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A Property Owner’s Guide to the Michigan Eviction Process

Call us biased, but we think rental properties are one of the best investments a person can make. However, sometimes, the perks of property investment get usurped by the challenges. And eviction may just sit at the top of the nightmare list. Which is why we’re digging into the details with this property owner’s guide to the Michigan eviction process:

Whether you’re learning about eviction rules in Michigan out of a current need or a desire for future preparation, we know this isn’t the most fun part of investing. When tenants aren’t living up to their end of the bargain—when they fail to pay rent, cause damage to the property, or breach your agreement in some other way—it’s often property owners who get stuck cleaning up the mess. 

And that’s not pleasant. Or easy. But eviction rules in Michigan are fairly straightforward, and there are processes in place for enforcing your lease agreement. The key lies in understanding those processes and creating a system for using them well, when needed.

In this landlord’s guide to the Michigan eviction process, we’ll discuss

A few quick disclaimers:

The information in this guide is made for Michigan-based landlords, and this is not formal legal advice, but rather insights from experienced property-management experts

Eviction law varies by state, so if you own property outside of Michigan, look into the local laws and procedures in your jurisdiction. 

Of course, before you begin the eviction process (in Michigan or elsewhere), we recommend that you consult an attorney in order to ensure that you are acting within the law. In fact, you should always seek legal counsel if you require information on the eviction rules in Michigan or any other legal matter. 

Partnering with an experienced property-management company is also an excellent way to help (a) greatly reduce evictions in the first place and (b) minimize errors and timelines when an eviction becomes necessary.

When Is It Legal to Evict Someone?

There is often a blurred line between a difficult tenant and one who should be evicted. What’s more, there are human beings involved in any eviction process, which means that even in the best circumstances, the experience is likely to be emotionally draining for both you and the tenant. 

Because of this, it’s important that any eviction is preceded by well-documented breach of contract based on legal grounds.

There are 4 general reasons for eviction in Michigan. Simply put, if your tenant is doing one of these things, and you have documented proof, then you have a legal right to evict them. On the other hand, if your tenant has not violated one of the following grounds for eviction, then you likely do not have a right to proceed.

The legal grounds for an eviction in Michigan are as follows:

1. Non-Payment of Rent

If your tenants aren’t paying their rent, you can (and should) legally evict them.

2. Violation of Lease Terms or Rental Agreement

Your rental agreement should have clearly defined lease terms. 

For example, if the rental agreement says “no pets” and the tenant gets a dog, that would be a violation of lease terms. Or, if the rental agreement says only 2 occupants can live at the property and you find out they have invited a second family to move in, that would violate your rental agreement.

3. Illegal Activities on the Premises

If the tenant is doing something illegal—such as running a counterfeiting business or doing illegal drugs on the premises—you have grounds to evict them.

4. Holding Over after Lease Termination

If the lease ends on July 31st and on August 1st, you discover that the tenants have not moved out, they are holding over, and you have grounds for eviction (barring any holdover clauses).

As a landlord, it is your responsibility to document these violations, so you are prepared should you be required to present proof in court.

For example, if a tenant only pays half of his rent, make sure to clearly reflect that on your ledger, with dates and amounts paid alongside what is owed at any point in time. Likewise, if the police are called to the residence and find illegal drug activity, make sure to get a copy of the police report.

If your tenant hasn’t violated any of the above, you likely don’t have legal standing to evict them, no matter how much you might want them out. This doesn’t mean that they can live in your rental property in perpetuity; you don’t have to renew once the lease ends. But it may mean that you don’t have grounds to start eviction proceedings at this time.

Pre-Eviction Considerations

When properly vetted, the vast majority of tenants comply with the terms of their leases, pay their rent on time, and don’t participate in illegal activity on the premises. So evictions are, thankfully, the exception rather than the rule. 

Still, at Epic Property Management, we start thinking about potential evictions at lease signing. For this reason, we do in-person lease signings with each new tenant—something that has become rare in the industry. This allows us to clearly state the rules, explain consequences if they are not followed, and clear up any confusion before it begins.

This isn’t doom-and-gloom thinking; it’s a way to ensure that our bases are covered should something happen. Our goal is to make it crystal clear that certain things are absolutely not acceptable.

