Nonpayment of Rent Eviction - Self Help
The following information will take you through the steps to be followed in an eviction case because of nonpayment of rent. This type of eviction case is filed in district court. Online help is also available for nonpayment of rent evictions from Michigan Legal Help
to prepare forms through an automated interview process and to provide toolkits with legal articles, FAQs, procedure, and other resources.
Statutes, Court Rules, and Other Resources
Statutes and court rules associated with eviction proceedings because of nonpayment of rent are: MCL 600.5701 et seq.
, 600.5771 et seq.,
and MCR 4.201
. See also laws on security deposits MCL 554.601 et seq.
, the Truth in Renting Act MCL 554.651 et seq.
, Covenant of Fitness and Reasonable Repair MCL 554.139
, Termination Notices MCL 554.134
, the Consumer Protection Act 445.901 et seq
., Unlawful Interference with Tenancy ("Lock-out Law") MCL 600.2918
, and Equitable Jurisdiction and Authority, MCL 600.8302
. For case law, see the Michigan Appellate Digest for Landlord-Tenant matters
. Other links are available through the Michigan Poverty Law Program
website. Other resources may be available from the district courts; you can check the individual district court websites for these materials.
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 Eviction Proceedings for Nonpayment of Rent
If you are a landlord and the tenant has failed to pay rent, you may begin eviction proceedings by giving the tenant 7 days notice to either pay the rent or move out or vacate the premises.
If the tenant does not pay the rent or move out within the time frame in the notice, you can file a complaint with the district court requesting the court to order eviction and to give you a judgment for damages, if any.
If you don't want to offer the tenant the option to pay the rent and simply want to evict the tenant and/or obtain a judgment to collect damages owed to you by the tenant, you must proceed on a different reason for eviction. This usually requires a notice to quit or demand for possession.
You can prepare your own notice or use the SCAO-approved form, Demand for Possession, Nonpayment or Rent (form DC 100a). If you prepare your own notice, it must comply with MCL 600.5716
Giving Notice to a Tenant
The demand for possession must be served on the tenant. The demand may be served in one of three ways:
- by delivering it personally to the tenant;
- by delivering it on the premises to a member of the tenant's family or household, or an employee of the tenant, who is of suitable age and discretion, with a request that it be delivered to the tenant;
- by sending it by first-class mail addressed to the tenant.
Some examples of improper service are slipping the demand under the tenant's door, leaving the demand outside the tenant's door, attaching the demand to the property, or mailing the demand by methods that require a signature.
If the demand is mailed, the date of service is the next regular day for delivery of mail after the day it was mailed. When figuring out the date you want the tenant to move out by and when you can file a complaint, do not include days that mail is not delivered, such as Sundays and holidays. See general information about service
What if You Get a Demand for Possession from a Landlord
If you are served with a demand for possession because of nonpayment of rent (this may be an SCAO-approved form called a Demand for Possession, Nonpayment of Rent, DC 100a) and you do in fact owe the rent, you may respond to the request in the demand by paying the rent or moving out or vacating the premises. If you disagree with the demand, you may want to contact an attorney (legal aid may be available in your area) or you may contact your landlord to attempt to resolve the problem.
Filing a Complaint Against a Tenant for Nonpayment of Rent
If you served a demand for possession because of nonpayment of rent and the tenant did not pay the rent or move out or vacate the premises as you requested in the demand, you may file a complaint with the district court to regain possession of your rental property and, if applicable, to get a judgment for money damages against the tenant. In certain circumstances it may not be necessary to file a complaint to regain possession of the property. Consult an attorney. See also MCL 600.2918(3)
When you file a lawsuit against a tenant, you (the landlord) are called the plaintiff and the tenant is called the defendant. The plaintiff is usually the owner of the property, but not always. For example, the plaintiff can be someone who is subleasing the property. A paper copy of the complaint form is available from the court or you can complete it online (Complaint, Nonpayment of Rent, Landlord-Tenant, DC 102a).
The complaint must be filed with the district court where the property is located. A copy of the complaint and a notice of the court hearing must be served on the tenant. You can file your complaint with the court in person or by first-class mail. More detailed instructions for filing and serving the complaint are provided in the form packet (DC 102a).
There is a fee for filing a complaint against a tenant who has not paid rent. The cost of filing your lawsuit with the district court is $45.00. If you are seeking money damages, you must pay an additional filing fee as follows:
- $25 for damage claims up to $600
- $45 for damage claims from $600 to $1,750
- $65 for damage claims over $1,750 to $10,000
- $150 for damage claims over $10,000 to $25,000
The plaintiff (landlord) is responsible for paying the filing fee and other fees. If the judge rules in favor of the plaintiff, these fees may be added to the judgment amount against the defendant.
