Kalamazoo, MI asked in Landlord - Tenant for Michigan

Q: My lease ends in May my landlord said I can’t fix damages before that and he is keeping my SD. Can he do this?

My house burned down and I lost everything, I was living in a hotel room with three dogs. I was desperate for a place. The landlord raised rent $400 the night before I signed my lease because of my three dogs. He told me that the house was abandoned by the last tenant and that he understands the damages they left. My lease ends May 31st. There are minor damage is like broken blinds and stains on the carpet from my dogs. He told me I’m not allowed fix any damages and that he’s keeping my security deposit (3,000). He is showing the house, which is fine. He is saying I did all the damages, we both have pictures proving I did not. However he says the damages were not as severe as they are now. The only new damages or stains on the carpet and blinds broken. Can he hire these people to fix damages, while my lease is still going and refuse to allow me to fix what my dogs did, and keep my security deposit? Again my lease doesn’t end until the last day of May.

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1 Lawyer Answer
Michael Zamzow
Michael Zamzow
  • Grand Rapids, MI
  • Licensed in Michigan

A: You've raised quite a lot of potential issues. First, I think you're probably on the right track, listen to your gut and do some research if you're unable to hire an attorney.

Now, the following --generalizations-- might help narrow down your search (but don't limit yourself to this list). Do not construe this as legal advice specific to your situation, this is merely a place you might consider starting your research from.

- At the start of the lease, the landlord shall provide to the tenant two copies of the inventory check list. (MCL 554.608)

- Think of the security deposit as the property of the tenant, held by the landlord until they can 'trigger' their ownership. (MCL 554.605)

- The security deposit cannot exceed 1.5x rent (If rent is $2,000 then the security deposit can be up to $3,000) (MCL 554.602)

- The security deposit may ONLY be used for two reasons (abridged): "(a) Reimburse the landlord for actual damages to the rental unit [...] that are the direct result of conduct not reasonably expected in the normal course of habitation of a dwelling. [OR] (b) Pay the landlord for all rent in arrearage under the rental agreement [...] and for utility bills not paid by the tenant." (MCL 554.607)

- - There's a lot to breakdown there, but "actual damages" might be one limiting factor, "direct result of conduct" might be another limiting factor, and "normal course of" might be a third limiting factor.

- Process for move-out and the security deposit:

- - Within 4 days of moving out, the tenant must provide a forwarding address (MCL 554.611).

- - Within 30 days, the landlord must then (x) either return the entire security deposit, or (y) provide an itemized list with a check for the remaining balance (MCL 554.609).

- - Then within 7 days of receiving itemized list, the tenant must respond with either agree or detailed disagreement of the itemized list by mail (MCL 554.612).

- - Then within 45 days of move-out (not after) the landlord must sue the tenant to obtain the security deposit (MCL 554.613).

- - If the landlord does not file to sue the tenant within 45 days, then the tenant can sue the landlord for the return of the deposit (MCL 554.613).

You might fight answers to your other questions here:


- There is a handbook for landlords and tenants through the State of Michigan, found by searching "landlord tenant handbook Michigan" and maybe also through this link: https://www.legislature.mi.gov/Publications/tenantlandlord.pdf

- West Michigan legal aid and other organizations have self help information on their websites.

For example: https://michiganlegalhelp.org

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