Before a tenant signs a lease, they know when rent is due, when it is late, and what will happen should it be late. We also make sure they are aware that habitually late payers will be evicted. 

It’s important that your terms are clearly stated up front, because evictions take time and resources. Eviction proceedings often take several months and, post pandemic, can require as many as 4 – 5 court appearances. Additionally, a Michigan eviction costs both the landlord and the tenant a lot of money. The law limits the amount that a property owner can recuperate for legal and attorney fees, often leaving landlords short hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars after an eviction.

In light of this, it’s better for all players involved to know what to expect from the start, minimizing the risk of an eviction occurring in the future. By working together to ensure that the lease terms are followed, both parties can save time, money, and a whole lot of stress.

How to Communicate With Tenants

Often, one of the most challenging aspects of the eviction process is communicating with the tenant. When communication breaks down, the process can get more difficult.

It is not uncommon for a tenant to stop responding when they are presented with court paperwork, the possibility of losing their home, or the embarrassment associated with being evicted.

Nonetheless, it is important that you continue to keep open, clear lines of communication with the tenants and document all conversations and interactions, so that when you go to court, you have a clear record of everything that has been said, and of the communication effort on your end.

Most property management software allows for the tracking of time-stamped notes for tenant interaction. We highly recommend using this feature, or engaging the services of a professional property management company that will do so.

Here is how communication with your tenants should go:

1. Establish Open Communication with the Tenant

The most common reason for eviction is non payment of rent. However, whatever the cause, it is important that you remind the tenant of the consequences per the terms of the lease, and give them an opportunity to ask any questions.

2. Attempt Resolution

As we’ve said, avoiding an eviction is always the best-case scenario. If you can establish communication with the tenant and help them understand that should the issue not be cleared up, they will be going to court for eviction, there is a better chance you can alleviate the issue before it escalates.

For example, if they are late on their rent but can come up with payment before the expiration of the 7-day notice you sent (more on that below), they may be able to get out of the situation with only late fees. If they broke the terms of the lease by having a pet, they could rehome that pet. 

3. Follow All Legal Notice Requirements

There are clearly defined requirements for notices leading to eviction. These include documents like 

  • A Demand for Possession or Notice to Quit
  • Complaint
  • Judgment
  • Writ

While these documents can vary depending on lease violation and terms, it’s important that you follow Michigan law as you draft and deliver these documents. An incorrectly drafted or delivered document will likely be thrown out in court, and you will have to start proceedings over from the beginning. 

The first document sent is the Demand for Possession (non payment of rent) or the Notice to Quit (expiration of lease or violation of lease terms). The Demand for Possession starts a 7-day clock, and the Notice to Quit starts a 30-day clock. 

Once that timeline has expired, the next step is to file the complaint with the local court.

While you can certainly learn the process yourself, you will likely need to work with a licensed Michigan attorney once you get to the court phase of the eviction process. (This is required if your property is held in an LLC.) However, partnering with an expert property-management firm can also help you navigate the process from the beginning.

The Court Process

Hopefully, the issue will be resolved before it gets to this stage, but if not, the next step involves going to court. Once the Complaint is filed, the tenant will be served and the hearing process will begin.

During that hearing, the court will look at the facts of the case. This is where you can show the documented lease violations or non-payment of rent, to demonstrate your reason for the eviction. The court will also hear any potential defenses that the tenant may raise, giving them an opportunity to tell their side of the story and share any documentation that they may have.

Finally, once both sides have shared, the court will make a decision and, should you prevail, issue a Judgment. 

The Judgement will give the tenant a set amount of time to cure the issue or vacate the property (typically 10 days). If they do not do either of those, you will be able to request a Writ of Eviction from the Court. The Writ is the final step of the eviction process and is the document that allows the court officer to come to the property and physically remove the tenant and their belongings, returning possession to the owner. 

The Michigan eviction process can be difficult for property owners—fraught with complication and stress. But working with an experienced property-management team can lighten a property owner’s load. And by arming yourself with knowledge—such as what we’ve outlined above—and solid legal counsel, you’ll help protect yourself and your investments.

Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to stay in-the-loop on future articles that will address how to approach the post-writ steps of an eviction, including how to handle the tenants’ property left behind, how to deal with special circumstances, and how to get the resources you need to support you should you need to enforce an eviction.

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