Rental properties involve two parties: the landlord and the tenant(s). Both parties must follow specific rules and guidelines and sign documents stating their commitment to following those rules. However, sometimes things go wrong, and one party fails to keep their end of the deal. Below is a comprehensive legal guide for landlords and tenants in Michigan.
- Landlord: The person who transfers part of their property to the tenant. They have the power to limit the tenant's use of the property or require a lease for occupancy.
- Tenant: A person or entity who occupies real estate or possesses a portion of the estate that belongs to the landlord.
- Real Property: The dominion or right of use over land or objects. In most cases, real property is land and everything on it.
- Habitability: The measure of livability, structural integrity, and cleanliness of the property
- Disclosure: The sharing of evidentiary information
- Lease: A contract between two parties where one owns the property and allows the other party to use that property for a limited period in exchange for payment. Only the original owner retains ownership of the property.
- Eviction: The legal process of removing a tenant from a rental property
- Retaliation: Retaliation or a retaliatory eviction is the removal of a tenant by the landlord motivated by the tenant's exercise of their rights by threatening or carrying out an eviction.
- Rent Withholding: Tenants may refuse to pay rent or reduce their rent payment in response to the landlord's illegal behavior or neglect.
- The Fair Housing Act: A federal law prohibits discrimination by landlords and real estate companies against tenants based on race, sex, religion, national origin, familial status, or disability.
Tenancy in Michigan
In general, there are certain expectations landlords must meet to operate legally. One of the most important requirements is disclosure. Disclosures should include information about the house, apartment unit/building, or property that may impact habitability.
For example, most apartment buildings provide a move-in checklist that includes the condition of the unit that you can use to find any damage from the previous tenant, so you don't get fined later on.
Most state-required disclosures must include:
- Payment details; the security deposit and nonrefundable fees
- Existing damages
- The tenant's rights to be present during the move-out inspection of the rental property
- Details about the local sex offender registry
- Rent control rules
- Utility arrangements
- Environmental health hazards
- The smoking policy
- A breakdown of housing code violations
- Rights of domestic abuse victims
Rent control and other municipal rules vary between localities, so it's essential to research the area and ask questions about local tenancy laws.
Failure to provide sufficient disclosures could mean that tenants have the power to sue the landlord for damages they suffered because of the nondisclosure. Landlords could also face fines or revocation of their rental license. Nondisclosure does not mean it is acceptable to break the lease or withhold rent.
Landlords reserve the right to evict a tenant if they have broken the lease failed to pay rent, or otherwise violated the lease. In Michigan, a landlord can evict a tenant for willfully or negligently causing serious damage or creating a health hazard that poses a risk to staff and other tenants. If the landlord decides to evict the tenant, they must give them seven days' notice before filing for eviction.
A landlord cannot evict out of discrimination or without cause. They must provide evidence that validates the need to evict. For example, the tenant never paid rent or created a health hazard by keeping raw garbage on their balcony for months.
When signing a lease for an apartment, you must provide a safety deposit. The deposit covers minimal damage or wear and tear that may occur during your tenancy. If the damage is extensive and requires expensive repairs, you may not get your safety deposit back. This is entirely legal and not a violation of the lease.
As a tenant, your responsibility is to abide by property rules and abide by living standards. In other words, keep things clean, don't make too much noise, and pay your rent on time. Failure to follow the rules could jeopardize your living situation.
As a tenant, you have the right to pursue legal action if the landlord acts in bad faith or becomes involved in illegal acts. You also have the right to pursue legal action if the landlord discriminates against you through eviction or other means.
As a landlord, you have a responsibility to provide fair housing and maintain it to meet habitability standards. Refusing to accept a tenant because of their race or sex is illegal and can result in legal penalties. Likewise, if a tenant fails to uphold the terms and conditions of the lease, you may have cause to pursue eviction.
Landlords and tenants have rights and responsibilities. Both must abide by federal, state, and municipal laws in addition to meeting the requirements of the lease. Noncompliance is punishable, and either party may take legal action if the lease is broken or conditions are not met.
Protect Your Rights
Whether you are a landlord or a tenant, you have rights that should be respected during the course of a rental agreement. If one party violates the rules or breaks the lease unlawfully, you may have a case. If you choose to pursue legal action, entrust your case to White Law, PLLC. Our legal team is experienced and knowledgeable regarding landlord-tenant laws and regulations.
Contact White Law, PLLC, for more information.