Verbal lease contracts are valid and enforceable in Michigan just like the written ones. However, to make a term that is more than 1-year binding, the lease has to be written. Whenever there is a valid lease, Michigan Law (Landlord and Tenant Relationships Act 348 of 1972) tenants automatically acquire certain rights like the right to the return of their security deposit and accounting of any deductions made on it.
Landlords also have rights that arise the moment the lease is created. The right to prompt rent payments and to evict the tenant for failure to pay the rent are a few of them
Note that these rights will arise even if the lease does not include them specifically and, in most cases, even if the lease says to the contrary.
Additionally, check with your local Michigan county and municipality for additional rules and protections for both landlords and tenants.
Warranty of Habitability in Michigan
Landlord Responsibilities. As in most other states, Michigan maintains statewide livability standards for rentable housing units. These standards are codified in the state’s warranty of habitability, which all landlords for all single- and multi-family dwellings must abide by. Specifically, these landlords are required to provide and maintain the following amenities throughout a tenant’s lease:
- Roofs, walls, and floors that are waterproof and stable
- Adequate supply of hot and cold water
- In-unit heating
- Operational plumbing
- Safe electric wiring, outlets, and lighting
- A trash can for garbage disposal services (multi-family dwellings only)
- Safely secured railings and staircases
- Safe and accessible fire exits
- Smoke detectors (multi-family dwellings only)
Michigan tenants can request repairs to any of the amenities listed above, so long as they did not become damaged as a result of their actions or negligence. In non-emergency situations, landlords in Michigan are only required to respond to these requests in a “reasonable” amount of time (which can be defined in an applicable lease agreement). However, when an emergency repair is requested, a Michigan landlord must respond within 24 hours.
Tenant Responsibilities. Tenants in Michigan must maintain their rented space in habitable condition as well. This means that their unit’s interior must be maintained in a condition such that harm is not likely to come to other tenants or the physical structure in general. Landlords in Michigan may ask their tenant to clean up as necessary and may issue eviction notices (with the proper amount of advance notice) if the tenant in question fails to comply in a timely manner.
Michigan tenants also maintain the right to take several forms of “alternative action” against their landlord if they feel that their landlord has inadequately addressed their repair requests. For example, these tenants may withhold rent payments and instead deposit said payments into an escrow account if a regulatory authority finds that their landlord has failed to meet one or more of their habitability responsibilities. Tenants in this situation also have the right to repair an issue on their own and deduct the cost as a result of state legal precedent.
Evictions in Michigan
Michigan landlords are allowed to carry out evictions based on one or more of the following legally-established justifications:
- Nonpayment of rent – Many landlords provide a grace period in which a tenant may pay rent. After this period elapses, a Michigan landlord may immediately require their tenant to pay up by serving them a 7-Day Demand for Nonpayment of Rent. This notice can be served digitally, through the mail, in person, or as an attachment to the tenant’s door. If the late rent payments are not provided in full by the end of the notice period, that tenant may be served with a Summons and Eviction Complaint through a local court.
- Violation of lease terms – If a Michigan landlord documents one or more lease term violations on their tenant’s part, they may immediately issue a 30-Day Notice to Quit. This notice must provide terms through which the tenant may remedy their actions or behavior. If those terms are not met by the end of the 30th day after the notice is served, the landlord may seek formal eviction by filing a Summons and Eviction Complaint.
- Illegal Acts – If a Michigan landlord discovers that their tenant is engaged in an illegal activity, they may immediately initiate the formal eviction proves by serving a 24-Hour Notice to Quit. This kind of immediate eviction can be served in reaction to a wide variety of legally prohibited activities, including (but not limited) to the production, possession, delivery, or use of illegal drugs.
Evictions without a lease. Under Michigan law, tenants who rent from a landlord without entering into a lease agreement are considered “at-will” with regards to the permanence of their tenancy. Even so, these tenants are entitled to 30 days of advance notice when their landlord intends for them to move out. Tenants who rent without a lease who are still renting on a fixed-term basis cannot be evicted before the end of that term, however.
Illegal Evictions. Michigan’s laws dictate that landlords operating in the state may not evict a tenant on discriminatory grounds. This includes using any of the state’s protected civil rights class characteristics as justification for initiating an eviction. Michigan landlords also cannot evict a tenant as a form of retaliation for exercising their rights to report health code violations or to join a tenant union.
