Legal FAQs for Renters in Michigan

This page has local legal information on residential (not commercial) renters’ issues. It is not legal advice, and you should check with your local legal aid and courts for current information.

This page was last updated on Aug 26th, 2022. It was reviewed by our volunteer attorney experts.

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Emergency Protections during COVID

Emergency Protections during COVID

Are there special eviction protections for Michigan renters during the COVID-19 emergency?

Michigan's statewide emergency protections against eviction have expired.

There still are some emergency changes in eviction court rules in Michigan. Renters are not required to file a written answer after they have been sued for eviction.

Also, if you are sued, the first hearing will be a pretrial hearing. The pretrial hearing will be a chance to learn about your rights -- like to have a lawyer to get rental assistance, and other benefits.

The Michigan government began a COVID Emergency Rental Assistance Program (CERA). CERA helps renters to cover rent, utility costs, and other housing needs. CERA assists renter households with incomes less than 80% of Area Median Income (AMI) who have experienced a hardship due to COVID-19 and are at risk of homelessness. The rental assistance will pay for 100% of each month’s rent, up to 150% of HUD’s Fair Market Rent Value. Get help from CERA at this website.

Earlier Protections

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 16.

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 was re-issued in July 2021.

What do the eviction protections mean for Michigan renters?

If you do not qualify for national or local protections, then in Michigan:

  1. Your landlord can give you a notice to quit.
  2. Your landlord can file an eviction complaint in court against you.
  3. 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.
  4. The court may issue a new order, judgment, or writ of eviction against you.
  5. 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 August 26, 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.

You may have had protection from eviction for nonpayment of rent earlier. But since the protections ended, you will have to pay back all rent you owe to your landlord.

If you cannot pay rent, take steps to protect yourself:

  1. Apply for rental assistance as soon as possible. For people who need rent and utilities help, you may be able to get financial help.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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.

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.

The statewide protection against water shutoffs has ended. But individual cities and counties might have local protections.

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.

What if I need repairs to my home during COVID-19?

Tell your landlord about any repairs needed, particularly if they affect your health and safety.

The emergency may delay your landlord’s ability to make repairs, but if they are urgent you should call your landlord to make the repairs as soon as possible.

Emergency repairs could be for problems with:

  • Running water or hot water
  • Heat or air conditioning
  • Stove, refrigerator, or oven
  • Electricity
  • Bathroom use
  • Missing doors, locks, or windows
  • Pests

If your landlord doesn't make the repairs promptly, send them a written letter or email about the need for emergency repairs (and keep a copy of this communication).

Reach out for legal help for additional guidance.

Can I break my lease during COVID-19?

You may be able to break your lease if you can come to an agreement with your landlord.

Your lease is still valid despite the emergency period.

However, you can talk to your landlord to see if they will agree to let you leave early. If they agree, be sure to get the agreement in writing.

Also, you can review your lease. It may have a part that lets you end the lease early in times of financial difficulty. If your lease has this kind of part, you might be able to break the lease (in some cases penalty-free).

Find legal help to get advice for your situation.

What do I do if my landlord tries to evict me during COVID-19?

Contact a legal help organization to help defend yourself.

It is illegal for your landlord to evict you without first going to court and getting an eviction order. To remove you from your home, a landlord must take you to court by filing an eviction lawsuit, win the case, and getting an eviction order from the court.

Legal aid groups might be able to provide you with full representation, or other legal organizations can give you information or brief advice.

Find legal help to protect your rights.

Are eviction cases still proceeding through Michigan courts?

Yes, eviction cases are still proceeding through Michigan courts, though they may be held remotely rather than in person.

Check with the Michigan State Courts to find updates on court proceedings.

Did I have eviction protections under the CARES Act?

Renters in 3 categories have special national protections against being evicted during the Emergency Period of March 27, 2020 to July 24 or 25, 2020. These national protections add onto any state and local protections you have.

