Circuit Court LC No. 2015-003425-AV
Before: Markey, P.J., and Hoekstra and Ronayne Krause, JJ.
Robert McMillan appeals by leave granted the circuit court
order affirming the decision of the district court to deny
plaintiff's request to recoup rent paid to his landlord,
defendant Susan Douglas, for the months when defendant rented
the property to plaintiff without a rental permit. Because
the Battle Creek Code of Ordinances § 842.06(c) does not
provide plaintiff a private cause of action to enforce rental
ordinances against defendant, we affirm.
August 2011 and October 2014, plaintiff rented residential
property in Battle Creek from defendant at a rate of $595 per
month for a total of 39 months. During that time, defendant
did not have a valid rental permit for the property as
required by the Battle Creek Code of Ordinances. On October
23, 2014, plaintiff received an order to vacate the premises
because there was no current, valid rental permit. Plaintiff
vacated the property on October 31, 2014, and subsequently
filed suit against defendant.
to the present appeal, in the district court, plaintiff
claimed that he was entitled to the return of all rent paid
to defendant during his tenancy because, under §
842.06(c), defendant could not accept, retain or recover rent
without a current, valid rental permit. According to
plaintiff, § 842.06(c) created a private cause of action
allowing plaintiff to recoup rental payments made to
defendant. The parties stipulated to the facts involved, and
the district court ruled in defendant's favor with regard
to plaintiff's claim to recoup rent under §
842.06(c), concluding that the ordinance did not grant a
private cause of action to tenants to recover rent. Plaintiff
appealed the district court's ruling to the circuit
court, and the circuit court affirmed. Plaintiff now appeals
by leave granted.
appeal, the issue before us is whether § 842.06(c)
creates a private cause of action that allows a tenant to
demand the return of rent that was paid to a landlord during
a period in which the landlord did not have a valid rental
permit. Plaintiff emphasizes that, under § 842.06(c),
defendant cannot accept, retain or recover rent without a
valid rental permit. To enforce this prohibition, plaintiff
contends that it must be inferred that there is private right
of action allowing plaintiff to demand the return of rent. We
review de novo a decision to grant summary disposition under
MCR 2.116(A). Stanley v Genesee Co Clerk, 258
Mich.App. 215, 218; 671 N.W.2d 116 (2003). The interpretation
and application of an ordinance also presents a question of
law, which we review de novo. Great Lakes Society v
Georgetown Charter Twp, 281 Mich.App. 396, 407; 761
N.W.2d 371 (2008). The rules of statutory construction apply
to the interpretation of an ordinance. Goldstone v
Bloomfield Twp Pub Library, 479 Mich. 554, 568 n 15; 737
N.W.2d 476 (2007). "Thus, this Court's goal in the
interpretation of an ordinance is to discern and give effect
to the intent of the legislative body." Morse v
Colitti, 317 Mich.App. 526, 548; 896 N.W.2d 15 (2016).
An ordinance must be construed as a whole, Winchester v
WA Foote Mem Hosp, Inc, 153 Mich.App. 489, 501; 396
N.W.2d 456 (1986), affording words their plain and ordinary
meanings, Great Lakes Society, 281 Mich.App. at 408.
"If the language used by the legislative body is clear
and unambiguous, the ordinance must be enforced as
written." Morse, 317 Mich.App. at 548.
an express indication to the contrary, an ordinance imposing
a public duty on a property owner does not give rise to a
private cause of action. See Levendoski v
Geisenhaver, 375 Mich. 225, 228; 134 N.W.2d 228 (1965);
Grooms v Union Guardian Trust Co, 309 Mich. 437,
440; 15 N.W.2d 698 (1944). Moreover, when a provision
"creates a new right or imposes a new duty unknown to
the common law and provides a comprehensive administrative or
other enforcement mechanism or otherwise entrusts the
responsibility for upholding the law to a public officer, a
private right of action will not be inferred."
Claire-Ann Co v Christenson & Christenson, Inc,
223 Mich.App. 25, 31; 566 N.W.2d 4 (1997).
case, Chapter 842 of the Battle Creek Code of Ordinances
regulates rental housing. The stated purpose of regulating,
permitting, and inspecting rental property as set forth in
Chapter 842 is to:
(a) Protect the health, safety, and welfare of persons
affected by or subject to the provisions of this chapter.
(b) Ensure that rental unit owners, legal agents, and tenants
are informed of and adhere to all applicable code provisions
governing the use and maintenance of rental units.
(c) Establish standards for obtaining rental permits,
inspection of rental units, and the issuance of certificates
of compliance for rental units. [Section 842.02.]
under § 842.04(a), "no dwelling shall be rented by
any person unless there is first issued a rental permit . . .
." The burden is on the owner of the property to
"obtain a current, valid, rental permit." §
842.04(b). Rental of a property without a permit results in