Legal FAQs for Renters in
Table of Contents
Jump to the section that matches your situation
Do I have housing protections because of COVID-19?
My landlord gave me an eviction notice
What can I do?
I've been sued in court for eviction
What can I do?
Do I have housing protections because of COVID-19?
- Are there special eviction protections for Michigan renters during the COVID-19 emergency?
Michigan's statewide emergency protections for renters have expired, though some renters may be protected through the national CDC moratorium.
Earlier, Michigan Governor Whitmer had issued an eviction moratorium (now expired) that prevented landlords from evicting renters if they cannot pay their rent during the emergency, except for when there is a health hazard or the tenant poses a risk to another person or the property. It puts a hold on all court eviction cases during the emergency. This order went into effect on March 20, 2020 and ended on July 16th.
Since the moratorium ended, the Michigan government began an Eviction Diversion Program, that helps tenants cover back-rent to landlords who agree not to evict them for housing debt they owe during COVID-19. Landlords must agree to waive late fees, and forgive up to 10% of the amount due. Households up to 100% of the state's median income are eligible for the program.
The Michigan Supreme Court has put new requirements on landlords who are suing renters for eviction due to nonpayment of rent. Landlords will have to prove that the renter's home is exempt from emergency eviction protections. This order went into effect on April 16, 2020. It is scheduled to be effective until at least July 25, 2020.
- What do the eviction protections mean for Michigan renters?
If you do not qualify for national or local protections, then in Michigan:
- Your landlord can give you a notice to quit.
- Your landlord can file an eviction complaint in court against you.
- Hearings on eviction are still happening, and the court may still hear an existing eviction case against you. You may also try to use the Eviction Diversion Program instead of going to trial.
- The court may issue a new order, judgment, or writ of eviction against you.
- An existing eviction order may be enforced against you.
You may still be protected against eviction in Michigan through the national CDC Eviction Moratorium through January 31, 2021. Read more below to see if you are protected.
- Do I still have to pay rent during the COVID-19 emergency?
Yes, Michigan renters still need to pay rent during the emergency. If you are unable to pay, you may be protected from being removed from your home during the state of emergency, through July 16, 2020. You may also have protection from eviction for nonpayment of rent through the national CDC Eviction Moratorium through January 31, 2021.
But after the protections end, you will have to pay back all rent you owe to your landlord.
Also check with your local city or county government to see if they give renters any additional protections if they are struggling to pay rent during the emergency.
If you cannot pay rent, take steps to protect yourself:
- See if you qualify for the national CDC Eviction Moratorium. If you do qualify, fill in the Declaration form and give it to your landlord. This can help stop the eviction, or give you a defense against it.
- Communicate with your landlord: Send a written letter or email to your landlord as soon as possible. Explain why you cannot pay the rent because of COVID-19 impact. You can also try to negotiate with your landlord to make a payment plan or get a temporary rent reduction. Get help here with drafting and mailing a letter to your landlord. Also check here.
- Get written records of all communication: Keep copies of any letter or email you send, and any responses from the landlord. Keep receipts for any payments you make. If you make a payment plan or rent agreement, make sure to get it in writing.
- Keep proof of COVID-19 impact on you: Collect documents about your COVID-19-related employment problems, health care issues, or other issues that affect your ability to pay rent. This includes letters from your employer, doctor, insurance provider, child care provider, schools, etc.
- Check for help: If you need financial assistance for housing costs, you may be able to get help.
- Can my landlord evict me during COVID-19 in Michigan?
Michigan Landlords can now sue tenants for eviction since the statewide protections ended in July 2020.
But if you can't pay your rent because of hardships during COVID, you can try to stop the eviction through the national CDC moratorium.
Since the emergency period ended, law enforcement can begin to enforce eviction orders once again, and can remove renters from their homes. Landlords can sue for eviction, though they will have additional requirements to prove that the renter's home is not covered by federal eviction protections.
- You may also have U.S. national protections against eviction that last through January 31, 2021. Check here below to see if you are eligible for them.
If you receive a notice to quit from your landlord, or an eviction lawsuit, reach out for legal help.
- Can my utilities be shut off during COVID-19?
Some Michigan renters may be protected against utility shutoffs during the emergency. It depends on where you live.
Your water cannot be shut off for nonpayment, for as long as Michigan's state of emergency lasts.
For other utilities besides water, check this site to see if your utility company has stopped shutoffs for customers, or if it has special programs to assist people who can't afford their utility bills.
If you need financial assistance for utility costs, you may be able to get help.
Landlords are never allowed to shut off a renter's utilities in an attempt to force the renter out. This is illegal. Reach out to a lawyer for help if this happens to you.
- Are you eligible for eviction protections under the CDC Eviction Moratorium?
What is the CDC Eviction Moratorium?
