The following opinion is presented on-line for informational use only and does not replace the official version. (Mich Dept of Attorney General Web Site -



Opinion No. 5326

July 5, 1978


Subject to Michigan Housing Code


Colleges and universities subject to

A college dormitory is subject to the provisions of the State Housing Law.

Honorable Earl E. Nelson

State Senator

The Capitol

Lansing, Michigan 48901

Honorable H. Lynn Jondahl

State Representative

The Capitol

Lansing, Michigan 48901

You have requested my opinion on the following question:

'Do the provisions of the Michigan Housing Code [1917 PA 167, MCLA 125.401 et seq; MSA 5.2771 et seq] apply to the dormitories operated by the Michigan public universities and located on the university's premises?'

Const 1963, art 8, Secs. 5 and 6, provide that governing boards of baccalaureate degree granting institutions shall have general supervision of its institution and the control and direction over all expenditures from the institution's funds. This constitutional status of baccalaureate degree granting institutions limits the legislature from enacting legislation which interferes with the educational functions of such institutions. Thus, in Sterling v Regents of University of Michigan, 110 Mich 369; 68 NW 253 (1896), the Supreme Court held that the regents of the University of Michigan had exclusive power to determine the location and operation of its College of Medicine. And, in I OAG, 1955-1956, No 2227, p 721 (December 9, 1955), the Attorney General ruled that a statute requiring the faculty of the Michigan Agricultural College to adopt rules governing the discipline of the college was an unconstitutional invasion by the legislature of the exclusive authority of the governing board over the college.

However, despite their constitutional autonomy from legislative control in educational matters, state colleges and universities are a part of state government and are subject to legislation enacted to promote the health, safety and welfare of the people. Branum v Board of Regents of the University of Michigan, 5 Mich App 134, 138-139; 145 NW2d 860, 862 (1966); Regents of the University of Michigan v Employment Relations Commission, 389 Mich 96, 108; 204 NW2d 218, 223-224 (1973). In OAG, 1975-1976, No 3662 p 708 (December 15, 1976), which held that the State Boiler Act, 1965 PA 290, MCLA 408.751 et seq; MSA 17.137(1) et seq, was applicable to state colleges and universities, it was stated:

'State universities and colleges are required to comply with the provisions of a statute enacted to protect the public health and safety.'

In OAG, 1928-1930, p 596 (September 27, 1929), it was held that the buildings of the University of Michigan are not subject to ordinances of the city of Ann Arbor requiring inspection of certain mechanical trades in new buildings, this opinion is distinguishable because 1917 PA 167, supra, is not a local ordinance but a state statute that provides that the State Board of Health (1) has the authority 'to examine into the enforcement of this act.' 1917 PA 167, supra, Sec. 9. The 1929 opinion, on the other hand, refers to an attempt of a local governmental unit to assert jurisdiction over a state agency. The rule of law relied upon quoted the following from 43 CJ, p 247:

'. . . The municipality cannot regulate or control any property which the state has authorized another body or power to control.'

The housing law of Michigan, 1917 PA 167; MCLA 125.401 et seq; MSA 5.2771 et seq, was enacted to promote the health, safety and welfare of the people in accordance with its title which states:

'AN ACT to promote the health, safety and welfare of the people by regulating the maintenance, alteration, health, safety and improvement of dwellings; to define the classes of dwellings affected by the act, to establish administrative requirements; to establish remedies; to provide for enforcement; to provide for the demolition of certain dwellings; and to fix penalties for the violation of this act.'

Section 1 of 1917 PA 167, supra, states that the law applies in certain defined areas.

1917 PA 167, supra, Sec. 2, defines terms used in the Act, among which appears the definition of 'classes of multiple dwellings'. Sub-section 2(3). Classes of multiple dwellings are defined into 'class a' and 'class b'. 'Class a' is defined as follows:

'Multiple dwellings of class a are dwellings which are occupied more or less permanently for residence purposes by several families and in which the rooms are occupied in apartments, suites or groups, in which each combination of rooms is so arranged and designed as to provide for cooking accommodations and toilet and kitchen sink accommodations within the separate units. This class includes tenement houses, flats, apartment houses, apartment hotels, bachelor apartments, studio apartments, duplex apartments, kitchenette apartments, and all other dwellings similarly occupied whether specifically enumerated herein or not.'

College or university dormitories are clearly excluded from the aforesaid definition of 'class a' multiple dwelling. Dormitories are not constructed to provide cooking facilities or kitchen sinks in each unit, and often do not provide toilets in each unit, having instead a common bathing/toilet facility serving a number of persons.

'Class b' is then defined as follows:

'Multiple dwellings of class b are dwellings which are occupied, as a rule transiently, as the more or less temporary abiding place of individuals who are lodged, with or without meals and in which as a rule the rooms are occupied singly and without any attempt to provide therein or therewith cooking or kitchen accommodations for the individual occupants. This class includes hotels, lodging houses, boarding houses, furnished room houses, club houses, convents, asylums, hospitals, jails and all other dwellings similarly occupied, whether specifically enumerated herein or not.' [Emphasis added]

By including structures such as jails, asylums and hospitals within the definition of a 'class b' multiple dwelling, the legislature indicated its intent to subject governmental entities, including the state, to the provisions of the Housing Code, supra. Jails, asylums and, hospitals are built and operated by governmental entities; in fact, there may not be any privately operated jail.

Although college dormitories are not specifically mentioned in the list of multiple dwellings subject to the Act, the term 'all other dwellings similarly occupied, whether specifically enumerated herein or not' must be held to indicate legislative intent to include college dormitories within this class. This result follows from application of the principle of statutory construction known as the ejusdem generis rule which was referred to by the Supreme Court in People v Powell, 280 Mich 699, 704; 274 NW 372, 374 (1937), as follows:

'Where no intention to the contrary appears, general words used after specific terms are to be confined to things ejusdem generis with the things previously specified. American Transportation Co. v Moore, 5 Mich. 368; Hawkins v Railroad Co., 17 Mich, 56 (97 Am. Dec. 179).

'When, after an enumeration, the statute employs some general term to embrace other cases, the other cases must be understood to be cases of the same general character, sort or kind with those named. Brooks v. Cook, 44 Mich, 617 (38 Am. Rep. 282); State Prison Board of Control v. Auditor General, 197 Mich. 377; In re Estate of Ticknor, 13 Mich. 44; Board of Education v. City of Detroit, 30 Mich. 505.'

In 1917 PA 167, Sec. 2, supra, the specific items listed include furnished rooms, hotels, lodging houses, boarding houses and club houses. It will be noted that in each of these kinds of dwellings a large group of persons are temporarily housed in a common facility. Inasmuch as a college dormitory shares these features, I am of the opinion that a college dormitory is a multiple dwelling within the provisions of the state housing law, 1917 PA 167, supra.

Frank J. Kelley

Attorney General

(1) Pursuant to 1919 PA 146, Sec. 4; MCLA 325.4; MSA 14.4, the power and duties of the State Board of Health were vested in the State Health Commissioner and the State Board of Health was abolished. Subsequently, 1965 PA 380, Sec. 425; MCLA 16.525; MSA 3.29(425), created a Department of Public Health and, by 1965 PA 380, Sec. 427, transferred the powers, duties and functions of the State Health Commissioner to the Department of Public Health.