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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. Do senior living/assisted living properties adhere to the same guidelines/laws as landlord/tenants? My father lived in a retirement community/independent living facility and recently passed away. They have sent us a bill for carpet replacement and some other maintenance that went beyond his rental deposit. What is the rule when a tenant passes away?

  2. Curious of Shady Landlords says:

    Our previous landlords are trying to charge us the whole cost for replacing carpet in a house we tenanted for 7 years, due to some high traffic marks that wouldn’t come out after a professional cleaning. The carpet is now over 10 years old, and the new tenants signed off on the carpet and moved in without new carpet being installed. They are also trying to charge us outrageous amounts for repairs of things that either weren’t broken in the first place or for work that was never even done before they let new tenants move in, and we have timestamped picture proof of this, as we are friends with their new tenants who allowed us to come in and take pictures. They also NEVER did routine inspections, and never fixed anything that we complained about, such as a driveway that flooded into our garage every time it rained and leaky skylights that ruined the paint on the walls. That being said, they are mad that we are disputing their claims, and have threatened to take us to court to collect money for the replacement cost of the carpet and now go after us for back late fees from the last 7 years. The lease did lay out that the late fee was to be in the amount of $50, but never once in the 7 years that we lived there and were late on rent did they insist on us paying a late fee. Can they legally do any of this???

    • Dear Curious of Shady Landlords:

      It sounds like you have a solid case disputing the damages claimed given the circumstances. As to the late fee, consider arguing that based on the customary accepting of late payments without applying a late charge to the account, a grace period became an implied and accepted term of the contract.

  3. I just received a letter attached to the door from my apartment in Kentwood Michigan stating: “We will be conducting an unscheduled pet audit of each apartment in your building in the upcoming weeks, as we have noticed that very few residents registered their pets; however we see a number of pets coming & going from the building.”

    I don’t believe that this notices provides a specified timeframe for the entry to my apartment that is required by law – but I’m not sure. I do have 2 dogs. Both are registered with apartment office. I paid a $400 non-refundable fee to have them and I pay $25 for each dog every month. I have previously found out about “lease-renewal inspections” that occurred without any notice to me and I had no idea they were even in the apartment. My main concern is that one of my dogs is not in a crate and he can be protective. I don’t want there to be an issue if a stranger tries to enter the apartment when my husband or I am not home. If I know when they will be here – or even just the week they will be hear – I can put him in a crate temporarily to ensure everyone’s safety. My dog has never bit anyone and isn’t menacing or mean, but he barks at people walking by if we aren’t home. We are actually concerned someone might have tried to break in at some point so he is has become protective when he did not used to.

    • Dear Michelle:

      Consider providing a written notice that your dogs are registered and you have paid as required in order to have the dogs. Furthermore, given that you have have paid and are doing nothing to violate the lease, and that the notice includes an “unscheduled” pet audit with a time frame of “upcoming weeks”, the notice is an unreasonable invasion of your right to quiet enjoyment. Consider stating that under the circumstances, they do not have permission to enter the property; however, you are willing to discuss a more reasonable range of time during which they can do their inspection.

  4. Hello,

    My boyfriend and I recently got our first apartment together. Upon signing the lease, the lady who was with us continuously repeated that the lease in which we were signing was a 12 month lease. We found out a week later after reviewing the lease, after encountering a few problems, that it was a 14 month lease we signed onto. After asking about this, the lady we spoke with shrugged her shoulders, said,”well you signed it,” and showed us a copy of their lease agreement with us where the “14 month lease” was now conveniently circled when it wasn’t on ours. Not only has this been a problem, but we haven’t even been able to stay one night in the apartment that we’ve had for three weeks now due to fleas. They work with a company that comes by every Thursday to do exterminations, but the guy who came by last Thursday claimed to have found nothing. For a few days there actually was nothing, but tonight I found that there were more fleas. I honestly just want to move out of this apartment and get all of our money back, but that seems impossible and I’m not sure how to go about this. What do I do?

    • Dear Amberch:

      Are you sure they are fleas or could they be bed bugs?

      Sounds like you should have an attorney write a letter and/or make contact for you. This sounds like fraud in the inducement and therefore there is no legal contract. Also, figure out a way to prove there are indeed fleas. Can you hire your own expert to evaluate the place for fleas? If you have an expert to support your claim, you could argue further fraud. In any event, you will need to put something in writing as to the contract issue and the fleas. Tell them that you are going to take care of the fleas yourself if they are not taken care of within a reasonable time and give a specific time that is reasonable. Follow the format in this guide: LLT Guide

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