Eviction for Nonpayment of Rent

Topic Menu

If you rent your home, you must pay rent for it. How much rent and when it is due must be stated in your lease. If you don’t have a written lease, your landlord should tell you how much rent you must pay and when it is due.

If you don’t pay your rent, your landlord has the right to start the eviction process. Your landlord must go to court to legally evict you. A landlord can’t do anything to personally remove you from the property. To learn more about the general eviction process, read Eviction: What Is it and How Does it start?

Eviction is a serious matter. You may want to contact a lawyer. If you have low income, you may qualify for free legal services. Whether you have a low income or not, you can use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers in your area. If you are not able to get free legal services but can’t afford high legal fees, consider hiring a lawyer for part of your case instead of the whole thing. This is called limited scope representation. To learn more, read Limited Scope Representation (LSR): A More Affordable Way to Hire a Lawyer. To find a limited scope lawyer, follow this link to the State Bar of Michigan lawyer directory. This link lists lawyers who offer limited scope representation. You can narrow the results to lawyers in your area by typing in your county, city, or zip code at the top of the page. You can also narrow the results by topic by entering the kind of lawyer you need (divorce, estate, etc.) at the top of the page.

Demand for Possession

Before your landlord can evict you for not paying your rent, your landlord must give you a “Demand for Possession, Nonpayment of Rent.” This is the first step in the eviction process. The demand must:

  • Be in writing

  • Be addressed to the tenant

  • Describe the rental property, usually by giving the address

  • Say how much rent you owe

  • Say that you have seven days to pay the rent or move out

  • Include the landlord’s address and the date of the notice

Your landlord must properly serve you with the demand for possession for nonpayment of rent. Your landlord can serve the demand in one of these ways:

  • By giving it to you in person (personal service)

  • By giving it to a member of your household who is old enough and responsible enough to accept it, with a request that it be given to you (substitute service)

  • By mailing it to you via first class mail

  • By sending it to you electronically (by e-mail)

In order for your landlord to be able to serve you by e-mail all of these must happen:

  • You must have agreed to be served by e-mail in writing (this agreement could be in your lease)

  • Your landlord must have sent you the agreement or confirmation by e-mail

  • You must have replied to your landlord’s e-mail

If you change your e-mail address, you must let your landlord know about your new e-mail address in writing, or go through the process listed above for your new e-mail address.

Some examples of improper service are slipping the demand under your door, leaving the demand outside your door, attaching the demand to your property, or mailing the demand by methods that require a signature.

Starting the Court Case

Once you get a demand for possession, you have seven days to pay the rent or move out. If you don’t do either one, your landlord can start an eviction case against you.

A landlord starts an eviction case by filing a summons and complaint with your local district court. A copy of your lease, a copy of the demand for possession that the landlord served on you,  and a “certificate of service” stating how the landlord served you must be attached to the summons and complaint.

To learn more about eviction cases in court, read Going to Court in Eviction Cases.

Going to Court

In court your landlord must prove all of the following to get a judgment of eviction for nonpayment of rent:

  • You did not pay your rent;

  • You were properly served with a demand for possession for nonpayment of rent; and

  • You did not pay your rent or move out within seven days of the notice.

If your landlord does not prove all of these things, the judge should find in your favor and you should not be evicted.

Defending Against Eviction for Nonpayment

If you paid your rent, you should not be evicted for nonpayment of rent. You should tell your landlord you disagree and show proof of your payments. You should never give your landlord your original rent receipts. Instead, give them copies. If your landlord ignores your proof of payment and files an eviction case in court, bring your original rent receipts to show the judge.

In exchange for rent your landlord must keep your home and common areas in reasonable repair. If your landlord has not done this, you may ask the judge to reduce your rent for the period of time you were living in those conditions. This is called a “rent abatement.” Bring any proof you have of these conditions to court with you. Examples of proof can be pictures and inspection reports.

If you spent money repairing your home or dealing with damage to it, you can also file a counterclaim asking the judge or jury to order your landlord to pay those expenses. However, you must not have caused the damage and your landlord must know about it.

If you did not pay your rent because your landlord did not keep your home and common areas in reasonable repair, or you deducted money from your rent to pay for repairs to your home, read Common Defenses and Counterclaims in Eviction Cases. When you're defending a case in court you may want to have a lawyer. A lawyer can help you raise these and other more complicated defenses to eviction. Use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers and a legal services office in your area.

Applying for Rental Assistance

There are some resources available that may be able to help you catch up on unpaid rent. One way to find out about your options is to contact your local Housing Assessment and Resource Agency (HARA). Your HARA should help you figure out what rental assistance you might qualify for and help you apply. Go to our Rental Assistance Page and select your county from the menu to find out the contact information for your HARA. You can also see if you qualify for the State Emergency Relief Program

You can apply for rental assistance before your first court date or within 5 days of your first court date.

If you have applied for rental assistance before your first court date, be sure to tell the judge that you applied for rental assistance. You also need to fill out the Rental Assistance Form (check "Proof of Application") and attach proof that you submitted an application. This Rental Assistance Form and attached proof needs to be filed with the court and served on your landlord or their lawyer, if they have one. You can do that when you are at court. The eviction case should be stayed, or paused, for 14 days to allow that application to be processed. Your eviction case will continue after those 14 days unless you file and serve the Rental Assistance Form again (this time, check "Status Update"), and attach proof that your application is still being processed or has been approved. You need to file and serve this second Rental Assistance Form and your proof within 14 days of when the judge first paused your case. In that case, the stay should be extended for 14 more days, for a total of 28 days. After those 28 days, your case will continue. Your next hearing after that stay could be your trial.

If you apply for rental assistance after your first court date, and within 5 days of that date, you also need to fill out the Rental Assistance Form (check "Proof of Application") and attach proof that you submitted an application. Within 5 days of your first hearing, you need to file the Rental Assistance Form and the attached proof with the court and serve (send) it to your landlord, or their lawyer, if they can one. Your case should then be paused in the same way as explained above.

Paying Rent after a Judgment

If you’ve been to court and the judge or jury has decided against you for nonpayment of rent, the judgment should state how much you owe your landlord. This amount may include late fees (as allowed by your lease), as well as fixed court costs and filing fees. However, each party in an eviction case is responsible for paying for their own lawyer.

The judgment should also tell you that you must either pay the amount owed or move out of your home. In most cases, you will have 10 days to pay or move out. You may ask for more time if you need it. If you do not pay or move out by the deadline, your landlord can get the local police or sheriff to force you to leave.

The amount of time you have to move is different if you’re being evicted from a mobile home park. Read Mobile Home Park Evictions - Special Rules to learn more about the time you have to move if you’re evicted from a mobile home park.

It’s also possible you and your landlord could come to an agreement to avoid eviction during this time. If so, make sure you get a written agreement signed by your landlord.

If you pay the full amount owed on judgment before the deadline, you must be allowed to stay in your home. Be careful about paying less than the full amount owed on the judgment because your landlord may still be able to evict you.

To learn more about the eviction process, read Eviction after Court is Over. You can use our Do-It-Yourself Answer to Eviction Complaint tool to create your answer to eviction for nonpayment of rent.