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The Michigan Court of Appeals recently ruled on a case in which a landlord of residential property did not have a valid rental permit as required by a local ordinance. 

The Case

The tenant rented the property for 39 months without the landlord ever obtaining the required permit. The City sent the tenant an order to vacate the premises because there was no current, valid rental permit.  After the tenant moved out, he filed suit against the landlord to recover all the rent he had paid for 39 months.

The Result

The local ordinance provided: "Abatement of rent.  Where there is no current, valid, rental permit for a dwelling, no rent shall be accepted, retained or recoverable by the owner or lessor of the premises..."

The Court of Appeals found that the rental requirement imposed a public duty on landlords, not an obligation owed by a landlord to a tenant. The Court also found that the enforcement of the ordinance was entrusted only to the city, not to tenants. The Court dismissed the tenant's claim to recoup his 39 months of rent payments.