Landlord Responsibilities in Michigan

Whether you’re a current or prospective landlord, understanding your legal obligations is essential for maintaining a successful rental property. Michigan landlords need to be familiar with federal, state, and local rental laws put in place to protect both tenants and landlords. Many state requirements are outlined in the Michigan Truth in Renting Act (MCL 554.631 to 554.641) and the Michigan Landlord and Tenant Act (MCL 554.601 to 554.616). You can find information about federal requirements at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Your municipality or county will provide direction about any relevant local rules. The following are some of the most important landlord responsibilities in Michigan:

Follow Anti-Discrimination Laws

Before interviewing prospective tenants, be sure you understand the fair housing laws. In Michigan, you may reject applicants for reasons like a poor credit history, a negative reference from a previous landlord, or a history of late payments. But the federal Fair Housing Act dictates that you cannot reject applicants because of race, religion, nationality, sex, gender, family status, or physical or mental disabilities. Some limited exceptions include owner-occupied buildings with four or fewer rental units and single-family houses where the owner rents out no more than three houses at any given time. Michigan law also prohibits discrimination based on marital status or age. Local laws might add additional protections.

Provide Habitable Housing

Landlords must keep rental properties safe and livable under a doctrine known as the “implied warranty of habitability.” This includes making any necessary repairs within a reasonable amount of time after notice from a tenant or within 24 hours in an emergency. Failing to make timely repairs could give the tenant the right to withhold rent or repair the damage and deduct the cost from the rent.

A tenant who withholds rent must notify you of the reason for the withholding and the location of the escrow account. Any amount withheld must be reasonably related to the probable cost of repair. After you complete the repairs, the tenant must release the money to you. A tenant who makes repairs on their own should provide you with receipts.

Follow the Rules on Security Deposits

The maximum amount a landlord can hold as a security deposit in Michigan is one and one-half times the monthly rent. When a tenant moves in, the landlord must provide two copies of a checklist documenting the property’s condition and referencing any items in the rental unit that belong to the landlord. The landlord must return the security deposit to the tenant within 30 days after the tenant moves out. Any amounts withheld from the deposit must be itemized. The Michigan Landlord and Tenant Act outlines additional rules regarding timing and required notices for security deposits.

Use a Lease with Required Disclosures and Other Important Terms

The foundation of a successful rental arrangement is a good lease. Your lease should include not just the essential terms of your agreement, such as the duration of the lease and the rent, but also all legally required disclosures. The lease cannot attempt to waive any legal requirements, such as the responsibility to maintain the premises in habitable condition. A rental agreement of less than one year in duration does not have to be in writing in Michigan, but unwritten agreements open the door to all kinds of disagreements. So, play it safe. Put everything in writing.

Different types of leases have different disclosure requirements. The following is a list of lease provisions required or strongly recommended in a Michigan residential lease. It is not a comprehensive list of every potential requirement:

  • Names, mailing addresses, and signatures of landlord and tenant.
  • Name and address of any property manager or other authorized agent.
  • Rental property address.
  • The lease term, with starting and ending dates, if fixed.
  • Rent amount and instructions regarding payment.
  • Landlord and tenant responsibilities for payment of utilities, including a description of any utility payments that will be split among multiple tenants in one building.
  • Disclosure of any late payment fees.
  • A notice about payment fees for dishonored checks, drafts, or money orders (limited by law to $25 for payments made within seven days or $35 for payments made within 30 days).
  • The amount of any security deposit and the name and address of the financial institution holding the deposit.
  • A notice to the tenant of the obligation to provide a forwarding address to the landlord within four days of terminating the tenancy.
  • Landlord and tenant responsibilities for repair and maintenance.
  • An agreement about when and under what circumstances the landlord can access the premises.
  • Any pet restrictions or prohibitions (Landlords can prohibit pets or charge pet fees but cannot prohibit a disabled person from housing a service animal.).
  • Rules about smoking and use of marijuana on the premises (Landlords can enforce smoking bans and prohibit tenants from growing or selling marijuana and marijuana accessories.).
  • A provision requiring the landlord’s written consent for subleasing or assignment.
  • A notice regarding the right to seek release of the rental obligation in the event of domestic violence.
  • Required state and federal disclosures regarding lead-based paint.
  • Information about eviction procedures.
  • A statement regarding compliance with the Michigan Truth in Renting Act. (MCL 554.634).
  • Any other agreements between the landlord and the tenant.

Learn What to Do if Things Go Wrong

Navigating the network of landlord responsibilities can be a challenge. While careful attention to legal requirements can prevent issues, problems sometimes still arise. In our next post, we will discuss what to do when something goes wrong and how eviction works in Michigan.

If you have questions about your responsibilities as a landlord in Michigan, contact one of Kreis Enderle’s knowledgeable real estate practice attorneys.

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