What are the steps to legally evict a tenant in Michigan?
There are four main steps to carrying out a legal eviction, five if you include one optional step. Here are the various steps and what each step entails, generally:
Step 1 (Optional) – Send a Warning Letter
Sending a warning letter can be a good place to start—especially if your tenant has been renting from you for a long time and typically pays their rent on time each month. An official “notice” can be very scary to a tenant. Sending a great tenant a legal notice can put them on their guard and make them defensive. A simple gentle warning letter might prevent duress on both sides and get a positive result, i.e. the rent paid.
Various warning letters can be used:
- a letter immediately notifying the tenant that their rent is past due (and they have until the end of the grace period to pay);
- a letter notifying the tenant that they are violating the terms and/or conditions of their lease;
- a letter notifying the tenant that their lease will be ending.
The RPOA recommends using first-class U.S. mail for all communications regarding evictions. Send the optional warning letter using standard mailing services.
Step 2 (1st Legal Step to an Eviction) – Send a Legal Notice
The official legal document necessary to start an eviction is a “notice.” There are various types of notices. The type of notice used will depend on what type of eviction is being initiated. See the RPOA Knowledge Base Related Article “Legal Reasons for Evicting a Tenant in Michigan” for more information on the types of forms used. The time period for the notice will depend on the type of notice. Typically the time period is 7 to 30 days. In some cases, the notice period can be as little as 24 hours.
Step 3 – Filing a Complaint
If a tenant has not complied with your notice (e.g. paid the rent or moved), you must file a complaint in the District Court which has jurisdiction over the area where the subject rental property is located. The filing involves the delivery of several documents, including a notarized “court” copy of the original notice sent to the tenant, the complaint form, a summons form, a judgment form, a copy of the lease and a #10 stamped envelope or an envelope large enough to hold all the documents. In some courts, only the notice and the complaint need to be filed. You should call the District Court to find out which specific forms are required when filing. The RPOA has this information for Kent and Ottawa Counties and for courts within the areas of RPOA Affiliate members. A fee will also be charged at the time of the filing. In most cases, a hearing date will be given at the time of the filing—usually within 10 days from the date of the filing. In some rural or smaller areas of the state, the date of the hearing may be several weeks later. Here’s a link to the list of all courts in Michigan on the RPOA website: http://rpoaonline.org/legal-and-technical/district-courts.cfm Once the forms are filed and the fee paid, you must simply wait until the date of the hearing.
Step 4 – The Hearing
On the date and time given for the hearing, the landlord and (maybe) the tenant will approach the bench when their case is called. Various things can happen at the hearing. Both the landlord and the tenant may be asked to answer some specific questions. If the tenant does not show, the landlord will likely get a default judgment. A default judgment means that the court is agreeing that the tenant should be evicted and the landlord may move forward with the eviction process. (See Step 5.) The court may also adjourn the hearing to later date or rule that the tenant is not to be evicted.
Step 5 – The Physical Eviction/Writ of Restitution
If the court agrees to evict the tenant, they usually give the tenant 10 days to move. After the 10 days have expired, the landlord may then go back to the court with another completed form called an Order of Eviction of Writ of Restitution. Hopefully, the judge will sign the order/writ then and there. If not, the court may contact you at a later date. In either case, the court will eventually discuss with you how you would like to handle the physical eviction.
In most cases, the court will assign the eviction to a court officer or a local sheriff. The officer will then contact you to determine exactly when you will be available to move the tenant out. Once the date is decided, you must show up at the property (with help if needed) and the officer will clear the way for you to move the tenant’s belongings to the “curb.” The tenant is typically not allowed to help with the eviction except to move their property from the curb for transport to another location. Once the property is vacated, the officer will usually direct the landlord to secure the property and change the locks. In most communities, the rule is that the landlord must leave the tenants property at the curb for at least 48 hours. Some courts will grant you the ability to dispose of it after 24 hours.
Once the tenant is out, the landlord may begin repairing, rehabbing or otherwise get the property ready to rent again.
Assistance with the eviction process and forms is available from the RPOA office at 1-800-701-7762. For limited legal advice, members may call the office of Pawlowski & Reens at 616-458-7800.