "Upon learning of the commission of the crime, the owner of the property served written and timely notice of the commission of the crime upon an appropriate law enforcement agency, and served a written and timely notice to quit upon the person who committed the crime."

The “willful blindness” language and the second section are both new.  It means that landlords who suspect that a crime is occurring on the rental premises must take some action:  ignoring the situation may result in loss of the property.

Civil forfeiture is a harsh remedy; it results in total loss of the property without compensation. The burden of proof is lower than in criminal trials.  In a criminal trial, the prosecutor must show guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  In a civil forfeiture, the prosecutor must show knowledge or willful blindness by a preponderance of the evidence.

© Steve Sowell 2017