Important Landlord-Tenant Laws in Michigan

In Michigan, as in other states, a body of law exists to regulate the relationship between landlords and tenants. Each has rights and each has responsibilities, some created by public statute, and some by private agreement (the lease). Here are some things it’s wise to understand before entering into a landlord-tenant relationship from either side.

The Lease

Many people are surprised to learn that a lease need not be in writing–unless, however, the lease term exceeds a year. In that case, Michigan Compiled Laws 566.106 requires a written lease. In any case, think twice about entering into an oral lease for any term–as a wise man once said, an oral agreement is not worth the paper it’s written on. In the case of a later dispute, a written lease is much easier to interpret.

The Security Deposit

MCL 554.602 authorizes a landlord to ask for a security deposit for a rental unit, but it cannot be more than 1 ½ times the monthly rent. The security deposit remains the tenant’s property until the landlord establishes a right to it. The landlord must hold the deposit in a regulated financial institution, like a bank, and keep it there. Alternately, he may deposit a bond with the Secretary of State, in which case he may use the security deposit as he wishes, because the bond ensures there is money available to repay the deposit to the tenant when the time comes.

The landlord must provide the tenant with certain notices regarding the security deposit; these are found in MCL 554.603, and should be found in the lease as well.

To reclaim the security deposit at the end of the lease, the tenant has to notify the landlord of his forwarding address within four days after moving out. The landlord has thirty days from the move-out date to return the deposit or supply an itemized list of claimed damages and give the tenant seven days to respond before forfeiting the deposit. Because the deposit is the tenant’s property by law, the burden is on the landlord to prove the tenant’s responsibility for damages.

Termination of the Lease by the Landlord

Under certain circumstances, a landlord may evict a tenant. Some of these are: nonpayment of rent, extensive and continuing physical damage to the property, overstaying at the end of a lease term, or illegal drug activity with a police report filed (if specified in the lease). A landlord must serve an eviction notice (sometimes called a demand for possession or a notice to quit) before an eviction can proceed. The notice must contain the tenant’s name, the address or description of the rental property, the reason for the eviction, the time to take remedial action, the date, and the landlord’s signature.

The notice can be delivered in person to the tenant, to the tenant’s household to a person of suitable age, with a request to give it to the tenant, or by mail. If remedial action is not take within the time frame given, the landlord cannot immediately evict, but is then allowed to file a lawsuit for eviction. A landlord may NOT remove a tenant’s personal property from the rental unit. Only a court officer may, and then only after an eviction lawsuit has been completed and there is an Order for Eviction.

If you are a landlord who needs help preparing a lease or evicting a tenant, or a tenant who wants to make sure his rights are respected, contact our office for a consultation.