It may seem that evicting a roommate is a simple matter – ask the person to leave and then follow up with an eviction if they refuse. However, in many states, including Michigan, eviction requires a court proceeding that must first be brought by the landlord. That means one roommate has to convince the landlord to file suit against another, which isn't likely to be easy unless the offense is serious.
Like all court proceedings, evictions take more time than one might think if they are disputed. How easy or hard it will be to evict a roommate depends on what actions the roommate decides to take at different stages of the eviction process.
Michigan Landlord/Tenant Law
Eviction is the court-supervised process of getting a tenant to leave a residential unit. Michigan landlord-tenant laws set out the procedures for commencing an eviction in the state. Evictions are stressful, time-consuming and unpleasant for both the landlord and the renter.
The eviction process set out in Michigan law requires the landlord to jump through more than a few procedural hoops before heading to court. This can cost landlords money and takes time – up to two months or more – and energy. Evictions are particularly traumatic for the tenant, who is evicted from a rented property they called home.
Eviction Proceedings Strictly a Court Matter
Don't even consider using self-help methods to get rid of an annoying roommate. It is illegal for a Michigan landlord to evict any tenant using self-help. That is, evictions cannot happen without going to court for an eviction order. The landlord cannot do anything that prevents a tenant from having access to the unit short of getting an eviction order.
Neither the roommate who wants the other roommate to move out, nor the landlord, is permitted to:
- Use force to "persuade" the roommate to leave or exclude them from the home.
- Enter the person's space in the unit without permission, unless it is an emergency.
- Remove the roommate's clothing or property.
- Change locks or add new locks to the unit.
- Board up the premises to prevent entry or make it more difficult.
- Shut-off water, electric or gas service.
- Cause any type of nuisance to persuade the person to leave.
Evicting a Roommate in Michigan
A tenant may hope that getting rid of their unwanted roommate might be easier than a regular eviction, but, in fact, the opposite is true: It can be harder. If the roommate is on the rental agreement, they are an equal tenant with equal rights. They can be evicted only by the landlord for one of the reasons set forth in the eviction laws.
That means that if one roommate wants to get rid of another roommate, they must first convince the landlord that it is a good idea and offer a valid reason for the eviction. Note that landlord/tenant laws in Michigan discuss only landlord evictions. There are no provisions for tenants evicting their roommates.
The fact that the roommate annoys other tenants is not likely to convince the landlord, but illegal activities might. If the landlord agrees to evict, they must then follow normal Michigan eviction procedures.
Landlord Evictions If Roommate Not on Rental Agreement
If the roommate is not on the written lease agreement, the landlord must still be the one to evict them if:
- The landlord gave permission for them to move in.
- The landlord knew about the tenancy and tacitly approved by not asking them to leave.
- The landlord accepted a rent check from the roommate.
- The roommate has been living in the rental unit for some time.
If the roommate is actually a weekend guest who ended up staying a few weeks without paying rent, they may not be considered a tenant at all, in which case eviction may not be necessary.
Reasons to Evict in Michigan
Michigan is a landlord-friendly state. It has no rent control laws that protect a tenant from rent increases and, even more important, the law permits no-fault evictions.
Basic no-fault eviction rules for Michigan landlords are that the landlord can terminate a month-to-month tenancy at any time with 30 days' written notice and refuse to renew a lease agreement and terminate the tenancy.
A landlord can also evict a tenant whether the tenant is month-to-month or has a lease, if the tenant:
- Fails to pay rent on time.
- Violates some part of the lease terms identified in the contract as a default that can lead to eviction.
- Creates a health or safety hazard.
- Damages the property.
- Conducts illegal business from the unit.
Proceeding With an Eviction in Michigan
When a landlord decides to evict, the first step is to give the tenant written notice. The time given the tenant in the Notice to Quit or Demand for Possession depends on the reason for the eviction:
- If the landlord is terminating a month-to-month tenancy, the document is a 30-day notice to quit.
- If the landlord is evicting a tenant for nonpayment of rent, damage to the dwelling or creating a safety or health hazard, the notice is a 7-day notice to quit.
