Michigan Security Deposit Returns and Deductions

Michigan Security Deposit Returns and Deductions

Last Updated: January 25, 2024 by Phil Ahn

Quick Facts Answer
Acceptable Deductions Unpaid rent and utilities

Costs of damage

Return Deadline 30 days
Itemized Deductions Required
Penalty for Late Return 2x Amount Wrongfully Withheld

For laws on security deposit collections and holdings in Michigan, click here.

Security Deposit Deductions in Michigan

In Michigan, the following can be deducted from security deposits:

  • Unpaid rent and utilities
  • Costs of damage excluding normal wear and tear

Most states, such as Michigan, do not have a legal limit on how much a landlord can charge for damages except that the charges must be reasonable.

If the cost of the damages exceeds the amount of the security deposit, landlords are entitled to seek additional damages from the former tenant.

What is Considered Normal Wear and Tear in Michigan?

“Normal wear and tear” is deterioration that occurs naturally as a result of the tenant using the property as it was designed to be used.

Examples include:

  • Gently worn carpets
  • Lightly scratched glass
  • Faded paint and flooring
  • Lightly dirtied grout
  • Loose door handles
  • Stained bath fixtures

“Damage” is described by Michigan law as “the direct result of conduct not reasonably expected in the normal course of habitation of a dwelling.”

Examples include:

  • Heavily stained, burned, or torn carpets
  • Broken tiles or windows
  • Holes in the wall
  • Missing fixtures

Can the Landlord Charge for Replacing the Carpet in Michigan?

Landlords in Michigan can charge for replacing the carpet if it is damaged beyond normal wear and tear.


A carpet that is slightly discolored or gently worn will be considered normal wear and tear. A carpet with visible stains, major discoloration and rips will be considered excessively damaged.

Can the Landlord Charge for Nail Holes in Michigan?

Landlords can charge a tenant for nail holes if they damage the walls in a way that is not a result of ordinary enjoyment of the rental unit.

Tenants have the right to use the walls within their unit in a reasonable way. This includes inserting small nails or thumbtacks to hang posters or pictures.

However, large holes from drilling, multiple nail holes, large nail holes, and holes made for hanging heavier things may be considered damage and thus, chargeable to the tenant.

Can the Landlord Charge a Cleaning Fee in Michigan?

Landlords in Michigan cannot make deductions from the security deposit for cleaning unless the tenant causes damage that requires cleaning such as wine stains on the carpet. See Smolen v. Dahlmann Apartments, Ltd.

The law does not prevent landlords from charging a non-refundable cleaning fee separate from the security deposit.

Can the Landlord Charge for Painting in Michigan?

In Michigan, landlords can charge for painting, except for normal wear and tear. For example, if the tenant:

  • Causes damage beyond normal wear and tear
  • Repaints the wall but is not permitted to do so under the lease agreement
  • Repaints the wall in an unprofessional way

Normal wear includes:

  • Minor scrapes from daily use
  • Fading due to sunlight
  • Minor cracks in the original paint

Landlords can charge for repainting if the damage is not the result of normal use. This includes stains, large or deep scratches, and water damage.

Security Deposit Returns in Michigan

Landlords must return a security deposit as a check or money order by regular mail to the tenant’s forwarding address with an itemized list of damages (if there are deductions) no later than 30 days after the tenant vacates the rental unit.

How Long Do Landlords Have to Return Security Deposits in Michigan?

Michigan landlords have 30 days after the tenant vacates the rental unit to return the security deposit.

Do Landlords Owe Interest on Security Deposits in Michigan?

Michigan law does not require landlords to provide interest on held security deposits. If the security deposit is placed in an account that gains interest, it belongs to the landlord unless stated otherwise in the lease agreement.

How Do Landlords Give Notice in Michigan?

If deductions are to be made from the security deposit, an itemized list of damages must be sent by mail to the tenant’s forwarding address. The tenant must send a written response by mail within seven days of receiving the itemized list, indicating whether they agree or disagree with the charges.

If the tenant disagrees with the charges, the landlord must either:

  • Return the disputed portion of the security deposit to the tenant
  • File an action in court for a money judgment within 45 days after the tenant vacates the rental unit

However, the landlord is not required to file a court case to retain a portion of the security deposit if:

  • The tenant failed to provide a forwarding address (unless the landlord failed to notify them of this responsibility)
  • The tenant failed to respond to the notice of damages within seven days
  • The tenant agreed in writing to the charges
  • The amount withheld is used entirely to cover unpaid rent

The landlord’s written notice must include the following language word-for-word in 12-point boldface type at least 4 points larger than the body of the notice.

Can a Security Deposit Be Used for Last Month’s Rent in Michigan?

Michigan law does not forbid the security deposit from being used for any outstanding rent. If a tenant demands the use of the security deposit instead of paying rent, the landlord can begin the eviction process during the last month of the tenancy.

Security Deposit Disputes in Michigan

If landlords do not return the security deposit or provide an itemized statement of damages (if any) within the required time period, tenants can file a claim in court for up to twice the amount of the deposit wrongfully withheld.

Tenants can also take legal action against a landlord for failure to return any disputed portion of the security deposit if a court case for a money judgment is not filed in time.

How Can Tenants File a Dispute for a Security Deposit in Michigan?

If a landlord fails to perform their obligations regarding a security deposit, the tenant can file a dispute in the small claims division of District Court if the amount of damages is less than $6,500. If the amount is greater, the tenant must file a civil case in the District Court.

A small claims case regarding the return of a security deposit must be filed within six years. Cases are filed in the county where the defendant lives or does business.

An attorney is not required or allowed, except for attorneys representing themselves. Filing fees are $30 to $70, depending on the amount sought in damages.