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Attorney Renee C. Walsh

Landlord-Tenant Law every Michigan Renter Should Know

Landlord and tenant / renter must be aware of the laws governing all aspects of the landlord and tenant relationship. The most important of these laws are:

Tenants who are having difficulties with their landlords can and should refer to these laws to hold their landlords accountable.  For example:

  • Illegal provisions:  According to the Truth in Renting Act, landlords must EXCLUDE certain provisions from their leases and if included, they are automatically considered void. The tenant can make the landlord fix a lease with these illegal provisions and if the landlord does not, the tenant can take the landlord to court and win statutory damages and fees. Landlords are likewise required to INCLUDE certain provisions such as the name and address at which notice shall be given to the lessor and a very specific statement regarding the fact that the agreement must comply with applicable Michigan laws.
  • Landlord’s obligation to maintain premises:  For those who are interested in knowing the laws regarding the landlord’s obligation to maintain the premises, reference should be made to MCL 554.139. This law requires that landlords must keep the premises and all common areas fit for the use intended. They must also be kept in reasonable repair and in compliance with applicable health and safety laws of the state and of the local unit of government.
  • Security Deposit:  Tenants who are worried about the return of all or part of their security deposit should pay particular attention to the Landlord and Tenant MCL 554.601 to 616 as this act regulates security deposits.
    • Landlords cannot collect more than 1 and 1/2 times the monthly rent as a security deposit.Furthermore, they cannot require a security deposit unless they notify the tenant no later than 14 days from the date a tenant assumes possession in a written instrument of the landlord’s name and address as well as the name and address of his bank.
    • There is also a requirement of a particular notice regarding the tenant’s responsibility to forward their new mailing address to the landlord within 4 days after termination of occupancy: “You must notify your landlord in writing within 4 days after you move of a forwarding address where you can be reached and where you will receive mail; otherwise your landlord shall be relieved of sending you an itemized list of damages and the penalties adherent to that failure.”
    • An inventory checklist is required at the commencement and termination of the tenancy.
    • If a landlord wants to keep all or part of the security deposit for damages or other obligation, he must mail to the tenant, within 30 days after the termination of occupancy, an itemized list of damages claimed, including the estimated cost of repair of each property damaged item and the amounts and bases on which he intends to assess the tenant.
    • The notice of damages shall include the following statement in 12 point boldface type which shall be at least 4 points larger than the body of the notice: “You must respond to this notice by mail within 7 days after receipt of same, otherwise you will forfeit the amount claimed for damages.”. Failure by the landlord to comply with the notice of damages requirement within the 30 days after the termination of occupancy, constitutes agreement by the landlord that no damages are due and he shall remit to the tenant immediately the full security deposit.
  • Senior citizens: Tenants of an advanced age should be aware of MCL 554.601a, which allows early termination of a lease if the tenant becomes eligible to take possession of a subsidized rental unit in senior citizen housing or becomes incapable of living independently.

  • Discrimination: Regarding landlord-tenant discrimination, the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act provides protection from discrimination in housing accommodations on the basis of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, or marital status. There is an exemption in the law where the landlord or a member of the landlord’s immediate family resides in one of the units. However, the Civil Rights Act of 1866 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race in ALL property transactions; and since federal law trumps state law, the federal law must be followed. Therefore, landlords can NEVER discriminate on the basis of race. Also, persons with disabilities are protected from discrimination. Landlords must accommodate disabled persons unless they demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship or that they or their immediate family resides in 1 of the units under certain circumstances.
  • Quiet Enjoyment: Finally, a tenant is entitled to quiet enjoyment of the premises and landlords are prevented from interfering with that enjoyment unless they are acting pursuant to court order, or the interference is only temporary in order to make needed repairs or inspection as provided by law. Landlords are not allowed to enter a tenant’s property whenever they want, nor are they allowed to eject a tenant in a forcible or unlawful manner. A tenant who is put out or held out of their rented property in a forcible and unlawful manner, is entitled to recover 3 times the amount of his actual damages or $200.00, whichever is greater, in addition to recovering possession. Furthermore, a tenant whose possession has been unlawfully interfered with by the landlord or their agents shall be entitled to recover the amount of his actual damages or $200.00, whichever is greater, for each occurrence and, where possession has been lost, to recover possession. Landlords cannot use or threaten force, nor can they remove or destroy a tenant’s personal property. They cannot change the locks without immediately providing keys, nor can they board up the premises. They cannot interrupt a service procured by the tenant or which the landlord is under a duty to furnish, if that service is so essential that its interruption would constitute constructive eviction, including heat, running water, hot water, electric, or gas service. Lastly, they cannot introduce noise, odor or other nuisance.

Any person involved in a landlord-tenant relationship must be aware of these laws. Landlords must inform their staff as for example, if certain language is not included in leases and certain time frames are not met, rights can be very limited. Tenants who must breach their lease in advance pray for the landlord to miss the 30-day deadline. If the notice of damages retained from the security deposit does not go out within 30 days after the tenant terminates the tenancy, all rights to the security deposit and any other damages are waived. Also, it must be clear that deference must be made to the federal Civil Rights Act and no discrimination on the basis of race must ever occur. The landlord-tenant relationship is tenuous at best. Knowledge of the applicable law by both parties sets forth expectations, reduces unnecessary problems, and lays a foundation for a positive relationship.

Additional resource:

Form DC 100c, Notice to Quit to Recover Possession of Property
Form DC 102c, Complaint to Recover Possession of Property

Landlords and Tenants – Guide (MI Legislature)

Discussion:

  1. I have a tenant who is renting the lower section of a house, and is in control of the thermostat. They are the only ones in the building; hence the whole house is being heated. The tenant moves in and the lease stipulates that they pay utility bills, and runs up an excessive bill. Can they make a claim against the landlord to pay part of it, stating that they only are renting the lower section and should not have to pay.

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