LawRefs Customized Legal Information
Attorney Renee C. Walsh

Tenant’s Breach of Lease

A tenant breached a lease by quitting the premises with more than six months left on her lease. She received an itemized list of damages to be deducted from the security deposit. In Michigan, if the tenant sends the landlord her forwarding address within 4 days of moving out, the landlord has 30 days to return the deposit or send an itemized list of damages against the deposit and the tenant has seven days to object. In this case, we got the tenant out of the lease without having to pay anything for that lost rent!

It was easy but not due to my manipulation. On the merits, we were arguing that the landlord failed to keep the premises safe because though the tenant had requested new locks in light of an attempted break-in at her apartment, nothing was done by the management. This was a good argument but was not weight bearing at all because what clinched the deal was the security deposit timeline. The management sent out my client the list of damages beyond the 30 day deadline by which they were bound. When I informed them that they had to return the full deposit to my client even though she moved out with months left on the lease, they bucked up and asked for proof. I told them that my client was a great record keeper and had the envelope to prove that they failed to adhere to the 30 day timeline. When I faxed over a copy of the front of the envelope, the deal was done and we received the full deposit and saved thousands of dollars.

Moral of the story: Keep your records including the envelopes! Get out of paying damages for unpaid rent by arguing the security deposit timeline.


  1. I live in Saginaw County. I have been renting my house since March 1st, 2014. A city inspector visited because my water was shut off and I filed a complaint. He said the house is not a registered rental. Since then, he has condemned the house, and provided me with a report of the violations in the house, such as no water, broken water heater, furnace, bath tub, and breaker box. Am I able to sue the landlord for collecting rent illegally?

    • Dear Megan M.:

      You may consider suing your landlord for damages caused by leasing a premises to you if the property was uninhabitable during the time of the lease. You do not have standing to sue for not have a rental license. That issue is between the landlord and the government, while the lease agreement is between the landlord and you.

  2. Larry Robinson says:

    In Michigan I understand that you can’t sue for damages in a Landlord Tenant case. So if you were charged an illegal security deposit what can you sue for?

  3. Anthony Woodruff says:

    Hello me and my wife signed a one year lease in Michigan on 09/13/09. My wife moved out and file for divorce on 02/02/10. And with me being laid off and now having to pay the full lease payment with my unemployment check I was evicted on 03/31/10. I recieved the Landlords list of Damages letter on 05/05/10, indicating that they want me to pay for the late rent, the remaining rent do on the lease contract, late fees and eviction fees. The letter is post dated 04/30/10 but through mail forwarding the forwarding date is 05/05/10 to my P.O. Box. I don’t have a perminent address yet. But what I need to know is how to write a response letter to these charges because there is no way I can afford a lawyer now.

  4. Dear Rose:

    No. You are not required to pay automatically. Sounds like there is an argument here. A landlord who claims damages to the unit, must provide the inventory checklist both before and after the occupancy at issue. The landlord cannot prove his case otherwise.

    Furthermore, according to MCL 554.613, the landlord may within 45 days after termination of the occupancy, and not thereafter, commence an action for a money judgment for damages which he has claimed. I have a question as to whether this applies in a situation in which there is no security deposit.

    In writing, you should deny that the claim is valid as indicated in my article about how to deal with debt collectors under the consumer law section of the blog.

    On the other hand, if you would like me to write a letter for you, please email me at and we can open a line of more direct communication.