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Monroe County Senior Legal Services
1126 S. Telegraph
Monroe, MI 48161
Phone #: (734) 241-7644
Fax #: (734) 241-8394

Hours:  9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
closed for lunch 12:00 noon to 1:00 p.m.

Formation:
    Monroe County Senior Legal Services, Inc. (MCSLS) was formed on May 2, 1977, in response to a long recognized need for legal services in our community which was expressed by the senior centers, the local social Security office, the Department of Social Services,Community Mental health, and the commission on Aging, who were encountering increasing numbers of clients who needed legal assistance.  Until the formation of MCSLS, there had never been an agency or organization in Monroe county which provided legal services to seniors.

History:
    MCSLS provides legal assistance to residents of Monroe County who are 60 years of age and older in the greatest social or economic need.  Services are provided through an office which is located in the City of Monroe and through outreach sites around the county, including senior centers, nutrition sites, and nursing homes.

Funding:
    MCSLS is funded by a federal grant program, the Commission on Aging, private individuals, local area foundations, and through client donations.  While we do not charge for our services, donations are accepted and appreciated.

Eligibility:
    A person is eligible to receive MCSLS services if he/she is:

  • Sixty (60) years of age or older, and

  • a resident of Monroe County

    If a person is already represented by an attorney in the particular case for which assistance is sought, MCSLS can not represent that person.

Outreach:
    MCSLS offers its clients a unique service referred to as "outreach services."  Upon request, MCSLS will go out to the homes of people who are homebound to take the relevant information.  This information is compiled in our office and the necessary legal action is then taken.

We visit the following outreach sites on a monthly or bi-monthly basis:

Ash Senior Center 2nd Monday of each month 11:30 a.m.
Bedford Senior Center 2nd Tuesday of each month 10:00 a.m.
Berlin Senior Center 1st Tuesday-every other month
(Jan., Mar., May, July, Sept., Nov.)
11:30 a.m.
Carleton Co-Op 2nd Monday of each month 1:15 p.m.
Dundee Senior Center 2nd Friday of each month 11:00 a.m.
Eaglestone Ret. Living 4th Wednesday of each month 1:00 p.m.
Frenchtown Senior Center 3rd Thursday of each month 10:00 a.m.
Ivor Lindsay 4th Monday of each month 1:30 p.m.
Lotus Manor 2nd Tuesday of each month 1:15 p.m.
Luther Haus 4th Wednesday of each month 10:00 a.m.
Milan Senior Center 4th Thursday of each month 11:00 a.m.
Monroe Senior Center 2nd and 4th Wednesday of each month 9:30 a.m.
Moongate Senior Ret. 4th Monday of each month 10:00 a.m.
Orchard Senior Center 4th Tuesday of Nov., Feb., May, and Aug. 11:30 a.m.
Petersburg Senior Center 3rd Tuesday of Jan., April., July and Sept. 11:30 a.m.
Sullivan Center 3rd Tuesday of Jan., April, July, and Sept. 11:00 a.m.
Watertower 2nd Tuesday of each month 11:00 a.m.

What To Do:
    If you have a problem, call 241-7644 for an appointment at 1126 S. Telegraph, in Monroe, between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday; or you may contact our staff at one of the senior centers.  If you are unable to travel, call the office to have one of our outreach staff visit you at your home.

    In the initial meeting, a standardized interview form is completed.  It includes statistical information regarding the client and the spouse of the client and the facts involved.  The appropriate action is then taken by our office.

Types of Cases:
    We provide legal services in civil matters.  This excludes bankruptcy, drivers license restoration and criminal cases; the criminally accused have the right to counsel at public expense if they cannot afford an attorney.

    We do not handle law suits seeking recovery of significant sums of money.

    Some of the more common problems which we are involved are:

    - Consumer and employment problems which include problems with sales, contracts, claims to past and              present wages, garnishments and attachments. 

