Squatters, people who take up residence in a dwelling unlawfully, in other words by trespass, have far fewer rights in Michigan than they used to. Midyear 2014 saw a shift in the law, which went from protecting squatters to protecting the landlords and property owners.
Squatters Right of Adverse Possession
Squatters in Michigan may gain title to the property in which they are squatting through adverse possession if they live there continuously and openly for 15 years. This is now harder for a squatter to accomplish given the changes in the law that make it much easier for a landlord or property owner to remove a squatter.
Diminishing Squatters Rights
Before 2014, Michigan landlords and property owners had to go to court and formally evict a squatter. They could not use self-help, meaning they could not change the locks on the property to lock the squatter out, could not remove the squatter's possessions and they could not bodily remove the squatters. These protections have been significantly diminished by the 2014 Michigan Legislature's amendment of the Michigan Revised Judicature Act/mileg.aspx?page=getObject&objectName=mcl-236-1961-29) through enactment of House Bill 5069, or PA 223, which allows self-help, and House Bills 5070 (PA 224) and 5071 (PA 225), which make squatting a criminal offense and impose increasing penalties for offenses.
Property owners and landlords still may not resort to self-help against squatters who are hold-overs from a previously valid lease that has expired.
The amended Michigan Revised Judicature Act erodes rights squatters previously had by allowing landlords and property owners to enter a dwelling, remove a squatter's possessions and change the locks to lock the squatter out. Squatters are still protected from bodily removal as this would constitute assault and is prohibited by the Michigan Penal Code (MCL 750.81 - 750.90h, Assaults/mileg.aspx?page=getObject&objectName=mcl-Act-328-of-1931)). However, the landlord or property owner may now call the police and have the squatter arrested because the law now makes squatting a criminal offense.
Squatters as Criminals
Before 2014 squatters were protected from criminal conviction. The worst they could be charged with was trespass. Since 2014, squatting in a duplex or single family dwelling is a misdemeanor for the first offense, and a class G felony for any subsequent offense. The first offense carries a fine of up to $5,000 and jail time of up to 180 days. Subsequent felony offenses carry a fine of up to $10,000 and jail time of up to two years.