After numerous notices of violations and even criminal charges against the owner, the Charter Township of Royal Oak achieved a major breakthrough in the enforcement of its ordinances against a local business, with ZAC shareholder Andrea Johnson and associate Jessica Kingston at the helm.
Throughout the years, the Royal Inn was cited for repeated fire and building code violations, even resulting in a prior condemnation. However, in the past year, despite frequent notices, corrective orders, and site visits, the Royal Inn continued to disregard the notifications and maintain unsanitary and unsuitable living conditions for its many inhabitants in direct violation of the Township’s building and fire codes.
In late August 2017, the Township’s Building Official, Jim Wright, visited the premises with representatives from the Oakland County Health Department. The parties noted unsuitable living conditions including faulty smoke alarms, bed bug infestations, fire code violations, and dilapidated conditions. As a result of these deplorable conditions, the Township posted a notice of condemnation deeming the property “Unsafe for Human Habitation” and requiring the property to be vacated.
Instead of attempting to remedy the existing hazards to life and safety, the owners and managers of the Royal Inn filed a request for a preliminary injunction to prohibit the Township from padlocking or mandating the removal of guests from the premises. The owners also filed a complaint alleging that the Township violated their constitutional rights by failing to give proper notice, asking the court to declare the condemnation unwarranted, and alleging that the condemnation was an improper taking.
In response, Andrea and Jessica responded to the Royal Inn’s motion with a Counter-Motion for Preliminary Injunction. The Counter-Motion detailed the deplorable conditions at the Royal Inn and requested that the Court enter an order requiring the premises to be vacated.
On September 8, 2017, Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Daniel P. O’Brien held an evidentiary hearing on the motion for injunctive relief. Andrea and Jessica presented the Court with the history of the Royal Inn, the numerous ongoing fire and safety violations, along with testimony from the Fire Marshal. On cross-examination, the manager of the property acknowledged that he knowingly failed to remedy existing fire code violations, resulting in a criminal plea to misdemeanor violations. Ultimately, Andrea and Jessica persuaded the Court to grant affirmative relief for the Township and its residents, resulting in an order that the owners have the premises vacated within 48 hours.
As a result of this decision, the Township was able to protect the safety of its residents, enforce its ordinances, and assist in the relocation efforts of the Royal Inn’s guests to safer housing situations with the assistance of local organizations.