    - Administrative problems, including those with state and local welfare Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, or              Veterans Administration.

    - Family problems, such as some divorces.

    - Housing problems, both for tenant and landlord, including housing code violations and public housing

    - Probate problems, such as wills/codicils, guardianship/conservatorship, and durable powers of attorney.

    - Tax credits, homestead property tax, home heating, and prescription drug.

    - Financial counseling.

    These areas are by no means the limit to the problems with which we are involved.  If you feel you may have a problem or questions that could be solved with the help of an attorney or parallegal, feel free to contact our office.

    We cannot solve every problem that may arise; however, we may be able to refer you to the appropriate place.

Funded under Title III-B of the Older Americans Act through the Area Agency on Aging 1-B.

This agency is in compliance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act with Section 504 of the Social Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

DONATIONS WELCOME

What Have I Done, and How Can I Undo It!?

Have you ever had that sinking feeling after signing an agreement to purchase goods or services in your home that you just made a horrible mistake? Well, there may be some relief for you, provided courtesy of the Michigan Home Solicitation Sales Act (HSSA). The HSSA allows cancellation of in home solicitations for goods or services of more than $25 within three (3) business days following the day the transaction took place, without penalty or obligation. That means if you make a purchase, for example on a Monday, you have until midnight on Thursday of that week to cancel and get your money back. By the way, the right to cancel provision also applies to telephone solicitations.

The HSSA also requires the seller to provide you with a written purchase agreement stating the date of the transaction. You must sign the agreement and be given a copy for your records. Also, the purchase agreement must contain a statement advising you of your three-day right to cancel. It should be noted that if the seller does not provide you with a written statement in compliance with the law, you may cancel the sale by notifying the seller in any manner and by any means of your intentions.

If the purchase does not contain an accurate statement of your right to cancel the contract within three days, you may be able to cancel your contract even after the initial three-day period has passed. Also, if you paid by credit card, you may be able to file a successful "chargeback" request with your credit card company if you do so promptly. Tell your credit card company that the contract offered you violated state law because it did not contain the proper three-day cancellation notice.

Should you decide to exercise your right to cancel, the seller must return within ten (10) days any payment you made under the sale agreement following the receipt of your cancellation notice. You, on the other hand, must make available to the seller upon demand the goods provided you, and they must be in as good condition as when they were initially received. The goods are to be made available for pick up by the seller at your residence. If the seller fails to pick them up within twenty (20) days of your notice of cancellation, you are entitled to keep or dispose of the goods as you see fit.

The three-day right to cancel provision does not apply: 1) if the goods or services were requested and provided on an emergency basis and the seller in good faith began complying with the contract before notice of cancellation was given; 2) if a signed handwritten statement by the buyer has been given to the seller waiving the three-day right to cancel; or 3) if the goods cannot be returned to the seller in as good condition as when received.

The Michigan Consumer Protection Act (CPA) also protects you against misrepresentations and deceptive sales practices, whether the HSSA applies or not.

To find out more about your rights under the CPA, contact the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General at P.O. Box 30213, Lansing, Michigan 48909, (517) 373-1140, or call the Legal Hotline for Older Michiganians toll free at 1-800-347-LAWS. The Attorney General's office prefers all complaints to be in writing. You should explain the problem, attach copies of any documentation that supports your complaint (keep the originals for your records), and state what resolution you desire.

Reproduced in part from Issue Alert, Volume 2, #5.

Spring Is In The Air And So Are Scams

In addition to bringing out the crocuses, the warmer temperatures tend to bring out many scam artists who pray on unsuspecting and trusting homeowners. Homeowners are warned to be on the look out for unsolicited visits by contractors, particularly those who say they just happened to be driving by and noticed that your roof, driveway, windows, or whatever needed work. Consumers are cautioned to avoid entering into agreements with contractors who contact them in this manner. There are many cases of trusting individuals who have given sizable down payments for repair work to be done by a nice young man who came to the door, never to hear from him or see their money again. In most cases where work has been done, it may not have been done completely or correctly. Usually, attempts made to contact the person responsible prove fruitless. More than likely they have moved on to find another neighborhood ripe for the picking.

