The only manner in which a Michigan landlord can legally evict a residential tenant is by following the Michigan eviction process, which involves notice before a court action can be initiated.
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Michigan Eviction is Regulated
The Michigan eviction process permits a landlord to evict a tenant for nonpayment of rent, for a material violation of the lease or for a major health hazard. Different Michigan eviction notices apply depending on the nature of the eviction.
Should a landlord attempt to expel a tenant without using the judicial process, he or she can be subject to civil damages under the state’s “Lock-Out law.” Self-help measures mean taking action to evict the tenant without a court order, which includes removing the tenant’s personal possession, denying the tenant access to the property, turning off utilities or threatening the tenant with force if he or she does not leave.
In these situations, the court could order the landlord to pay $200 or 3 times the actual damages incurred by the tenant, whichever is greater. Damages are also imposed for each occurrence.
7-Day Notice to Quit
For nonpayment of rent, the landlord must serve a 7-Day Notice to Quit advising the tenant that he or she has 7 days to pay the overdue rent or vacate, or legal action will begin. A tenant could stop the eviction by tendering the entire amount owed even after the 7-day period has passed. Weekends and legal holidays do not count towards the notice period.
7-Day Notice for Damage or Health Hazard
Michigan law also provides for a 7-Day Eviction Notice if the landlord alleges the tenant has created a substantial health hazard or has done serious damage to the property. Serious damage would be that well beyond what is considered “normal wear and tear.”
If the lease is month-to-month or there is a material breach of the lease, such as by having unauthorized persons living on the property or by creating a nuisance, then the Michigan eviction notice is a 30-Day Eviction Notice. The lease agreement must allow for termination for the specific breach alleged.
Michigan law allows a landlord to give 24-Hour Notice if a formal police report is filed alleging that the tenant has unlawfully manufactured, delivered, possessed with intent to sell or possessed a controlled substance on the premises.
Content and Service of the Notice
All notices must contain the following information:
- Address of the rental property
- Name of the tenant
- Reason for the eviction
- Time for compliance
- Date of the notice
- Signature of the landlord
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A notice can be served personally on the tenant or on a member of the tenant’s household who is of suitable age and who must be advised to deliver the notice to the tenant; or by first class mail to the tenant. If mailed, the notice period begins the day after the notice is mailed, excluding weekends and holidays.
Summons and Complaint for Eviction
Should the tenant fail to comply and does not vacate the property, the landlord must file and serve a Summons and Complaint in Eviction. The Complaint must contain the landlord’s notarized signature and the clerk must have a copy of the lease, if it exists, and a copy of the notice that was served. The Michigan eviction process also permits the landlord to include a cause of action for damages, including rent owed or other damages and costs.
The Summons and Complaint along with copies of the notice and lease are mailed to the tenant. However, the tenant must also be served either personally or by posting the documents in a conspicuous location. If the Complaint is not personally served, the court will only allow the landlord to obtain possession and not money damages. In that case, the landlord will have to file a separate suit for damages.
The court date noted on the Summons is from 4-8 days after the Complaint is filed. The tenant, if he or she has defenses to the eviction or counterclaims, should file a written answer before the court date or may give an oral answer at the initial court appearance.
If the tenant fails to appear a the initial court appearance, indicated on the Summons, the court will declare the tenant in default, award possession of the property to the landlord, and issue an Order of Eviction or Writ of Restitution in 10-days if requested by the landlord.
Otherwise, at the first appearance, the tenant may ask for an adjournment for up to 2 weeks. If a jury trial is desired, the tenant must ask for one at this time or it will be waived. Jury fees will have to deposited by the tenant.
The court will schedule a pretrial. The matter may be settled at or before this hearing. If not, the parties will present their arguments at this time and the court will either hold the trial at this time or schedule a future trial date, where the parties will present witnesses and any documentary evidence to support their positions.
Defenses to Michigan Eviction
A Michigan residential tenant has a number of available defenses, including the following:
- Full rent was tendered or paid. Even a partial payment that was accepted may constitute a waiver of the eviction process by the landlord.
- Retaliatory eviction.
If the eviction began within 90-days of the tenant having complained of a health or safety code violation or tried to exercise some other rights under law, or joined a tenants’ group, there is a presumption of retaliatory eviction.
Breach of warranty of habitability and duty to repair.
If the tenant gave the landlord written notice and a reasonable time to repair a hazardous condition, which the landlord failed to do, then any rent not owed will have to be deposited into an escrow account by order of the court.
A tenant may not be evicted based upon his or her race, sex, religion, creed, national origin, family status or disability.
The tenant or landlord may agree to mediation, which is an attempt to settle the disputed issues before trial with a trained mediator. If the matter is settled, a written agreement will be drawn up for signature by both parties and which is enforceable in court.
Judgment/ Writ of Restitution
Should the landlord prevail, the court will still allow the tenant has 10-days to remain on the property and to pay the full rent and court costs owed within this time. The tenant must appeal the decision within this 10-day period.
If the tenant does not comply or vacate after 10-days, the landlord must request a Writ of Restitution, which is given to the sheriff to serve on the tenant to forcibly remove him or her on the date scheduled.