michigan eviction laws

Know Your Rights: How to Carefully Navigate Michigan Eviction Laws

Detroit’s 36th District Court has tried an average of 35,000 landlord-tenant eviction cases each year from 2009 to 2017. That’s nearly 285,000 eviction cases.

With these statistics, it’s likely that most Michigan landlords will face the eviction process at some point.

Are you a landlord struggling with a tenant violating the terms of your lease? Maybe you’re looking to sell your property, but don’t know how to with a bad tenant inhabiting the space.

If you’ve never been through this before, you might not know where to start. 

Keep reading for an overview of Michigan eviction laws and what to do next.

Michigan Eviction Laws

Michigan law outlines several reasons for eviction. Among these are:

  • Failure to pay rent
  • Violating a term or terms of a lease
  • Overstaying a lease
  • Creating a health hazard on the property
  • Extensive physical damage to the property
  • Engaging in illegal drug activity on the premises
  • Just cause” (regarding mobile home parks or federally subsidized housing)

It is unlawful to evict a tenant because of their membership in a protected class. The Fair Housing Act prohibits all landlords from discriminating against tenants based on “race, color, religion, disability, familial status, national origin, or sex.” You also cannot discriminate based on marital status or age.

Other unlawful evictions include retaliation, such as retaliating against a tenant for complaining to housing officials. Tenants are also protected by joining or forming tenants unions and exercising other legal rights.

Serving an Eviction Notice

There are several ways to carry out a legal eviction in Michigan. Keep reading for an overview of the process and what each step typically entails.

Start with a Warning Letter

It’s a good idea to start the eviction process with a warning letter. This is especially true if you’re dealing with a long-term tenant that hasn’t caused issues in the past. 

A warning letter is also a good idea to give a “grace period.” An official notice is scary and can quickly make a tenant defensive. A warning letter is a much gentler way to start, and both sides are likely to see better results.

You can send several warning letters. One example is a letter notifying them that their rent is past due (and their deadline to pay). Another is a letter stating that their lease will be ending.

To protect you, any eviction correspondence should be sent by first-class U.S. mail. This is also recommended for optional warning letters.

A Legal Notice

To start an eviction, you must provide a legal “notice.”

Michigan law requires landlords to give tenants at least 7 days’ notice before beginning the eviction process for failure to pay rent, causing damage to the property, or creating a community health hazard. 

There are workarounds this law with illegal drug activity. If drug activity is present on the property, the landlord only needs to grant the tenant 24 hours after notice.

For all other violation of lease provisions, landlords must give 30 days’ minimum notice.

The same 30 days’ notice applies to tenants overstaying a lease (if it has been over 30 days since the end of the lease). If a tenant has overstayed a lease by over 30 days, notice is usually not required. For month-to-month leases, the landlord must give one rental period’s notice before an eviction can begin.

Notice Requirements

There are several ways to present a notice to a tenant. You can give it to them in person, mail it, or leave it with an adult in the unit. Today, you can even send a notice to a tenant electronically (by email).

There are two types of notice: demand for possession and notice to quit.

Demand for Possession

This is the first step in the eviction process. A “demand for possession” notice applies to the following situations:

  • Failure to pay rent
  • Illegal activity (such as drugs) on the property
  • Creating physical damage to the property
  • Creating a health hazard
  • “Just cause”

Notice to Quit

In other situations, you might be forced to submit a notice to quit. This notice is used when:

  • Tenant violates lease provision and lease allows for termination
  • You don’t have a lease, and you want the tenant to move

There are guidelines for submitting these notices. 

Any notice you serve must be in writing and addressed directly to the tenant. The notice must include the address of the rental property and the reason for the requested eviction. Finally, the notice must state the date of the notice and how much time the tenant has to fix the problem (if applicable). 

Filing a Complaint

If the tenant refuses to move, you must file a complaint in the District Court that has jurisdiction over the area where your rental property is located. Filing a complaint involves the delivery of several documents. 

You will be required to produce a court copy of the original notice sent to the tenant, a formal complaint form, a summons form, and a judgment form. You will also need to provide a copy of the lease and an envelope large enough to hold these documents.

You should call your District Court to be sure of which forms are required because some are generated by a computer. 

At the time of filing, you will be charged a fee. Once the fee is paid, a hearing date will be given. This date is usually within 10 days of filing the complaint unless you live in a very rural area. In that case, it might take several weeks to get to court. 

Delivery of the Summons

Once your complaint has been filed and you have a court date and time, arrange for the delivery of the summons. 

It’s possible to mail the summons yourself, but remember to use first-class mail to get a return receipt. The court requires proof that the notice was served. If delivery is unsuccessful, you can attach the summons to the tenant’s front door. Just ensure that the documents are attached securely.

