Constructive Eviction: Being Kicked Out of the Side Door
The Lawful Eviction Procedure in Michigan
In Michigan, a lawful eviction is a very specific procedure. Presuming a valid basis for the eviction, such as breach of a specific lease clause or non-payment of rent or damage to the property, the procedure involves:
- Proper Notice: Depending on the basis for the eviction, a proper 24-hour, 10-day, or 30-day notice of the landlord's "demand for possession" of the premises must be properly served on the tenant.
- Lawsuit for Eviction: If a resolution is not reached between the landlord and tenant, the landlord must file a complaint for possession and eviction with the appropriate Michigan district court and must properly serve notice of the complaint upon the tenant.
- Obtaining a Court Order for Eviction: If the district court judge rules in favor of the landlord, an Order of Eviction/Judgment for Possession will be issued in now less than 10 days after the hearing on the matter.
- Execution of the Order for Eviction by a Court Officer: Only at that point, if the tenant has not cured the rental payment deficiency (if that is the reason for the eviction) may the landlord request a court officer remove the tenant physically from the property.
Note that nowhere in this description is it stated that the landlord ever has the right to personally remove the tenant from the property.
"Constructive eviction," is therefore an action taken by a landlord outside of that process described above to remove or coerce a tenant from a rental property.
Michigan's Revised Judicature Act of 1961, Section 2918, describes these actions:
- Use of force or threat of force;
- Removal, retention, or destruction of personal property of the tenant;
- Changing, altering, or adding to the locks or other security devices without providing keys or unlocking devices to the tenant;
- Boarding of the doors and windows;
- Removal of the doors, windows, or locks;
- Causing by action or omission the termination or interruption of a service that is essential to the occupancy of the premises (hot water, electric, running water, or other utility service);
- Introduction of some offensive noise, odor, or other nuisance.
Section 2918 also describes what constructive eviction is NOT:
- An action pursuant to court order;
- Temporary interference with possession of the tenant as necessary to make needed repairs or inspection (and only as provided by law);
- An action taken in good faith belief that the premises has been abandoned---after diligent inquiry AND the current rent is not paid;
- An action taken when ALL of the following are true: (1) The landlord informed the tenant of his/her option to provide contact information for an authorized person for the landlord to contact in the event of the tenant's death; (2) Current rent has not been paid; (3) The landlord believes in good faith that the tenant has been deceased for at least 18 days and there is no surviving tenant; (4) A slew of other steps concerning inquiry into the opening or lack thereof of a probate estate, posting of proper notice, and the lapse of a minimum 10-day time-frame have properly been followed.
A landlord is also not engaging in constructive eviction if the occupant took possession of the premises by means of forcible entry or trespass.
How to Respond to Constructive Eviction
If you believe you have been "constructively evicted," contact The Hilla Law Firm, PLLC to explore your options.
Under Section 2918, if you have been ejected or put out of the property unlawfully or forcibly and are afterward kept out by force, you have the right to sue not only to regain possession of the property but also three times your actual damages or $200.00, whichever is greater.
Actual damages might include alternate housing costs, storage costs, value of lost or damaged property, and, potentially, your attorney's fees and costs.
Short of forcible ejection, if your possession of the property has simply been unlawfully interfered with, you are entitled to sue for actual damages or $200.00, whichever is greater, for each occurrence.
Michigan Landlords: Protect Your Property Lawfully
If you are a Michigan landlord, it is a fairly simple matter to avoid such lawsuits.
First, work with an experienced Michigan landlord-tenant attorney to ensure that actions you wish to take in response to a tenant's breach of lease or other activity is lawful.
Second, whether you work with an attorney or not, never attempt to take matters into your own hands without following the proper, court-centered eviction process to regain legal possession of your property.
Remember, refraining from engaging in "self-help" eviction actions is not only wise for your wallet but also for the protection of your property. If a tenant needs to be evicted, a good way to ensure that the process of regaining possession is more complicated than it needs to be is to presume that you can do anything you like to regain that possession.
The State of Michigan says otherwise.
If you are a Michigan resident and require the services of an experienced Michigan landlord-tenant attorney, please contact us at (866) 674-2317 or click the button below to schedule a free, initial consultation.
If you enjoyed reading "Constructive Eviction in Michigan: What Is It?," please browse our other articles on our main Michigan Legal Blog.