Detroit is coming back, but is your property safe? 

“Land is the basis of all independence. Land is the basis of freedom, justice, and equality.”

Malcolm X, Message to the Grassroots, Detroit 1963

In his seminal Message to the Grassroots delivered in Detroit on November 10, 1963, Malcolm X informed the listening audience about the importance of land as it relates to the ideals of justice, freedom, and equality. 57 years to the day of his assassination, his message still rings true. Land has always been a valuable asset in this country that far too many have been excluded from owning, most notably African Americans.

Martin Luther King, Jr. also agreed with the premise that land is an important factor for economic well-being. In a 1967 NBC News interview, King noted the contradiction that while White European peasants were given land from the government to establish an economic base, Black formerly enslaved citizens were not afforded any land and thereby deprived of an economic base.

African American land and homeownership were continually disrupted by practices of redlining (exclusion of selling to African American buyers) and devaluation of African American home values. Even in the current day, home appraisers still regularly undervalue African American owned homes by an average of $46,000.

Even in modern times and despite the outlawing of inequitable and discriminatory practices, these practices still exist, which should put the city of Detroit, a majority African American city, on alert. This is especially significant because Detroit is in the midst of an economic revitalization, which has caused an increase in Detroit home values. However, while Detroit has experienced this surge in land value, the city has also notoriously overtaxed its citizens to the tune of over half a billion dollars from 2010-2016, which it has yet to compensate for.

With these contradicting revelations, it is critically important for Detroit homeowners to be aware of their rights with respect to their property. Read the following tips below to understand how to prepare yourself to protect and preserve what is usually your most valuable and hard-earned asset.

Rule #1: Do Not Walk Away From Your Property

Property is among the most valuable asset in any investment portfolio, and too important to give up without a fight for your rights. Because land is such a valuable asset, many statutes of limitations (deadline in which to file a court action) dealing with property disputes are much longer than the usual 3-6 years in many other civil actions such as contract disputes and tort actions (negligence, slip and falls, no fault, etc.). In fact, the statute of limitations of many property disputes range from 5-15 years. Cases involving property can therefore last years in the court system, thereby protecting land rights and without needing to give up the land immediately.

Rule #2: Secure and Preserve Title

Homes are often the largest asset left to be distributed after death, and can pass from generation to generation, giving each new generation an economic base of support. Preserve this critical asset by ensuring the deed and title to the property are clear, and properly ensuring transferal through appropriate estate planning measures, such as conveying distribution of the home in a will or trust.

Rule #3: When facing government action, treat it as an injustice, not an inconvenience.

Government actions, such as issuing blight tickets, can accrue for minute reasons or during the time in which the owner is in the process of clearing the offending issue, such as debris. While this can be a nuisance at the very least, it can also snowball into an extreme offense that may cause the property owner to give up entirely just to avoid the continual distribution of tickets. The same is true of a homeowner or property owner facing excessive taxes or other adverse government action. Do not give up your property. Do not be intimidated. Treat your matter as if it is one of an unacceptable injustice rather than an annoying inconvenience.

BONUS Rule #4: Secure representation EARLY in the matter.

When dealing with matters involving land, do not wait until a lengthy court dispute has already taken place to get representation. Securing proper counsel early will help to avoid cleaning up a mess that has already happened. Often, an adverse action has already occurred before a client will finally retain counsel. When this happens, valuable defenses and appeal options have often expired, and legal counsel then must make the most out of whatever is left, instead of working with a full set of options and possibilities from the start. It is to your advantage to retain legal counsel early to get full range of legal strategies and remedies before an action commences. And as always, obtain competent legal counsel who will act in your best interest to resolve your matter.


Land rights are too important to give up on when facing an action that may threaten your ownership. Do not be intimidated by government action, such as ticketing or taxes, or bad behavior of big businesses like banks, such as when facing a low home appraisal. Protect and preserve your property now and for future generations. Even if you are facing what may seem like a minor issue, treat your matter as if it is an injustice, not an inconvenience. Finally, get proper, competent legal guidance early. Delaying competent legal representation only limits the tools in your legal arsenal, thereby diminishing your range of solutions and possibly your chances of success in keeping your property.

  • This information is for general educational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice.
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