It is not uncommon during these tough economic times to offer temporary shelter to family or friends who are unemployed, have lost their home to foreclosure, are going through a divorce or are otherwise temporarily between homes. However, even this short-term, informal agreement creates a “landlord tenant” relationship under Michigan law.

You Can't Just Kick People Out!

This may create a problem when it is time for the relatives or friends to move out. Contrary to popular belief, the “landlord” cannot simply remove his unwanted “tenant” by moving out his guest’s personal property, shutting off the utilities or changing the locks. This type of “self-help” eviction is illegal in Michigan and can make the landlord liable for three times the guest’s actual damages.

Michigan Law Still Protects Non-Paying Tenants

Even if no money is changing hands, the landlord must give his tenant a 30-day notice that he wants him to move out. If the tenant does not move, then the landlord is required to file an eviction complaint in the local district court. The entire eviction process can often take 60 – 90 days to complete. During that time, the tenant has a right to remain in the premises without interference from the landlord.

Get It In Writing!

To protect yourself from this situation, it is best to have a written lease agreement signed by all the parties. This helps ensure that touchy issues, like the date when the tenancy ends, have been discussed and that all the parties are bound to honor their commitment. In addition, it can help the landlord prove the agreement to a judge in the event that an eviction case is necessary.

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