Security Deposits in Michigan
Michigan’s current landlord-tenant laws place the following regulations and restrictions on the collection, maintenance, and redistribution of security deposits collected from tenants:
- Standard Limit / Maximum Amount – Currently, landlords in Michigan are only allowed to charge security deposits that are valued at up to 1.5 times the value of a single month’s rent. This does not include any ancillary deposits which may be required in order to provide additional services at the commencement of tenancy, such as a pet deposit to allow the presence of a pet.
- Interest and Maintenance – Michigan landlords are required to maintain any and all collected deposits in an account at a “regulated financial institution.” This account need not incur interest, and any interest it does incur defaults to the landlord. Landlords may also place a tenant’s deposits in a surety bond, for the tenant’s benefit.
- Time Limit for Return – Within 30 days of tenancy termination, a Michigan landlord must return any and all remaining security deposit funds as well as an itemized list explaining any necessary deductions. Tenants are then required to respond within 7 days of their receipt of the list if they have any objections to the listed deductions.
- Penalty if Not Returned on Time – Michigan landlords who fail to return all or part of a tenant’s security deposit or who fail to provide an itemized list of deductions may be forced to forfeit all claims to the deposit, in whole or in part. They may then be forced to repay the value of the original deposit as a penalty.
- Allowable Deductions – Landlords in Michigan are only allowed to make deductions from a tenant’s security deposit for three primary reasons. This includes covering the cost of any rent or utility bills not yet paid at the conclusion of tenancy. Michigan landlords may also use a security deposit’s funds to offset the cost of repairs necessitated by damages that exceed regular wear and tear.
Lease Termination in Michigan
Notice Requirements. In Michigan, tenants who maintain a fixed end-date lease need not provide advance notice of their intent to move out as their lease comes to an end. However, the following types of periodic tenants without fixed end-date leases must provide written notice of their intent to move out:
- Week-to-Week lease – 7 days of advance notice
- Month-to-Month lease – 30 days of advance notice
- Yearly lease without an end date – 1 year of advance notice
Legally Breaking a Lease Early. Under regular circumstances, Michigan tenants should be able to terminate their lease early by invoking an early termination clause in their lease agreement. However, when this option is not available (often due to an absence of such a clause), Michigan tenants may invoke one of these legally-protected justifications for breaking a lease early:
- Active Military Duty – Federal law allows service members who are relocating due to deployment or permanent change of station to terminate their lease as early as 30 days from the next rent period.
- Unit is Uninhabitable – All Michigan landlords maintain the responsibility of ensuring the essential habitability of their units, even when they are occupied by one or more tenants. As such, any failure to provide an essential amenity or a failure to provide timely repairs for the same may cause a unit to fall into a statutorily uninhabitable condition. This condition can be used as justification for any affected tenant to immediately terminate their lease.
- Landlord Harassment – Michigan does not maintain any standards regarding when a landlord must provide notice before entering an occupied unit. Still, though, these landlords are required to follow any entry standards set forth in their lease agreements. Landlords who fail to do so may allow their tenants to push for immediate lease termination on the grounds of landlord harassment.
- Domestic Violence – Michigan state law allows domestic violence victims to provide proof of their status and then request early termination from their lease without further conditions. When this termination is granted and becomes active, that former tenant is no longer obliged to pay rent or buy out the remainder of their lease.
- Senior Citizens and Health Issues – Michigan state law allows individuals who have rented from the same landlord for 13 months to terminate their lease early (with 60 days of advance notice) if they are moving to a senior care or medical care facility. These same provisions for early termination may be invoked if the tenant in question is no longer able to live safely on their own.
Despite successfully terminating a lease early, some Michigan tenants may still be required to buy out the remainder of their lease due to a pre-existing lease term or policy. This obligation may be terminated, but only if a tenant is found to take over the lease. Michigan landlords are not legally obligated to take any steps to facilitate this kind of re-renting, though, so the primary responsibility on this front falls to the former tenant in question.
Rent Increases & Related Fees in Michigan
Rent control & increases. Michigan’s current zoning and housing laws preempt any attempts by local jurisdictions to institute any form of rent control or rent stabilization. As such, landlords in Michigan remain free to raise rent prices as much and as often as they see fit. These same landlords do not need to justify why they are raising rent to their tenants, nor do they need to provide any advance notice before a rent increase is set to take effect.