Do you fit in any of these 3 categories?

Your home’s owner has a federally backed mortgage loan or other guarantee (like through Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae). Search if your home is covered.
You pay rent through a federal assistance program like the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, Rural Development Voucher, or other 'covered housing' program.
You live in Public Housing, where the government is your landlord.

If you are a renter in one of these 3 categories, the federal CARES Act section 4024 gives you these protections. (Remember, these protections add onto any state and local protections you have)

  • Your landlord cannot file a new eviction lawsuit against you for not paying your rent during the Emergency Period. They can still evict you for other behavior, like drug abuse, other criminal activities, or other lease violations.
  • Your landlord cannot charge you new fees or penalties for not paying your rent during the Emergency Period.
  • After the Emergency Period ends, your landlord may not be able to evict you immediately.(Different states interpret the protections ending on July 24 or 25. Check with local lawyers to see about your state). If you have not paid your rent in full during the Emergency Period, your landlord must wait until the period ends before giving you a notice to vacate. For example, they may give you a notice on July 26, and you must be allowed until at least August 25 to leave the property.

For more help on these national protections, reach out for legal and financial help here. Also, use this tool to write a letter to your landlord if you are having issues with rent or eviction.

Received a Warning Notice about Eviction?

Received a Warning Notice about Eviction?

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:

  1. The notice must be written down.
  2. It must explain why you may be evicted.
  3. The notice must be addressed to the tenant.
  4. The notice must describe the rental property, usually by giving the address.
  5. The notice must state how much time the tenant has to pay.
  6. 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.

Find local legal help here.

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.

Find local legal help here.

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?

You still have time to reach out for rental assistance, and stop the eviction from moving forward.

Be sure to let the local legal aid group know that you have received an eviction notice and what its deadline is. They may be able to help you pay the rent you owe, or work with your landlord to reduce the amount or put you on a payment plan.

Find local financial help at your Michigan Get Help page.

How long do I have after I receive an eviction notice to pay back the rent to stop the eviction in Michigan?

In Michigan, you have a minimum of 7 days between your landlord giving you a notice and them filing a lawsuit against you in court to evict you.

The notice should tell you how many days the landlord is giving you. If they are giving you less than 7 days, then you may be able to challenge it as illegal.

For violating other lease provisions, Michigan landlords must give 30 days’ notice.

Reach out for legal help if you think the notice isn't giving you the required time to make your payment.

Find local legal help here.

Facing an Eviction Lawsuit?

Facing an Eviction Lawsuit?

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.

Behind on Rent?

Behind on Rent?

Who can help me with rent that I owe?

If you are behind on rent, you can get help from your local Rental Assistance program. This is a government service to help people who owe rent or utility bills.

Especially if you are behind on rent because of COVID-19 hardships, your local Rental Assistance (or Rent Relief) program can help you.

Find your local Rental Assistance program at your Get Help page here.

Am I eligible for rent relief?

Local governments set the rules about who is eligible for rent relief. Most programs focus on people who have suffered COVID-19 hardships.

You can talk to your local Rental Assistance program to learn their eligibility rules.

You may have to show your household income, or if you are on other benefits programs like SNAP.

You may also have to show that you are at risk of homelessness or eviction if you don't get rental assistance.

Check with your local Rental Assistance program to see if you are eligible.

Does immigration status matter for rent relief?

Many local Rental Assistance programs are open to everyone, regardless of immigration status. Many programs do not even ask about immigration status.

Check with your local Rental Assistance program to make sure about eligibility rules and immigration.

Can a landlord apply for their renter, to get rental assistance?

Most Rental Assistance programs let landlords apply.

Either a renter or a landlord can start the application.

The landlord will have to fill in as much information they have about the amount of money needed, and the eligibility for the program. The tenant may have to fill in the rest of the information.

Check with your local Rental Assistance program about the steps to follow to apply for rent relief.

Get Help From Local Groups

State 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

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