Property Was "unoccupied" and Thus Eligible for the Principal Residence Exemption
In Compson v. County of Mecosta, Michigan Court of Appeals, No. 310011, February 21, 2013, the Michigan property taxpayers were entitled to the principal residence exemption because the property was "unoccupied" according to law. The small cabin had no septic system, no running water, no heating system (other than a wood stove), and was used to store furniture.
The taxpayers admitted to staying in the cabin for two days during hunting season. The lower court concluded that the property was occupied because any occupancy, whether temporary or more permanent in nature, was sufficient. However, the applicable statute did not have a temporal requirement. The appellate court reversed and held that the property was "unoccupied." Examining a similar case, the court noted that "unoccupied" meant without human occupants or residents, but that "vacant" meant completely empty. Thus, the key to determining whether the property was "unoccupied" was to consider if it was occupied by a tenant or resident. In this case, the property was "unoccupied" and thus eligible for the principal residence exemption.