Friday, October 8, 2010
Michigan Landlord/Tenant Law Basics
When property is leased, a tenant is entitled to certain rights under the lease and under the law. The landlord may want to remove a tenant if the tenant fails to pay rent or otherwise defaults under the lease. In the same way a bank must go through a foreclosure to take back secured property when a note is in default, a landlord must go through the proper means to recover possession when a lease is in default.
Failure to properly remove a tenant can expose a landlord to potentially large damages and may prevent them from recovering future rent owing under the lease. The law defines the process necessary to remove a tenant. The landlord must recover possession through the court if the tenant does not leave voluntarily. The Michigan court rules provide for certain procedures and proceedings at the district court level. This is often referred to as an eviction.
If a landlord takes matters into his own hands and forcibly remove a tenant, the landlord can be liable for substantial damages. The Michigan Anti Lockout Statute applies in those instances. Forcible removal could mean changing of locks, threat, or removal/destruction of property. If a landlord forcibly removes a tenant, he is liable for treble damages, or three times the actual damages incurred as a result of the removal. In a commercial lease, this could mean lost profits among other things.
Most leases allow the landlord to remove the tenant without terminating the lease. Recovering possession likely does not mean the tenant is let off the lease. The landlord is permitted to re-let the premises. Tenant may be liable for the costs of re-letting the premises as well as the difference between the rent paid by the new tenant and the amount the defaulting tenant was obligated to pay. However, if a landlord does not properly recover possession, landlord's right to recover any amount owing after the removal of tenant may be gone.
It is important that you retain counsel familiar with the entire eviction proceedings. I am experienced with the process and would be glad to assist you. If you should have any questions or wish to discuss this further, please contact me so we can arrange for a free consultation.