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​Land Contract Forfeiture - Self Help

The following information will take you through the steps to be followed in a land contract forfeiture case in district court. This type of  case is filed in district court.

Statutes and Court Rules

Statutes and court rules associated with land contract forfeiture proceedings are: MCL 600.5701 et seq., MCL 554.301 and 554.302, and MCR 4.202. Some useful general information about land contracts is available from the Legal Services of Northern Michigan website.

Using Court Forms

Court forms are available for use in eviction proceedings for nonpayment of rent. These forms follow the procedures stated in the Michigan Compiled Laws and Michigan Court Rules and can be used without the assistance of an attorney. Instructions for completing and using the forms are included.
When completing a form online, you must print the number of copies you will need for filing with the court and serving on the parties. See the upper right-hand corner of each form for this information. If you do not provide the court with the correct number of copies, the court might reject the form for nonconformance under the authority of Michigan Court Rule 8.119(C). Unless specifically required by court rule or statute, the court is not responsible for making copies of forms for you.

How to Begin Your Lawsuit

If you are a seller and want to give a purchaser notice of forfeiture because of non-payment of installments of principal or interest, unpaid taxes or insurance premiums, or some other violation of the land contract, you must give notice to the purchaser. If the purchaser does not pay the amount due or correct the problem you have asked within the time frame in the notice, you can file a complaint for possession and costs with the district court, requesting the court to order eviction.

Serving the Notice

The notice must be served on the purchaser (the person in possession of the property). The demand or notice may be served one of three ways:
  • by delivering it personally to the purchaser;
  • by delivering it on the premises to a member of the purchaser's family or household, or an employee of the purchaser, who is of suitable age and discretion, with a request that it be delivered to the purchaser;
  • by sending it by first-class mail addressed to the last known address of the purchaser.
If the notice is mailed, the date of service is the next regular day for delivery of mail after the day it was mailed. If notice cannot be served by one of these methods, it may be served by publication under the provisions of MCL 554.301 and 554.302 and the date of the third publication is the date of service. See general information about service.

What if You Receive a Forfeiture Notice

If you are served with a notice of land contract forfeiture, you may respond to the request in the notice by doing what the notice asks. If you dispute the notice, you have the right to file your dispute with the district court. You are encouraged to try resolving your dispute through mediation. You may want to contact the court clerk to see if a mediation program is available in your community.

Filing a Complaint

The cost of filing your lawsuit is $45.00. In addition, if you are seeking money damages, $25.00 for claims up to $600, $45.00 for claims from $600 to $1,750, $65.00 for claims over $1,750 to $10,000, and $150.00 for claims over $10,000 to $25,000 is required. You (the seller of the property) are the plaintiff, and the purchaser is the defendant. As the plaintiff, you are responsible for paying the filing fee and other fees. Some of the other fees are postage or service fees. Ask the court for this information and be sure to bring this amount with you when you file your complaint. The amount of the fees can be included as part of the judgment against the defendant (the person you are suing) if the judge decides in your favor.

Issuing a Summons

The court must issue a summons commanding the defendant to appear for trial. Most courts require the plaintiff to prepare the summons and to file it with the complaint. Once the summons and complaint are filed, the court will "issue" the summons by dating and signing it A summons must comply with MCR 2.102 and MCL 600.5735.

Serving the Summons and Complaint

After your have filed your summons and complaint, you must notify the defendant that you have filed a complaint against them and the date they are to be in court. The summons and complaint must be served by delivering the court papers to the defendant in person. Follow the instructions on the forms to make sure you serve the court papers as required. See also MCR 4.202(F) and MCL 600.5735 for service requirements.

What if You Receive a Summons and Complaint

If you are served with a summons and complaint, you must appear and answer the complaint by the date on the summons. You can appear and answer by either: 1) filing a written answer or motion and serving the plaintiff with that answer or motion; or 2) orally answering each allegation in the complaint at the hearing. You have the right to be represented by an attorney. You are entitled to a jury trial, but you must demand it and pay a $50.00 jury fee when you make your first appearance and answer.
If you do not appear and answer as required, the court may enter a default judgment against you. This means the judge may grant a judgment for the plaintiff without hearing from you.

Preparing for the Hearing

On the hearing date, any of the following may happen:
  • If both the person filing the lawsuit and the defendant appear, the judge may recommend that the parties go to mediation and the case may be adjourned. If either party does not want to attempt mediation, the hearing will proceed.
  • If the plaintiff does not appear and the defendant does appear, the case may be dismissed.
  • If the defendant does not appear, the plaintiff may ask for a "default" judgment. This means that if the judge decides the plaintiff has a good claim, the plaintiff can obtain a judgment without a hearing because the defendant did not appear to challenge the complaint.
When you go to court for a hearing, take with you all the evidence you believe proves your case. This might include a receipt, guarantee, lease, contract, or accident report. If a damaged article is too big to bring with you, photographs can be presented as evidence. Any witnesses you would like to speak on your behalf should appear in court as well. See general information about hearings for directions on getting witnesses to appear.

The Hearing

The hearing will usually take place at the court where the complaint was filed. It is important to be there on time; if you filed the lawsuit and are not in court when your case is called, the case may be dismissed. If you are the defendant and are not in court when your case is called, a default judgment may be entered against you.
Bring all of your relevant papers or other evidence and make sure your witnesses will be on time.
A land contract case can be heard by a judge or a jury, and the hearing will be recorded.
The court clerk will call the case and both the plaintiff and the defendant will appear before the judge. The judge will ask the plaintiff to state the facts and law in support of the complaint. When the plaintiff has finished, the defendant will have an opportunity to respond. Each party should listen carefully. If either party thinks someone is leaving something out or is misstating facts, they should be sure to tell the judge or referee. Both parties should take their time and tell what happened in their own words and why they think the court should order what they seek.
The plaintiff will be seeking the relief requested in the complaint, while the defendant may ask the court to grant the relief requested, grant some other form of relief, or dismiss the complaint altogether. Each party may present evidence to support his or her argument. Witnesses will be allowed to tell the court about facts they know that support this evidence. See general information about hearings.
A judge's decision is final. Either party may appeal the judge's decision to the circuit court. Whoever loses the case may be ordered to pay court costs and attorney fees. Parties should be prepared to pay for the extra expense.


The court prepares the Judgment of Possession After Land Contract Forfeiture, form DC 106, after the hearing. The court will also make sure that the judgment is given or sent to both parties. If the judgment is in favor of the plaintiff, it will give possession of the property to the plaintiff (seller) and will require the defendant (purchaser) to move out. The judgment can also include a money award.

Evicting the Purchaser and Collecting Your Money

If the court enters a possession judgment in favor of the plaintiff and the defendant does not move out or pay any arrears and costs ordered to retain possession within the time stated in the possession judgment (not less than 90 days), the plaintiff can file an application with the court to have the defendant evicted. Follow the instructions on the Order of Eviction, form DC 107. An order of eviction cannot be issued if any part of the amount due under the possession judgment has been paid, unless a hearing has been held after the defendant has been given notice and an opportunity to appear, or if the judgment states otherwise.
Once an order of eviction is entered, it must be served on the defendant. An order of eviction can only be served by an appointed court officer.
The court may enter a money judgment in addition to a possession judgment if the you joined a money claim to the complaint for possession. If the defendant fails to pay a money judgment when ordered, you must go back to the court and file additional papers to collect on the money judgment by having the defendant's wages or bank account garnished or their property seized. This cannot occur until 21 days after the money judgment is entered.
As part of the money judgment, the defendant must provide information to the court that can be used in postjudgment collection efforts. See information about collection

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