Find out when a tenant can legally break a lease in Michigan, when they can’t, and whether or not a landlord is required by Michigan law to make reasonable effort to rerent.
Before we address the legally acceptable reasons to get out a lease early without penalty, it’s important to know the notice requirements in Michigan to end a tenancy in general.
Lease Termination Notice Requirements in Michigan
In Michigan, a tenant is not required to provide notice for fixed end date leases, the lease expires on the last day of the lease. Michigan tenants have to provide written notice for the following lease terms:
- Notice to terminate a week-to-week lease. Seven-day notice (§§ 554.134(1))
- Notice to terminate a month-to-month lease. 30-day notice (§§ 554.134(1)
- Notice to terminate a yearly lease with no end date. One-year notice (§§ 554.134(3))
Conditions for Legally Breaking a Lease in Michigan
There are a handful of scenarios where a tenant can legally break a lease in Michigan without penalty. We’ll go through each of them below.
1. Early Termination Clause
Some modern lease agreements may provide specific terms that would allow a tenant to terminate a lease early in exchange for a penalty fee. Read over the lease and look for language that outlines agreed-upon terms for ending the lease before the end of the fixed period, such as the amount of the fee (i.e. equal to 2 month’s rent) and the amount of notice required (i.e. 30 days).
If a lease agreement contains an early termination clause, before executing it and paying the penalty fee, read further to learn about other conditions that, if met, would not require a penalty fee to be paid.
2. Active Military Duty
The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) helps protect active service members who are relocated due to deployment or permanent change of station. The protection begins on the date of entering duty and ends between 30-90 days after the date of discharge.
To break a lease in accordance with the relief act, a tenant must:
- Prove the lease was signed before entering active duty
- Prove they will remain on active duty for at least the next 90 days
- Deliver a written notice to the landlord (example, page 2), accompanied by a copy of the orders to deploy / PCS or a letter from their commanding officer stating their pending deployment.
With that said, the lease does not terminate immediately. Once the notice is delivered, the earliest the lease can terminate is 30 days after the beginning of the next rent period. So for example, if the notice was delivered on the 23rd of March, and the rent is due on the 1st of each month, the earliest the lease can terminate is May 1st (meaning, rent is still due for the month of April).
In Michigan, the term “servicemember” means a member of the armed forces, commissioned corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), commissioned corps of the Public Health Service, and the activated National Guard.
3. Unit is Uninhabitable
Every state has specific health and safety codes that provide minimum standards for rental units, and Michigan is no different.
If those standards are not met, proper notice is given by the tenant and the repairs/fixes are still not made within the allowable time period, a tenant would be considered “constructively evicted”. As a result, the obligations of the tenant under the lease are no longer required, given that the landlord has not met their own responsibilities under Michigan landlord-tenant law.
According to Michigan state law (§6021), landlord duties to provide habitable premises include the following:
- Habitable unit. In every residential lease, the landlord promises that the rental and all common areas are fit for the intended use.
- Repairs and compliance. Landlord promises to keep the premises in reasonable repair and to comply with applicable health and safety laws, except when the disrepair or code violation has been caused by the tenant’s willful or irresponsible conduct or lack of conduct. (§§ 554.139)
If your landlord does not provide habitable housing under local and state housing codes, a court would probably conclude that you have been “constructively evicted.” Michigan law (Rome v. Walker, 196 N.W.2d 850 (1972), Mich. Comp. Laws § 554.139, and -125.530) sets specific requirements for the procedures you must follow before moving out because of a major repair problem.
4. Landlord Harassment or Privacy Violation
If the action is serious enough, harassment by a landlord or their violation of a tenant’s privacy may be enough justification for relieving a tenant of their obligations of the lease.
- Landlord entry. In Michigan, there is no statute for the notice required from a landlord before entry.