Issuing a Summons
The court must issue a summons commanding the defendant to appear for hearing or trial. Most courts require the plaintiff to prepare the summons form (DC 104) that is included in the form packet for DC 102a and to file it with the complaint. When the summons and complaint forms 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
Getting the Summons and Complaint to the Tenant
After you have filed your complaint (form DC 102a), along with the summons (form DC 104) and the clerk has issued the summons, you must notify the defendant that you have filed a complaint against him or her. This is done by serving (delivering) the summons and complaint on the defendant. To make sure you serve the court papers as required, follow the instructions on the packet for the complaint form (DC 102a). See also MCR 4.201(D)
and MCL 600.5735
for service requirements.
What if You Get a Summons and Complaint
If you are served with a summons (form DC 104) and complaint (form DC 102a), 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. See MCR 4.201(F)
Pursuant to local court rule, the following courts require a written response to be filed with the court before the hearing/trial will be scheduled: 1st District Court (Monroe County), 2A District Court (Lenawee County), 12th District Court (Jackson County), 18th District Court (City of Westland), 81st District Court (Alcona, Arenac, Iosco, and Oscoda Counties), 82nd District Court (Ogemaw County), and 95B District Court (Dickinson and Iron Counties).
If you decide to file a written answer, a paper copy of the answer form is available from the court or you can complete it online (Answer to Complaint, Nonpayment of Rent, Landlord-Tenant, DC 111a). A responsive pleading (answer) must comply with the general rules for pleading in MCR 2.111
. Also, if you want to present defenses to the statements made in the complaint, they must be included in the written answer. A defense means a reason you (the tenant/defendant) present to the court to oppose a plaintiff's (the landlord's) complaint and the relief that the plaintiff is requesting (usually a judgment of possession). You may want to consult an attorney to help you prepare your defenses. Some common defenses to a landlord's complaint for a nonpayment of rent eviction are:
- the landlord failed to follow the requirements for a demand for possession, which is usually grounds for dismissal of the complaint. See MCL 600.5716 and MCL 600.5718.
- the landlord's claim for unpaid rent is too high. You will need evidence to prove this, such as receipts, cancelled checks, money order tracer reports, or other proof of payment.
- a disagreement about the rental amount. You will need evidence to prove that the rental rate stated in the complaint is wrong, such as a lease, another agreement, or some other statement of the landlord that support your position.
- the landlord failed to properly repair and maintain the premises. See MCL 554.139, MCL 125.471, and MCL 600.5741.
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 jury fee of $50.00 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 and, if requested in the complaint, an immediate order of eviction may be entered.
Preparing for the Hearing
To prepare for the hearing, gather the evidence you need to prove your case. This might include a receipt, guarantee, lease, contract, government inspection report, 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 with you so you should contact them as soon as possible. Letters and affidavits are not permitted as evidence. More details are provided in the forms packets. See general information about hearings
for directions on getting witnesses to appear .
Attending the Hearing
The hearing will usually take place at the location stated in the summons/notice to appear. It is important to be there on time. If you are the plaintiff (landlord) and are not in court when your case is called, the case may be dismissed. If you are the defendant (tenant) and are not in court when your case is called, a default judgment may be entered against you. 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.
At the hearing, the landlord must prove: 1) that the tenant failed to pay rent, 2) that the tenant was given proper notice to either pay the rent or move out or vacate the premises, and 3) that the tenant did not pay the rent or move out or vacate the premises within 7 days of the notice.
Bring all your relevant papers or other evidence and make sure your witnesses arrive on time. Evidence that you present is subject to the Michigan Rules of Evidence. Witnesses will be allowed to tell the court about facts they know firsthand that support your evidence. See general information about hearings
An eviction 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. You should listen carefully. If you think someone is leaving something out or is misstating facts, you should be sure to tell the judge or jury.
When speaking to the judge, you should take time to tell what happened in your own words and state why you think the court should order what you want. You have the right to ask questions of each other and of all witnesses.
You may appeal the judge's decision to the circuit court. If you lose the case, you may be ordered to pay the court costs as allowed by MCL 600.5759
and you should be prepared to pay for this extra expense.
Judgment of the Court
The court prepares the Judgment, form DC 105, after the hearing/trial. The court may award a judgment for costs pursuant to MCL 600.5741
and MCL 600.5759
. The court will also make sure that the judgment is given or sent to you. If the judgment is in favor of the landlord (plaintiff), it will give the tenant 10 days to pay the rent and costs or the landlord may obtain an order evicting the tenant. The judgment may also include a money award if one has been requested.
Evicting the Tenant
If the court entered a judgment that the plaintiff has the right to recover possession of the property and the defendant does not move out as stated in the judgment, the plaintiff can file an application with the court to have the defendant evicted as provided by MCL 600.5744
. Follow the instructions on the Order of Eviction, form DC 107.
Collecting a Money Judgment
If a money judgment was ordered for damages and/or costs and is not paid when ordered, additional papers must be filed with the court to collect on the judgment by having wages or a bank account garnished or property seized. This cannot occur until 21 days after the judgment is entered. See information about collection