Rent related fees. Michigan landlords are fairly free to charge any fees they see necessary for the purposes of maintaining a prosperous business. This includes rent-related fees, such as those charged to tenants who pay rent rate. This type of fee is not limited in value by the state but returned check fees are limited to $25 (if the fee is paid within 7 days) or $30 (if the fee is paid within 30 days).
Housing Discrimination in Michigan
Federal Protections. The Fair Housing Act protects tenants from being discriminated against due to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. However, the law does not apply to all housing, such as owner-occupied homes with 4 or fewer units or housing operated by religious organizations.
State Protections. Michigan provides some supplementary protections to individuals seeking to engage with the state’s housing market. Specifically, the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act prohibits public and private landlords from discriminating against potential tenants on the basis of age or marital status.
Discriminatory Acts & Penalties. The Michigan Department of Civil Rights handles the administration of all civil rights legislation in this state, including those pertaining to discrimination in housing. Though this Department may pursue landlords who commit any number of discriminatory practices, these following examples are among the most common that tenants should look out for:
- Providing different opportunities to view or inquire about specific units
- Misrepresenting the availability of a particular unit
- Providing differing financial services between equally qualified tenants
- Publishing advertisements that imply a preference for certain tenants
The Michigan Department of Civil Rights accepts formal complaints filed by tenants who feel that they have been discriminated against. This process can be initiated online, after which point an investigation will be opened to learn about the validity of the claim. The findings from this type of investigation may then be used as the basis of a civil lawsuit, meaning that individual penalties will differ from case to case.
Additional Landlord Tenant Regulations in Michigan
There’s even more important Michigan landlord-tenant regulations to learn about. These are just a few of the most important that you’ll want to keep in mind when entering into a leasing relationship in Michigan.
Landlord Entry. Michigan landlords may temporarily enter their tenant’s unit under certain conditions, including to show the space or to perform a requested repair. However, Michigan generally lacks statutory limitations or guidance regarding how much notice must be provided in each situation. As such, it is imperative that Michigan landlords and tenants hash out their own entry policy prior to signing onto a lease agreement. Otherwise, landlords are given the ability to enter at any time without advance notice (including in emergency situations) by default.
Small Claims Court. Michigan’s judicial system allows landlords and tenants to settle minor disputes by utilizing its small claims courts. However, these courts only accept cases that are less than 6 years old (per the statute of limitations) and are valued at less than $5,000. Evictions are not handled in this venue, though; these are instead handled by the state’s district courts.
Mandatory Disclosures. Michigan landlords are only required to make the following informational disclosures to their tenants (as part of a lease agreement or a separate agreement) before their tenancy can become active and valid:
- Lead-based paint. For houses built prior to 1978, federal law requires landlords to provide tenants with information about lead based paint hazards. Read more.
- Owners, Managers, and Agents. Michigan landlords are required to disclose the names and addresses for any and all managers with authority over a tenant’s property. This may include the landlord themself, as well as any agent certified to act on either parties’ behalf.
- Truth in Renting Act. All legally-binding lease agreements in Michigan must include state-mandated language relating to the Truth in Renting Act. Specific language and application information can be found here.
Changing the Locks. Michigan landlords are expressly forbidden from unilaterally changing their tenant’s locks. Doing so may cause a lockout, which is an illegal form of retaliation in Michigan. Tenants in Michigan may be able to change their own locks, though, due to a lack of statutory prohibition on such actions.
Michigan Landlord-Tenant Resources
Each of these digital resources will help you understand Michigan’s landlord-tenant laws with a greater depth of knowledge:
A Practical Guide for Landlords & Tenants – Published by the Michigan Legislature, this guide is among the most complete when it comes to effectively explaining the legal obligations of both landlords and tenants within the state. Much of the guide is formatted around specific questions, so readers can easily find answers to their inquiries based upon current legal statutes and precedent.
Your Guide to Fair Housing – This state-published brochure is a quick an easy way to learn about what Michigan considers to be housing discrimination. This brochure also includes links and contact information to make it easy for a reader to learn more about reporting a complaint on their own.
Rental Requirements – The City of Detroit – Though Detroit’s landlord-tenant laws are wholly similar to Michigan’s overall, the city does impose some additional property ordinance’s which all landlords operating within the city must abide by. This page also links to useful resources on combating urban blight.