Michigan landlord-tenant relationships are tightly regulated through Public Act 348 of 1972, which outlines both sides' responsibilities. Landlords must keep properties in a reasonable state of repair and comply with all housing codes. Tenants are expected to pay rent on time and notify landlords promptly of any problems. Failure to comply with these basic provisions can trigger eviction or small claims court proceedings, depending on whether the complaint originates from the landlord or the tenant, respectively.
Michigan law requires landlords to keep all rental properties and common areas fit for tenant use and in reasonable repair during the lease period. The law does not define "reasonable repair," which is often decided by a judge or jury, according to the Michigan legislature's publication, "Landlords and Tenants: A Practical Guide." However, common sense can resolve most issues. For example, a defective water heater is more likely to fall under the standard than peeling wallpaper, the guide says.
Tenants are generally expected to pay rent on time, keep properties in a safe and sanitary condition and notify the landlord immediately of maintenance problems. Landlords must be given a reasonable time period to correct the issue. If nothing happens, tenants may withhold part of their rent, but must notify their landlord by certified letter. Tenants must leave rental properties in good condition, with reasonable wear and tear excepted.
Michigan law allows landlords to collect a security deposit of up to 1.5 months' rent, which they can hold to cover damage costs or unpaid rent and utility bills. The landlord must return the unused portion of that deposit within 30 days of a tenant moving out. Generally speaking, there is no obligation for using the security deposit to cover the last month's rent.
Small Claims Procedures
Small claims court is the main venue for pursuing claims against businesses. Michigan residents may sue for up to $1,750 in local district courts. No attorney is needed. A judge simply listens to both sides and makes a decision. Total filing fees vary, depending on the need for additional services. If the judgment is ignored, the court may impose a writ of garnishment allowing seizure of wages and bank accounts to satisfy the claim.
The Eviction Process
Landlords may only evict by court order and cannot change locks or cut off utilities to accomplish their goal. Evictions can proceed for contract breaches, creation of health hazards, property damage or failure to pay rent. Tenants can claim retaliation as a defense if they can either show failure on the part of the landlord to make necessary repairs, or that the eviction process was initiated after the tenant took actions to enforce legal rights.