- If the eviction is for breach of other rental agreement terms, like smoking in a no-smoking unit, the notice is a 30-day notice to quit.
- For illegal drug activity, the eviction notice is a 24-hour notice to quit.
Serving the Notice to Quit
A Michigan landlord must serve a Notice to Quit or Demand for Possession in one of the ways specified in the code. It can be served by:
- Personally handing it to the tenant.
- Leaving it at the rental property with another adult who lives there.
- Mailing it to the tenant.
- Emailing it to the tenant if the tenant has agreed to be served by email.
Once the tenant is served with the notice, they have the stated number of days to decide what to do. The tenant can choose to move out during that time or decide to stay in the unit. A tenant who is being asked to leave for back rent can cure the issue by paying all of the rent due within seven days of the notice.
After the period in the notice runs out, the landlord can file a complaint for eviction if the tenant has failed to leave. This is filed in Michigan District Court in the district where the rental property is located.
Court Eviction Cases in Michigan
Most court cases, once filed, can take a long time to get to trial, months at least, and sometimes years. But eviction in Michigan is a summary procedure with an expedited process for eviction hearings. This type of case takes much less time to get to trial than ordinary court cases.
When the landlord files a complaint, the court clerk immediately assigns the first court date, usually within the next few weeks. At the same time, the court clerk prepares and issues a legal document called a summons, setting out the:
- Facts of the lawsuit.
- Landlord's demand for possession.
- Reason for the demand.
- Hearing date and time.
- Notice that the tenant must appear or a judgment will be issued against them.
- Tenant's right to demand a jury trial.
The tenant must be served with a copy of the summons and complaint as is required by state law. This is generally done by having a process server or an adult who is not a party to the lawsuit personally hand it to the tenant.
Eviction Process in Michigan
The steps in the eviction process and the time it takes depend on several matters. First is the time stated in the notice. If the notice is a 30-day notice, it will take at least 30 days to get to court. Then there are the issues of what the tenant opts to do.
If they do nothing at all, the landlord will be granted judgment in their favor at the hearing. The court issues an order of eviction, and the tenant has 10 days to move out. If the tenant moves out at that point, the eviction is over. This is the shortest way an eviction can occur, but it is still more than a few weeks from notice to move-out.
The time can be much longer if the tenant contests the matter. If the tenant files a response to the complaint claiming retaliation or illegal discrimination, or some other substantive or procedural defect, the court may order additional time for the parties to exchange information, find witnesses and discover evidence. The request for a jury trial can also extend the court hearing, as can an appeal filed by the tenant.
Physical Eviction of a Roommate
If the tenant simply refuses to move out, despite an eviction order, the landlord must go back to court after the 10 days expire to obtain a Writ of Restitution. The landlord takes this order to the sheriff's department that is charged with physically removing the tenant from the property.
Timing for the physical eviction depends entirely on the schedule of the sheriff. It may not take very long, but it could easily be another week or two before the tenant is actually evicted from the rental unit.
Evicting a Houseguest Who Overstays
Under Michigan law, a person who comes into the house as a temporary houseguest is not a tenant, assuming they do not pay rent. If they stay on after being asked to leave, they may consider themselves a roommate, but the law might consider them a trespasser.
But that doesn't mean that it is easy to get rid of a houseguest who overstays their welcome. It can be very hard to get them out. Technically, Michigan law allows a person to call the police to evict a trespasser, but this is more problematic than it sounds. The police may be reluctant to help.
That is because an overstaying houseguest can actually become a tenant if they pay rent, stay for a long time, or even contribute to household expenses. If the landlord knows they are there or accepts a rent payment from the houseguest, they move to tenant status with all the eviction protections that a tenant has in Michigan.
Police Involvement in Removing Guest
If one roommate calls the police to get rid of a trespasser, they will likely arrive. The tenant identifies the person as a houseguest who overstayed their welcome and has been asked to leave, in short, a trespasser. However, if the guest claims to have become a tenant, the police have no way of knowing their actual legal status and may be reluctant to take any action against the roommate absent a court order.
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.