Delivery of the summons must be completed at a minimum of 3 days from the hearing date. If you don’t give the tenant enough notice, you will have to go back to the court and request a later date. You will also need to serve the summons again.

The Eviction Process

Landlords are not permitted to evict tenants without using the judicial process. Doing so subjects them to civil damages under Michigan’s “Lock-Out law.” Prohibited actions include removing tenants’ personal property, denying tenants access to the property, turning off utilities, and threatening tenants with force.

If you are caught violating these laws, you will be forced to pay $200 or 3 times the damages caused by the tenant, whichever is greater. If this happens more than once, damages are imposed for each separate occurrence.

It’s important to follow the eviction process to avoid breaking the law or incurring damages.

The Hearing

In Michigan, there is an expedited legal process for eviction. This process is called “summary proceedings.”  

Under summary proceedings, eviction hearings are scheduled very quickly after a landlord files a complaint with the court.

When your case is called, you and the tenant will approach the bench. Various things can happen, but typically you and the tenant will be asked to answer a few specific questions.

Defenses to Eviction

An eviction hearing is not always guaranteed to go your way. There are several defenses available to Michigan residential tenants. For example:

  • Full rent was paid after the notice was given. Sometimes a partial payment may satisfy the court enough to halt the eviction process. 
  • A tenant may claim that they are a victim of retaliatory eviction.
  • A tenant may claim discriminatory eviction.

A retaliatory eviction occurs when an eviction begins within 90 days of a tenant complaining of a health or safety code violation. It can also occur when a tenant tries to exercise some other rights under law, or chooses to join a tenants’ group.

If a tenant is evicted based upon their race, sex, religion, national origin, creed, familial status, marital status, or disability, they can claim discriminatory eviction.

Default Judgement

If your tenant does not show at the hearing, you will most likely receive a default judgment from the court. This means that the court agrees that the tenant should be evicted. You may move forward with the eviction. 

Sometimes, the court may change the hearing date or rule that the tenant can not be evicted.

If the court rules that the tenant is to be evicted, they usually have a certain number of days to vacate the premises. Most judges will grant 10 days.

In an ideal world, all tenants will vacate the premises when evicted. This isn’t always the case. Tenants who do not comply face a writ of eviction.

Writ of Eviction in Michigan

Often, a court order is enough to force a tenant to leave. But if they do not, the landlord can go back to the court after 10 days for a writ of restitution.

The tenant will be physically removed from the property.

Typically, a sheriff is assigned the eviction by the court. The officer will contact you as the landlord to determine when you are available to move the tenant out. Once you decide on a date and time, you will show up at the property and the officer will allow you to move the tenants’ belongings to the “curb.” 

In most cases, the tenant is not allowed to interfere with this process, except to move their property from the curb. When this process is finished, the officer will ask you to secure the property and change the locks.  

You are usually required to leave the tenant’s property at the curb for at least two days. In extreme cases, the court will allow you to dispose of the tenant’s property after only 24 hours.

In some cities, such as Detroit, you may have to use an “eviction dumpster.” You can ask your attorney whether this is required in your area.

Eviction Costs to the Landlord

While you may get rid of a tenant that refuses to pay rent, you won’t necessarily save money throughout the eviction process. Especially if you require a writ of restitution.

You should budget $300-1200 for the officer’s time. This depends on how extensive the move-out is and how much time it requires. If you need a clean dumpster, that will cost $200-300. 

Regardless of which process you choose, eviction is expensive! You should save it as a last resort when dealing with a tenant that won’t vacate your property.

Length of the Process

There are many factors that will determine the length of any given eviction process.  

Even if the tenant does not show up in court and the judge rules that the tenant should be evicted, the process isn’t short. You should expect to dedicate a minimum of four weeks to the eviction process.

An official eviction will likely take longer – somewhere between six to eight weeks. If an eviction is dependent on a court order and physical removal by an officer, the timeline depends on when the court date is set.

If the eviction is contested, the hearing may last a few months. This is especially true if the tenant has an adequate defense or counterclaim.

What’s Next?

Whatever you do, don’t begin the eviction process without legal counsel to guide you through Michigan eviction laws. 

You want to maintain a profitable business while ridding yourself of liability. Consulting with a lawyer to achieve these goals is always a good idea.

When your eviction case is closed, what will you do next? Will you sign another lease, or choose to sell your property?

The good news for you is that landlords have the right to sell their property – whenever they want. If you are going about the process legally, there is no issue with putting your property up for sale during an eviction case.

Our company strives to provide fast solutions. Let us help make your situation better. Contact us to discuss quick-sale options for your property.

 

 

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