Michigan Landlord Tenant Laws

Just like in most states, the relationship between landlords and tenants is governed by Michigan laws. The laws lay out the obligations of tenants and landlords and make provisions for how both parties should act when they enter into a lease agreement. let’s look at what the law says about security deposits, lease and rent, entry notices, and small claims.

Security Deposit:

The maximum allowed security deposit is equivalent to  one and a half month’s rent. Tenants are not required to deposit security via a deposit bank account but it should be done with a regulated financial institution. The law allows deposits to be used as reimbursement for actual damages as well as paying outstanding rent owed, unpaid utility bills, and as payment for premature termination of the lease agreement. Landlords are required to create and mail a written description or itemized list of damages and corresponding cost of repairs or charges along with a cheque or money order with the difference within 30 days of move-out. Landlords are required to notify tenants that any dispute of claims made for damages must be made within 7 days, otherwise, the tenant will forfeit the amount held.  As of now, there is no statue on pet deposits and non-refundable fees.

Landlords are required to keep records of deposits they withhold as a statutory requirement of move-in/move-out process. Likewise, landlords are not allowed to withhold damages for a previous tenant’s deposits which were claimed on a past move-out checklist. They must notify each new tenants that they are entitled to a copy of a move-out checklist of  a previous tenant including the damages. Receipts for deposits are not required but the landlords must provide tenants with the name and address of the  bank or financial institution where deposits are held.

Tenants who feel unjustly issued with notices of damages can contest claims to those damages. Where tenants are issued with notices ( as required), they must respond in writing and send mail to the landlord within 7 days to either agree or dispute the claimed damages. Failure to reply effectually means they will forfeit deposit held. Landlords can sue for money judgment in a Michigan court after 45 days where a tenant contests claimed damages. The landlord is required to furnish the court with proof of inability to obtain service on a tenant or refund the withheld portion of the deposit. However, landlords are not required to seek money judgment where a tenant fails to provide a forwarding address or fails to respond to a notice of damages after entering into a written agreement with respect to the portion of deposit held. Likewise, the landlord is not obliged where the amount claimed is for unpaid rent for any full rental period.

Lease, Rent & Fees:

In Michigan, rent is deemed due on the date stated on the lease.There is no statute that requires landlords to issue a notice of rent increment or issue a grace period for rent. Similarly, there are no provisions for prepaid rent or late fees. The applicable fees for checks returned within 7 days is $25 while the fee for checks returned within 30 days is $35.

Tenants are allowed by law to withhold rent when the landlord fails to provide essential services such as water and heating. Where a local enforcement authority finds that the tenant is living in conditions that are hazardous to health or not safe, and where such conditions are not attributed to the conduct of the tenant, the tenant can pay rent in escrow when a landlord fails to remedy the conditions after receiving notification. The agency is supposed to pay funds held in escrow to defray costs of correcting violations to the landlord and return any unused amount should the tenant vacate the dwelling unit before repairs are made.

Landlords in Michigan are allowed to recover any monies incurred as court or attorney fees. The amounts recoverable should not exceed the amount permitted by the state.While no statute exists on mitigating damages, landlords are expected to make reasonable effort to mitigate damages to lessees. No provision exists on abandonment or early termination fees.

Notices and Entry:

Notice to terminate year-to-year lease agreements require 1-year notice while notice to terminate month-to-month lease require a 30-days notice. Where a landlord enters into a week-to-week lease agreement, the standard period to issue a notice is 7 days. Termination for nonpayment of rent should be issued with a 7-day written notice. Landlords should issue termination notices for health hazard, physical threat/violence by tenants, and property damaged within 7 days. The landlord can issue a 24 hours notice where a tenant does not move out after termination of a lease on the grounds of illegal-drug activity on the premises. Likewise, the landlord is required to file a formal complaint with the police for the alleged drug-related activity.

Landlords are required to create move-in and move-out checklists. New tenants should be provided with 2 copies of an inventory list which included all items owned by the landlord in the dwelling unit.  A tenant has  one week to review the checklists after moving in and note  the condition of the dwelling units before returning a copy to the landlord. The tenant is also entitled to ask for the most recent move-out checklist from the former immediate tenant. Should the tenant fail to notify the landlord in writing of a new mailing address, the landlord will be relieved from having to notify the tenants of damages. For the above provision to be enforced, the landlord must have duly informed the tenant of the provision in writing within fourteen days of moving into the premise.

Landlords are not required to issue notices for date or time for move-out inspections but they must  complete the move-out checklist upon expiration of tenancy and list damages attributed to the tenants. Currently, there is no statute that requires landlords to issue a notice of entry. Notice for maintenance and non-emergency repairs should be issued to tenants as necessary or on a temporary basis. There are no statutes for notice for showings or emergency entries. However, landlords are allowed to enter a tenant’s premises where there is a reason to believe that tenants have abandoned the premises and have no intention to return. They can do this after making diligent inquiry and when rent has not been settled. Notices for lockouts or utility shut-offs are not allowed.

Disclosures and Miscellaneous Notes:

Landlords are required to disclose their names and addresses in a rental agreement. Tenants who hold genuine fears of their safety or children’s safety due to sexual assault, stalking, or domestic violence may be released from rent payment obligations after they issue the landlord with a written document such as protective order, probation letter, written police reports, or release orders after filing charges. While no statute exists for protection from termination, tenants enjoy early termination rights. The landlord is allowed to release them from any obligation to pay rent ( not later than the first of 2nd-month rent that’s due) after receiving notice. Any proof of domestic status must be verified by a 3rd party such as  a counselor, health or mental professional, or a clergy.

Landlords must notify tenants that they have legal rights to seek release from rental obligations whenever they have genuine fears for any of the reasons mentioned above. Where stalking is not mentioned in the rental agreement, the landlord must post it in  a visible area of the rental management office or deliver it in writing when signing the lease.

Landlords have specific duties that they must fulfill as their obligations to tenants.  Under the Covenant for Hospitability,  landlords are required to promise tenants that all dwelling units are fit for habitation or intended use. They are also expected to assure tenants that reasonable repairs will be made in compliance with health & safety laws except when the disrepair is caused by the wilful conduct of the tenant.

Tenants are allowed to block attempted evictions when they establish that the eviction was motivated by or intended to serve as a penalty for asserting rights under a rental agreement or as stipulated by law. The same case applies when a tenant issues a complaint to a local authority for health or safety violations or as retribution for being active members of tenants’ organization.

Rental agreements should include notification of Michigan Truth in Renting Act plus other requirements.While there is no statute that requires landlords to perform radon testing, landlords are supposed to disclose known hazards from lead paints and provide tenants with information pamphlets on such hazards.

Small Claims Court

Disputes and settlements for small claims are handled by Michigan courts. The limits for small claims stands at $5,000. The courts also arbitrate on eviction cases that accompany small claims. Evictions for illegal drug activity, non-payment of rent, or property damaged is heard and determined by district courts.

Relevant Courts:

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