The CDC Eviction Moratorium orders that renters should be protected from eviction if they are unable to pay their rent due to hardships like job loss, income loss, or medical expenses. This protection lasts from September 4, 2020 through January 31, 2021.
The CDC Eviction Moratorium is not automatic protection against eviction. Renters need to fill in a Declaration document and give it to their landlord to get the protection.
Landlords may still try to file an eviction lawsuit against renters, but renters can use the moratorium to defend themselves in court.
Do you qualify for protection under the CDC Eviction Moratorium?
The CDC Eviction Moratorium applies to people who:
- Rent a home in the United States; AND
- Make less than $99,000 (or $198,000 if you file a joint tax return); AND
- Are facing eviction based on nonpayment of rent (not for other problems, like lease violations or criminal activity); AND
- Can show they’re unable to pay rent because they’ve had a financial hardship, like losing a job, decrease in income, or medical bills; AND
- Can show that they’ve been trying their hardest to pay their rent and find any rental assistance; AND
- Can show that they’re at risk of homelessness if they were to be evicted.
If you live in a state, county, or city that has an eviction moratorium, the CDC Eviction Moratorium doesn’t replace this local one. It adds on top of your local protections.
What does the CDC Eviction Moratorium get you?
The CDC Eviction moratorium can stop an eviction proceeding against you. It could stop your landlord from removing you from your home, or from a court giving your landlord an eviction order through Jan. 31, 2021.
- If your landlord has already started an eviction lawsuit against you, you can use the CDC Eviction Moratorium as a defense in court.
- You can use the Declaration form to tell your landlord that you are protected from eviction, and to ask the court to stop the eviction.
- You must follow the process below to be protected by the CDC Eviction Moratorium.
The CDC Eviction Moratorium does NOT get you rent relief:
- Even if you fill in the Declaration, this does not cancel rent that you owe, or stop rent or late fees from building up.
- After the CDC Moratorium expires on Jan. 31, 2021, you may be evicted for the rent that you owe.
The CDC Eviction Moratorium may NOT stop a landlord from suing you:
- Even after you fill in the Declaration and send it to your landlord, they might still file an eviction lawsuit against you.
- You can bring the Declaration to the court eviction hearing, to ask the court to stop the eviction.
- Call a local lawyer for help if your landlord sues you for eviction.
How do you use the CDC Eviction Moratorium to protect yourself?
To secure CDC Eviction Moratorium protection, follow these steps:
- Apply for rental assistance. Look for any rental and utility assistance in your area, and submit applications to these programs. Find local assistance programs here.
- Fill out Declarations. You and every adult in the household need to fill out a Declaration about your financial hardships and your attempts to get assistance. In the Declaration, you must say that you are telling the truth and that you may face legal consequences if you are lying. You can use this guide for help with the Declaration.
- Send the Declarations to your landlord, and also tell the landlord that you will do your best to pay when you can. Keep a copy of the Declarations, as well as any receipt or documentation that you have sent it to your landlord (like email receipt or screenshots of the message). These can be useful evidence that you followed the process correctly.
- Protections through Jan. 31st. After you send this, your landlord cannot remove you from your home for nonpayment of rent through January 31, 2021. They are also never allowed to harass or intimidate you, or force you to leave the home without a court order.
- If your landlord has filed an eviction lawsuit against you, you can bring your Declarations to the court to ask them to stop the lawsuit. Contact a legal aid lawyer to help you with the lawsuit. Please note: Your landlord can still evict you for reasons other than nonpayment of rent, like for engaging in criminal activity in the home, violating building codes or health ordinances, or threatening the health and safety of other residents.
- You will continue to owe your rent. Try to make a plan about how you will take care of all the rent you owe. At the end of the Eviction Moratorium protections on Jan. 31, 2021, you will no longer be protected from being evicted.
- Make sure you know your lease and its terms. Some landlords may try to evict you based on violations of the terms in your lease. If you know your lease, you can protect yourself by making sure you do not break any of its terms.
If your landlord is trying to evict you, you should contact a legal aid attorney who helps with evictions. The CDC Eviction Moratorium might give you protections that lawyers can help you with.
What if I need repairs to my home during COVID-19?
Can I break my lease during COVID-19?
What do I do if my landlord tries to evict me during COVID-19?
Are eviction cases still proceeding through Michigan courts?
My landlord gave me an eviction notice
- My landlord gave me a notice to "pay or quit" my rental home in Michigan. What should I do?
Serving a Notice to Quit or Demand for Possession is just the first step in the eviction process.
The document should tell why your landlord is trying to evict you. Depending on the reason why, your landlord has to wait a certain amount of time before they can file an eviction complaint with the court.
Your landlord has to follow specific rules when serving you with one of these notices. These are the Michigan requirements for an eviction notice:
- The notice must be written down.
