Michigan Landlord-Tenant Law
Perhaps you’re a landlord in Ann Arbor and a tenant doesn’t throw away the trash bags littered about his porch and front door at your repeated requests. Maybe your former landlord in Detroit hasn’t returned your security deposit and hasn’t sent you a letter about any deductions.
These kinds of situations often test a landlord or tenant’s patience. Tensions may run high as both parties become frustrated over each other. Next thing you know, you’re getting an eviction notice or a court order in the mail. Sometimes these situations can be resolved with a reminder of Michigan’s landlord-tenant laws before you end up in court, though.
Whether you’re a landlord or a tenant, you should typically be able to deal with legal issues without going to court. Some landlord-tenant disputes will leave you with no other option. Both parties need to know the basics of renting out a place, how to collect or pay security deposits, about fair housing laws, etc. This overview of key Michigan landlord-tenant laws will help guide you.
Michigan Fair Housing Act
Michigan prohibits landlords from discriminating against tenants based on characteristics that are protected by the state’s Fair Housing Act. Specific actions like advertising rental properties in wealthier communities only may be considered discriminatory if the landlord does these things because of a tenant’s:
- Marital status
- Familial status
- National origin
Landlords often charge new tenants a security deposit as a component of their lease agreement. The security deposit is placed into a cash or surety bond and at the end of the lease’s term the landlord may make any deductions to the deposit to cover unpaid rent and repairs to damages to the rental property beyond normal wear and tear.
The security deposit typically amounts to one month’s rent, though Michigan law limits the amount to 1.5 months’ rent at most. The landlord is required to return the full balance of the deposit or the remaining balance with a written notice of itemized deductions to the tenant within 30 days after the lease’s termination.
The lease agreement is the foundation of the landlord-tenant relationship. It is a legally binding contract detailing the responsibilities both the landlord and the tenant promise to uphold. In addition to specifics like amenities, renovations and other apartment features, the lease includes legal details like:
- Grounds for lease termination and eviction.
- The rent rate and payment schedule.
- The security deposit amount and what it covers.
- Repair policy and procedures.
- The length of the leasing term (weeks, months or years).
- Roommate and guest policies.
Tenant’s Right to Withhold Rent
If a landlord fails to make a requested repair, the tenant may withhold or deduct the costs from their rent payments under certain conditions. The landlord may attempt to have the tenant evicted for not paying rent, but Michigan law affords the tenant some protection.
Before the tenant takes any action with their rent payment, they should send a written notice of their intent to withhold or deduct and the condition for the payment’s release to the landlord. If the issue isn’t resolved or the landlord threatens to retaliate with eviction, the tenant may either make rent payments into an escrow account or perform the required repairs and deduct the service and/or material costs from the rent payment.
If the landlord seeks to evict the tenant, the tenant may be able to defend themselves in court with the following defenses:
- The tenant was willing and able to pay the rent but instead properly withheld and escrowed it in response to the landlord’s failure to repair.
- The landlord presumably retaliated within 90 days after the tenant exercised their rights under the lease agreement and Michigan law.
- The landlord breached the terms of the lease agreement and Michigan’s state and/or local laws.
Getting Legal Help from a Michigan Attorney
While many landlord-tenant conflicts can be resolved without going to court, the laws involved in these conflicts are complex. The Michigan Attorney General published a guide for tenants and landlords that contains more information about landlord and tenant rights. If you find you are in need of legal counsel or advice, you should consider hiring a landlord-tenant lawyer to represent your interests.