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The rental property had a fire and I am managing all the repairs. However, the county believes my dad is not moving fast enough to make the repairs and asked he appear in court. Considering he has advanced dementia and has a Power of Attorney in place- me taking care of any financial issues. The court says I cannot represent him and that only a lawyer can talk on his behalf. We cannot afford to hire a lawyer. Is it true I cannot represent him in this case? I live in Michigan.

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You've contacted the court to explain that your father cannot attend as required, and why he can't. Have they accepted that much, at least?

I'm certainly not going to challenge advice you've had from the court itself. You can probably look up the rules on representation of Michigan's own website at www.michigan.gov

Having a quick shufti through some of their articles, it might be that the court is not satisfied with the form of POA that you have. Did they ask to see the documentation? Were you able to provide it?

Also going back a bit: have you been in communication with the county itself over the repairs, and why have things got to this stage? The reason I ask is that I'm wondering if it might still be possible to avoid matters going to court at all.

Your father owns rental property. The court is not going to accept the idea that he can't afford a lawyer, not with substantial assets like that involved. Have you actually tried to find one?
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Babubandy Mar 29, 2021
We have been to court once - I advised them of my dads condition.
I have a dual power of attorney
and I am a Construction Engineer.
I have been managing all my dad's affairs for a couple of years now with no issues in the township level courts.

I think you are right their is a huge lack of understanding what the situation is with the rental market and COVID.

- The government told the tenants not to pay the rent
- The Mortgage companies are still collecting Mortgage, taxes and home insurance
- The county is still forcing the landlord to make housing repairs.

In the process I have lost 3 contractors to COVID. The price of materials has doubled if you can find anything. The construction companies that are reliable are booked for the most part 10 Months out.

Usually, it costs $2K to hire a lawyer.
The basic question I have is that if the Township wants the house repaired - if that's the primary goal - then why not work thru me?
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No, you cannot.
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Babubandy Mar 29, 2021
Do not understand why I cannot.

If the goal is to get the repairs done - Not sure why I cannot?

I represent my dad today on everything -This is the only road-block I have encountered so far.

I am a qualified Construction Engineer.
Every element of the work is being done via a licensed contractor.

I have already lost 3 folks on site due to COVID.
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"In a civil case, generally described as a dispute between two private parties, to get legal representation, you have to get creative.

...if you can't afford a lawyer:
- Contact the city courthouse.
- Seek free lawyer consultations.
- Look to legal aid societies.
- Visit a law school.
- Contact your county or state bar association.
- Go to small claims court."

(source: https://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/find-legal-help-when-you-cant-afford-a-lawyer#:~:text=In%20a%20criminal%20proceeding%2C%20if,you%20have%20to%20get%20creative.&text=Seek%20free%20lawyer%20consultations.,Look%20to%20legal%20aid%20societies.)
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Babubandy Mar 29, 2021
Thanks Geaton, I think it's time I looked into getting a lawyer. I just feel very bad that in the US it seems like the elderly needs to have everything taken away from them before they can get any real help. That should not have to be the case.
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Another thought (ran out of space on the first post):   did someone in the county really "ask" your father to appear, or was this included in the citation?   There's a big difference.

Typically people are "asked" to appear in court; they're summoned.
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Babubandy Mar 29, 2021
Actually, the county sued my dad for not getting the repairs completed.

I advised the court that I have a dual power of attorney to represent my dad - due to his advanced dementia.

However, I was told that I cannot represent him and if I wanted to I would have to go thru probate court and have him ruled incapacitated- Bottom line they want me to use a lawyer. Even though we have a trust.
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Babubandy, may I ask what caused the fire? Were the tenants responsible, are they ok? Or was the house vacant? If vacant, did your Dad have the extra "vacant house" rider for the house? Did the insurance company payout for the repairs or just some of the repairs? Or none for repairs? Thus the slowness of fixing up the house is a budgeting issue?

If your Dad cannot budget for an attorney, then maybe it is time to sell the house. One can sell "as is", thus get out from under everything that has happened. Just a thought.

I feel bad you are going through all of this while living out-of-state. This is going above and beyond the financial POA caregiving.
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Babubandy Mar 29, 2021
The tenants were out of town - thank goodness. The cause of the fire was a squirrel that chewed into the wiring above the electrical box. The water from the rain hit the bare wires and set off the fire per the Fire Marshall.

From a timing perspective
- It took 2 months for the Fire Marshall to conduct the investigation - prior to allowing us to enter the building
- We had the house gutted in less than 3 weeks after that.
- We were told that we had to connect to the city sewer system and it took approx. 2 months to hire an architect and draw up the plans
- During the submission process we found out that their was no city sewer line on our particular road.
- Had to re-due the drawings and re-submit.
- By this time we had frost and we could not dig into the ground to due the plumbing work
- So the fire started end of March, we got a lump sum payment in July from state farm
- We were into October by the time we got our drawings approved.
- November my dad was sued by the county to appear in court in December for lack of progress in making the repairs.
- The day of the hearing - I got a call from the township saying that I was not allowed to pull the permits.
- Prior to that I had most everyone lined up to do the work - Then was told I had to work thru a contractor.

In the past when we had a fire - the recommended company we used ended up using all the funds and then asking us to pay an additional $20K for code upgrades - I ended up having to get a loan. So this time -knowing that money will be tight and with COVID it was going to be a challenge to find the workers - I took it on myself to manage the re-construction. Please keep in mind the exterior/ front of the house was not damaged and the lawn excreta has been maintained. No other ordinance violations.

Please also keep in mind that the Government told the tenants that they do not need to pay their rent. Also we cannot evict them do to COVID. But in the interim we have to pay the mortgage/taxes and insurance.