The Michigan Department of Consumer and Industry Services (CIS) recommends that consumers do the following before agreeing to have work done on their homes:

Deal with a licensed contractor and ask for proof of licensing status (know that all contractors offering to do work which totals $600.00 or more for labor and materials must have a state license). WORKING WITH AN UNLICENSED BUILDER IS DONE AT YOUR OWN RISK.

  • Get references for any contractor you are considering hiring.
  • Get written estimates and be wary of "special low prices."
  • Get a written contract and have an attorney review, especially if a large amount of cash is involved.
  • Never pay for the entire job in advance.
  • Never pay in cash.

CIS also says to remember that you have a right to cancel within three (3) days of signing any contract solicited and signed in your home. You can do so by sending the contractor a registered letter stating your desire to cancel. If you have problems with a contractor:

  • Try to resolve the matter before making final payment.
  • Contact the local building inspector on questions or workmanship and code violations.
  • Consider going to small claims court on matters less than $1,500.
  • File a complaint with the DEPARTMENT OF CONSUMER AND INDUSTRY SERVICES, COMMERCIAL ENFORCEMENT DIVISION, P.O. BOX 30018, LANSING, MICHIGAN 48909, ((517) 373-9153).
  • If fraud is suspected, file a criminal complaint with the local police or sheriff's department or contact the Office of the Attorney General.

In some instances, you may have to seek the assistance of an attorney to resolve the matter.

On another note of caution, if you are visiting your local homebuilders show and are tempted to enter the many prize drawings offered, understand that your name will more than likely be put on a mailing or call list. These lists are used by the company offering the prize to generate leads for potential customers. Mailing or call lists get sold to other companies generating more mail and calls to your home. So if you are already annoyed by unwanted phone solicitations, look out because by entering prize drawings you could be opening the flood gate for more to come.

Reprinted in part from Issue Alert, Volume 2, #3, Michigan Offices of Services to the Aging, March 1997, and also Elder Abuse Quarterly, Issue 18, March 1997.

A TISKET, A TASKET, A NON-EXISTENT CASKET

'Tis still the season for blatant rip-offs. The latest con involves pre-paid funeral contracts. An estimated 25,000 Michigan consumers (most of them senior citizens) have been swindled in amounts exceeding two million dollars.

Most funeral homes and cemeteries abide by the law, which requires sellers of such services to deposit all money received in an interest bearing escrow account. Those few who are trying to avoid the escrow requirements will often give the purchaser some form of receipt. This usually takes the form of a warehouse ticket that promises delivery of the casket when the person dies. The sellers claim that because a receipt was issued, the consumer has "taken delivery" of the casket so it is no longer a pre-paid item and is no longer subject to the escrow requirements of the law. Some of these sellers even go so far as to claim the caskets were purchased and are stored in a warehouse.

However, an audit by the Michigan Department of Consumer and Industry Services (CIS) which regulates and licenses funeral homes and cemeteries, found that the vast majority of sites examined had less than 45% of the caskets they had supposedly warehoused. Therefore, the sellers had neither escrowed the money nor purchased and warehoused caskets for the majority of the contracts they had sold. Furthermore, Michigan State Policy prevents the warehouse from being an agent of the seller, which is clearly the case in these situations.

If you suspect that you have been victim of this scheme, please contact the Michigan Funeral Director Association at 1-800-937-6332. They can send you information on how to avoid this scam. You can also contact the Michigan Department of Consumer and Industry Services (CIS) at 517-335-1688.

If you have any further questions, feel free to contact our office.

Submitted By
Christopher S. Alexander
Staff Attorney

For information regarding Monroe County Senior Legal Services - contact them directly

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