A judgment is the court’s final order that tells you and your landlord the decision in your case. You could end up with one of three types of judgment if your eviction case goes to court: a default judgment, a consent judgment, or a judgment after a hearing or trial.
When your landlord starts an eviction case against you, you should get a summons and complaint. It should include a notice of a hearing. If you don’t go to the hearing, your landlord may be able to get a default judgment. A default judgment lets your landlord evict you and collect any claimed past-due rent or other relief your landlord asked for in the case.
At your first court date, the judge can only enter a default in the following situations:
- If you were personally served the summons and complaint (someone gave it to you);
- You got the summons and complaint in the mail from your landlord and you got a second copy in the mail from the court and it was either given to someone in your home or was posted on your home; or
- If your landlord argues, and proves to the judge, that there is illegal drug activity in the home, a serious health hazard or extensive damage to the home, that you are causing injury or threatening to hurt someone, or that you are a trespasser
If none of these situations apply to you, the judge should not enter a default against you if you do not show up for your first court date. Instead, the judge should schedule another hearing for at least seven days later. If you do not show up for that second court date, the judge can enter a default against you.
If the judge enters a default, the landlord can then ask for a default judgment. A default judgment means that you lose because you did not show up. This means that a landlord can get a judgment saying you need to pay them money, or that you need to move out, or both.
In order to get a default judgment, your landlord needs to show there is a reason for you to be evicted. If the landlord does that, the judgment can enter a default judgment against you.
If a default judgment is entered against you, you can ask the judge to set aside the judgment and schedule a new hearing. Use the Do-It-Yourself Motion to Set Aside Default (Eviction) tool to complete the forms you need. You must file your motion with the court within the 10 days of when the judge signed the default judgment. You must have a good reason why you did not answer or attend the hearing.
You may want to talk to a lawyer to help you set aside the default judgment. 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.
After your landlord has started an eviction case against you, you can talk to your landlord to try to reach an agreement. If you come to an agreement, put it in writing and have your landlord sign and date it. Understand everything in the agreement before you sign it. You can then send or bring the agreement to the court and the judge will enter the agreement.
A consent judgment is an agreement where the parties agree that the landlord gets a judgment against the tenant on the agreed terms. This means that a consent judgment looks worse on a tenant's record than a conditional dismissal because a judgment is entered against the tenant. This can make it harder for a tenant to find other housing in the future. You can use the Judgment form for this type of agreement.
A conditional dismissal is an agreement where the parties agree to have the case dismissed as long as both sides follow the agreement. If the tenant doesn't follow the agreement, the landlord can go back and get a judgment against the tenant. A conditional dismissal keeps an eviction judgment off a tenant's housing history and credit report as long as they follow the agreement. This can make it easier for a tenant to find other housing in the future. You can use the Consent Order for Conditional Dismissal form for this type of agreement.
To learn more about negotiating a settlement, read Negotiations in Eviction Cases.
If you reached a consent judgment with your landlord, you can include any conditions you and your landlord agree upon in the agreement. You may be able to offer a partial payment of past-due rent, change the lease agreement, move from your home, or any combination of these options.
You may still need to go to court after you reach an agreement. If you have a consent judgment and you don’t have a lawyer, the judge must review the judgment and tell you it can’t be enforced for three business days after it’s entered.
A consent judgment can be enforced by either you or your landlord. If you agreed to leave your home by a certain date, you must do so to avoid your landlord asking for an Order of Eviction. If you agreed to pay money to your landlord and you don’t pay it, your landlord could garnish your wages or bank account to collect the judgment.
If you agreed to a consent judgment and a judge signed it, but you later find out you had rights and defenses you could have used to avoid eviction, you may be able to have the judgment set aside. To learn more read, Setting Aside a Consent Judgment in an Eviction Case.
Judgment after a Hearing or Trial
If you were unable to reach an agreement with your landlord, you need to attend a hearing in court. For more information about attending the hearing, how to prepare, and what you can expect, read Going to Court in an Eviction Case.
At the first hearing, the judge could either decide the case or schedule a trial for a later date. At the end of the trial, the judge will enter a judgment. It will say whether you have to move. It will also say whether you owe the landlord any money, and if so, how much. The judgment might say you can stay, but only if you do something specific by a date, like pay the landlord or remove a health hazard from the property. If you don’t do what is required, your landlord could get an eviction order.
You and your landlord have 10 days after the judgment is issued to file an appeal if either of you think the judgment is wrong. If you want to appeal the judgment, you may want to think about hiring a lawyer. If you 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.
Even if a judge enters a judgment saying you must move, your landlord cannot simply change the locks or remove your possessions from your home. A judgment should give you time to move. Usually you get 10 days, but you can ask for more time.
It’s different if you live in a mobile home park and have gotten a termination of tenancy judgment. 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.
The judgment must say all of the following:
How much money you owe for rent if you’re being evicted for not paying your rent
The deadline for paying your rent in order to stay in the home, if you’re being evicted for not paying your rent
Whether paying only part of the money for rent will stop the eviction
Whether you can stay in the home, and if not, when you must move to avoid an eviction order
Any costs you or the landlord must pay
You or your landlord can file a motion or appeal within 10 days
The amount of money you get for any counterclaims
Whether there are other orders, such as instructions to make necessary repairs or not to cause further harm to the property
Following the Judgment
After a judgment is issued, you and your landlord have to follow the orders in it. If you are ordered to move out of your home and you don’t move by the time stated in the judgment, your landlord can get an Order of Eviction to remove you from your home. Your landlord can’t force you to leave until this order is issued and delivered by a Sheriff, deputy, or court officer.
To learn more about evictions after a judgment has been issued, read Eviction after Court Is Over.
Last Updated: November 6, 2023