- Changing the locks. In some states, if the locks are changed by a landlord without the tenant’s permission or without the protection of specific language in the lease agreement, this can qualify as being “constructively evicted”, and could relieve the tenant of their duties of the lease. In Michigan, landlords are not allowed to lockout tenants. (§§ 600.2918(2)(c & d))
5. Domestic Violence
Many states protect tenants who are victims of domestic violence. If you are confronting a domestic violence situation (this can also be stalking), and want to move, check with local law enforcement regarding special state laws that may apply in domestic violence situations.
Some statutes the state of Michigan provides for victims of domestic violence include:
- Proof of Status. A tenant who reasonably fears for their safety or that of the tenant’s child due to domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking, may be released from rent payment obligations after providing the landlord with a written statement that must include one of several written documents. These documents may include a protective order, probation or other release order in effect at the time of the statement that restricts the individual from contact with the tenant or child of the tenant, or a written police report that has resulted in the filing of charges. (§§ 554.601b)
- Early Termination Rights. Tenant is released from an obligation to pay rent no later than the first day of the second month that rent is due after the notice is given, and only after the tenant has vacated the premises. (§§ 554.601b)
- Notification of Rights. The landlord must notify tenants that they may have statutory rights to seek a release of rental obligations if they have a reasonable fear of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. If notification is not included in the lease agreement itself, it must be posted visibly in the rental management office or delivered in writing when the lease is signed. (§§ 554.601b)
6. Senior Citizen or Health Issue
If you, a dependent living with you, or your co-tenant, face a serious physical or mental health issue you may qualify for early lease termination without obligation to pay the entire balance of rent due. Some states offer permitted, health-related lease-breaking arrangements that are age-restricted. Most states require a note from a locally licensed physician and at least 30 days’ notice. Michigan provides the following:
- Under Michigan law (§ 554.601a), tenants who have occupied their rental unit for more than 13 months may terminate the lease with a 60-day written notice if the tenant has become eligible for subsidized senior citizen housing, or because the tenant is incapable of living independently due to age or infirmity.
Examples of Insufficient Justification for Lease Breaking in Michigan
The below reasons are generally not enough justification (on their own) to release a tenant from the obligation of their lease term, and as a result, provide no legal protection against penalties for not honoring the lease.
- They bought a house
- They are relocating for a new job or school
- They are upgrading or downgrading
- They are moving in with a partner
- They are moving to be closer to family
Since state landlord-tenant laws vary, the following reasons may legally permit a tenant to terminate their tenancy early in other states but are not applicable in Michigan:
- Landlord harassment or privacy violation. If the action is serious enough, harassment by a landlord or their violation of a tenant’s privacy may be enough justification for relieving a tenant of their obligations of the lease.
- Illegal contract. In some scenarios, a lease agreement may be deemed illegal and as a result, is generally not enforceable.
- Mandatory disclosures. Many state and local laws require landlords to disclose documentation, policies, or specific unit information to tenants prior to moving in. Disclosure laws typically impose heavy fines or legal ramifications to landlords if they are not followed. In rare cases, they contain penalty provisions that may allow you to break your lease.
Breaking a lease for any of the above reasons or in any conditions not previously outlined can have tangible consequences for tenants.
Michigan state law does not require landlords to take reasonable steps to rerent their unit when a tenant breaks their lease.
Tenant’s Right to Sublet in Michigan
If your lease does not prohibit subletting, then you are in the clear to do so. However, your lease might contain a clause requiring you to obtain your landlord’s approval prior to subletting. To get landlord approval you will want to send them a letter through certified mail, with a return receipt requested, outlining the terms of the sublet lease agreement. Certified mail is the only proof of delivery that most courts will accept in case you need proof that you notified your landlord.
The letter should include the following information:
- Sublet term
- Name of proposed subtenant or assignee
- The permanent home address of proposed subtenant or assignee
- Your reason for subletting or leaving permanently
- Your new address during the sublease if applicable
- The written consent of any co‑tenant
- A copy of the proposed sublease
If your landlord rejects your request, know that they can only refuse the proposed subtenant based on legitimate factors. The law says your landlord cannot unreasonably refuse your sublet.