Generally, nobody wants to evict a tenant, but sometimes you have no choice. There are many reasons for eviction, including failure to pay rent, certain damage to the rental property, illegal activities at the rental property, or simply because the term of the lease has ended and the tenant has not left. Whatever the reason, the landlord or property manager cannot just change the lock on the door and force the tenant out. This is a mistake and may lead to a long, expensive lawsuit by the tenant against the landlord. Self-help evictions are prohibited under Michigan law. Michigan’s landlord-tenant law sets forth the steps to follow in an eviction case.
Although it is not required by law, you may wish to send a warning letter before beginning an eviction process. The purpose of the letter is to notify the tenant that the rent is overdue, or that they are in violation of the lease, or that the lease has ended. A simple warning letter sometimes gets the result you want, without the necessity of a court proceeding.
Legal Notice of Eviction
The first official legal document is a notice to quit. Providing a proper notice of eviction is important because the court will likely not grant your relief unless notice is proper. There are various types of notices. The notice states that the landlord will evict the tenant within a certain period of time for a specified reason. It may allow the tenant time to rectify the problem, such as by paying rent owed. The notice must contain certain basic information:
- Name of the Tenant
- Address of the rental property
- Reason for eviction
- Time allowed to take remedial action
- Landlord’s signature
A time period, either 7 or 30 days, must pass before the landlord can file an eviction lawsuit.
Next, the eviction notice must be delivered to the tenant. This must be done in one of three ways:
- Delivered in person to the tenant
- Delivered to a member of the tenant’s household at the rental property, along with a request that the documents be delivered to the tenant
- By first-class mail, addressed to the tenant.
Once the notice has been delivered, the clock starts running. If the notice is delivered personally, the time begins running the next day. If the notice is mailed, then the time begins running on the next mail delivery day.
Filing a complaint
If the tenant has not performed the actions in the notice, such as moved out or paid the rent, then the next step is to file a complaint in the District Court with jurisdiction over the rental property. The filing involves the preparation and delivery of several documents. These include a copy of the eviction notice, the complaint form, a summons, a judgment form, and a copy of the lease, if applicable. There are some minor variations among the District Courts regarding the requirements for these forms. A filing fee will be charged. Typically, a hearing will be scheduled at the time of filing. In Kent County, the court requires the summons and complaint to be mailed to the tenant’s last known address AND requires the tenant to be served personally.
Attending the hearing
At the assigned date and time, the landlord, attorney, and the tenant will appear. In some eviction cases, the tenant does not show up. In this case, the landlord is usually awarded a default judgment, which means that the landlord may proceed with the eviction process. Depending on the circumstances, the court may rule for the tenant, or adjourn the hearing to a later date. As a practical matter prior to the hearing, the court may likely ask all plaintiff/landlord’s to fill-out a default judgment form in the likely event the tenant does not appear. This often happens when appearing at the District Court on the day of the hearing.
The eviction and writ of restitution
f the court rules in favor of the landlord, the tenant is typically given 10 days to move. If the 10 days pass and the tenant has not moved, the landlord or his attorney will present the court with a prepared Order of Eviction or Writ of Restitution. Once the order is signed, the court usually assigns a court officer or local sheriff to complete the eviction process. Often there is a 24-hour waiting period between the local sheriff presenting the order of eviction on a property and the forceful removal of the tenant if necessary. Once the property has been vacated, the landlord is permitted to change the locks and may begin preparing the property to rent again.
Legal entities (i.e. LLC’s) are not allowed to represent themselves in Michigan landlord-tenant cases, so an attorney is then required to appear on your behalf. In any eviction case, it is necessary to complete each of the steps of the eviction process as outlined in the statute.
At Sutherland Law, we are experienced in all aspects of landlord-tenant matters. We offer a free consultation to all clients on new matters. Contact us for more information.