- It must explain why you may be evicted.
- The notice must be addressed to the tenant.
- The notice must describe the rental property, usually by giving the address.
- The notice must state how much time the tenant has to pay.
- The notice must include the landlord’s address and the date of notice.
Reach out for legal help if you think the notice isn't correct, or if you need assistance in defending yourself against the eviction. Find local legal help here.
- What if the landlord has just told me, face-to-face or over the phone, that I need to leave my home in Michigan?
A verbal conversation doesn't count as an "eviction notice". To be legal, the notice must be written down and given to you in the correct way.
Reach out for legal help if your landlord is trying to make you leave without going through the court process. This is illegal and a lawyer may be able to help you protect yourself.
- Do I have to leave my home in Michigan by the time of the eviction notice's expiration date?
No, you do not have to leave your home by the date listed on the eviction notice.
In order for your landlord to force you to leave, they must go to court and get an official eviction order.
You do not have to leave your home until you have been brought to court, and a judge has ordered that your landlord can make you leave.
After the date on the eviction notice passes, then your landlord may file an eviction lawsuit in court against you. You will be able to go to court and present defenses to protect yourself.
My eviction notice says that I will be evicted unless I pay back-rent I owe. What if I can't afford to pay it?
How long do I have after I receive an eviction notice to pay back the rent to stop the eviction in Michigan?
I've been sued in court for eviction
- My landlord has filed an eviction lawsuit against me in court in Michigan. What should I do?
You should make sure that the landlord properly 'served' you with the lawsuit. If they didn't give it to you in the correct way, you can challenge the eviction lawsuit.
In Michigan, a landlord must follow certain rules to let you know about the lawsuit:
1. Any legally competent adult who is not a party to the lawsuit can serve.
2. The service of the summons must be completed no later than 3 days from the date of the hearing.
3. The summons and complaint and all attachments must be served in one of the following ways:
- by mail,
- by having it given to you personally,
- by delivering it at the rental property to someone in your household who is old enough to accept it,
- by securely attaching it to the main entrance of your dwelling after failed diligent attempts, or
- by sending it to you electronically (by email). In order for your landlord to be able to serve you by e-mail all of these must happen: 1. You must have agreed to be served by email in writing (this agreement could be in your lease), 2. Your landlord must have sent you the agreement or confirmation by email, 3. You must have replied to your landlord’s e-mail, and 4. Your landlord has to prove to the court that you were properly served. This is done by filling out the Proof of Service at the bottom section of the first page of the summons form, and filing it with the court.
You should also reach out to local lawyers who can help you prepare for your court hearing so you can protect yourself against the eviction. Find legal help here.
- Do I have to do anything after I get an eviction Summons and Complaint in Michigan?
In most counties in Michigan, you are not required to respond to the eviction lawsuit in writing. You can come to your court date to respond in person.
Some courts don’t include a court date in the summons. Instead, you are told you have five days to respond with a written answer or the court will automatically find you in default. They are called the 5-day District Courts.
If your case is in any of the 5-day District Courts, you must file a written response with the court and mail a copy to your landlord within five days of getting the summons and complaint. If you do not do this, you will not get a court date and the court will issue a default judgment for possession. The 5-day District Courts are:
- 1st District: Monroe County
- District 2A: Lenawee County
- 12th District: Jackson County
- 18th District: City of Westland
- 81st District: Alcona, Arenac, Iosco & Oscoda Counties
- 82nd District: Ogemaw County
- District 95B: Dickinson & Iron Counties
Reach out to legal help to learn what your rights and defenses are in your eviction case. These organizations can help you deal with this lawsuit.
- Can I settle my eviction case without going to court in Michigan?
You can come to an agreement out of court, but you should still contact the court to make sure your case is closed.
You can work with your landlord to work out an agreement before the date of the court hearing. This might be a payment plan or other agreement on what needs to happen for you to stay in your home.
Be sure to get this agreement in writing, so that you can prove it exists and that your landlord follows through on it.
Also, you should still contact the court for your hearing date, to make sure the court knows about the agreement and closes the lawsuit. If you do not go to court, the lawsuit might still continue and the judge might rule that the landlord can remove you. Go to court yourself to make sure this doesn't happen.
You can reach out for legal help to get assistance in negotiating an agreement with your landlord, and making sure this agreement is being followed. Find help here.
Its information is taken from these sources:Michigan Legal HelpMich. Governor orderMich. Supreme Court orderMich. utility protectionsPrinceton Eviction Lab's COVID Policy ScorecardsColumbia Law School COVID-19 Eviction Moratoria analysisEnergy and Policy Institute Utility Disconnect TrackerMich. Governor Order, May 2020Mich. Governor Order, June 2020