Tenant advocates contend that many landlords are not aware of their legal responsibilities. This can lead to landlord-tenant disagreements regarding important matters, including the maintenance of the unit, the rent, visits and leaving the unit. For this reason, tenants in Michigan must be aware of their own rights so that they can respond when treated unfairly.

The first problem that may arise is if a landlord violates federal anti-discrimination laws. Landlords cannot legally choose tenants based on their family status, age or health. Landlords might break this rule by saying that they don’t want to rent the unit to a family with children. Another common problem comes up with the security deposit. The deposit is meant to insure against any damage that a tenant does to the property. In some areas, landlords are required to put a deposit in a separate bank account, and if they don’t provide the deposit in a timely manner, they can be ordered to pay the tenant triple damages. Sometimes landlords may be able to increase the deposit later. However, the increase must not exceed that which is permitted under state law.

Landlords may be particularly susceptible to breaking the law when tenants get behind in rent. However, a landlord cannot change the locks without a court order. Even if the landlord gets a legal order to change the locks on a tenant, they cannot legally get rid of all of the tenant’s possessions. They must first notify the tenant. They may even be required to store the possessions for a reasonable time.

Michigan real estate lawyers may be able to assist tenants by examining the circumstances and the wording of the contract. They may be able to fight an eviction or help the tenant receive back an illegally withheld security deposit.

Source: MSN, “Is your landlord breaking the law?“, Karen Aho, August 23, 2013

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