Other then Soc Sec - this is the only source of income for my parents.

We also cannot sell the property as is without making repairs- best I can do is demolish the property and sell the land.
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You don't say when this fire was? This jurisdiction must be strict. We have had burned out houses sitting for ages. Have to get special permission from our State to tear them down.

I agree, hard to say you can't afford a lawyer when u own rental property but then he is no longer getting rent and you are still paying taxes to the county?

Did it take a while for insurance to pay out? Do they understand that you are overseeing this from another state? That Dad has Dementia and funds are tight? Did you talk to the first person who answered the phone?

Maybe you will need to have a lawyer send a letter. Like Geaton wrote, there is legal aide. In the letter it should first be established that Dad is no longer competent and include a letter from a doctor. That you his daughter hold his POA. Include a copy of the POA. That, under the circumstances, you are working as fast as you can to get repairs done with the financial resources available and also working from a distance. You will probably need to give an approximate time this will all be done and ask for an extension.

I don't really see why a lawyer would be needed in this situation. And why the County is involved? Seems to me it would be the Township Code Office because thats first were property is and a CO would be given. Did Dad receive letters from the Township and they were ignored? Are you sure its not a law suit by the Township and its a County court where the suit is being heard?
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What level of court is this?   District or Circuit?   Did the Court provide a citation (it would probably be to the Michigan Court Rules) supporting its action?   Is the POA a Durable Power of Attorney (with springing provisions) or a general POA?

Did a judge issue an order, or how were you informed of this denial of representation by you under the POA?    Was a Court Clerk the one who advised you, or was it a staffer in the court?  

I did some quick checking of the Michigan Court Rules, but more research would be required.    So I have another suggestion:

1.   Contact the Michigan Elder Law organization, first thing tomorrow.  It's a nonprofit organization which offers limited free legal advice to seniors, but since you're representing a senior, I believe you could get that advice free on behalf of your father.

3815 W. Saint Joseph
Suite C200
Lansing, MI 48917
Toll-free: (866) 400-9164

https://michiganlegalhelp.org/organizations-courts/find-lawyer/elder-law-of-michigan

2.  I've called them for help on various issues.   Generally it may take a day or so to locate someone with knowledge in a specific field.   But also generally, the conversations could be as long as half an hour, and were provided by very qualified and patient attorneys.

3.   An attorney could check the Michigan Court Rules (and case law if necessary) more quickly than I, and advise what the situation is.   Although I'm guessing, it may also be possible that that attorney could either represent you, or suggest someone who can.

And given that this is a non-profit agency, there might be the possibility of free representation, but I'm definitely speculating on this.

4.  This is also a link to finding attorneys to represent you and your father:

https://michiganlegalhelp.org/guide-to-legal-help


Alternate and simultaneous actions:

1.   Do you have specific details on what the county feels needs to be accelerated?   Is it aware that b/c an insurance company is involved (which I assume it is), it essentially manages the restoration, as opposed to you?

(I am a bit confused on the statement that you're "managing all the repairs."

2.   Has the County provided an alternate schedule?

3.   Does the County have a department that handles this kind of property reconstruction issue?   I ask b/c there is one county (and perhaps more) in Michigan with its own property management division.  The County selects contractors to provide services to elder residents.   Payment is deferred until property sale but is extinguished if the property owner is deceased at the time of the sale.

I don't recall all the details b/c after I saw one of their contractors on a job site next door, I decided immediately that I would never want that poor example of contracting to do anything on my property.   The so-called contractor lacked respect for neighbors, but more importantly, he lacked responsibility for his workers.    He sent one worker up on a pitched roof to lean over and trim tree branches.    That was beyond irresponsible; it was negligent.

4.   I'm unclear why the County would object if in fact an insurance selected contractor is handling the restoration, but I can see that a county employee could hassle an woman/daughter handling the project on behalf of her father. 

5.  Countrymouse raises a very good issue, i.e., why if this is a rental property (although it's presumably not generating rents since the fire) are no funds available for representation against the county's charges?

This raises another issue:  was it the County itself, or was a citation issued by the local community?   There's a big difference.    Code Enforcement offices issue citations regularly.  One community I know of has only a few officers, but b/c of overaggressive supporters of certain individuals, the community receives dozens of complaints daily.  

It's also possible one of the neighbors complained to Code Enforcement and the officers felt obligated to respond.
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Babubandy Mar 29, 2021
Appreciate the suggestion. I will reach out to the folks you suggested.

When I say I am managing the repairs -
- I am getting the drawings updated and submitting to the township for approvals
- Pulling the plumbing/structural/electrical contractors to do the work.
- I have been doing this for over 30 yrs and am also a qualified Construction Engineer.

We do have an issue with one of the neighbors - but from a full disclosure perspective the township attorney will not let me know who is complaining.

The township raised the issue with the county.
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My son has court today, his birthday was on a Friday, had an appoimtment with SOS on Monday because of the appointment crap. He got pulled over on a Saturday plates & expired license. Cops gave him a ticket which completely violated Whitmer's/legislature laws Acts 304 to 306 of 2020. SOS gave him the law, you cannot be fined or ticketed as long as it is done before March 31, 2021. Open and shut, a waste of tax dollars. So anyway, he wanted me to represent him, I cannot. Per the Michigan Bar, "Nonlawyers may not represent other people • in court, even if the nonlawyer has a power of attorney or is a notary public. ... The right to represent yourself, however, does not give you the power to delegate the authority to a person who is not an attorney."

I guess if you think about it, it makes sense. You are not a lawyer.
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