Michigan landlord tenant laws usually prohibit a landlord from using “self help” methods to evict a tenant. Instead, a landlord is usually required to use the local district court to obtain an order of eviction.
There are a few exceptions that allow a landlord to use “self help” evictions and the Michigan legislature recently added another exception – the death of a tenant. In order to regain possession of the property after the death of a tenant, a landlord must meet the following requirements:
- The landlord must have informed the tenant, in writing, of the tenant’s right to provide contact information for an “authorized person” that the landlord can contact in the event of the tenant’s death. (It would probably be easiest if this request is made at the time of signing the lease, but the law allows it to be done at any time before the tenant’s death).
- The current rent has not been paid.
- The landlord believes, in good faith, that the tenant has been dead for at least 18 days.
- There is no surviving tenant on the lease.
Once those requirements are met, the landlord may regain possession 10 days later, if the following are all true:
- (If the tenant has listed an “authorized person”) the landlord must make a reasonable attempt to contact that person and request that a probate estate be opened within 28 days after the tenant’s death.
- The landlord must place a notice on the door of the property indicating that the landlord plans to re-enter, take possession and remove the contents after 10 days have passed;
- The landlord must notify the public administrator for the county where the property is located, that the tenant is deceased and that the landlord intends to regain possession of the premises if a probate estate is not opened. If the public administrator requests it, the landlord must give the public administrator access to the property.
- A probate estate has not been opened in the county where the property is located, and the landlord has not received notice that a probate estate is opened in another county.
The Fine Print
The law is not clear what the public administrator may do if given access to the property. It is not stated whether the public administrator can remove the tenant’s personal items and store them for the next of kin. Likewise, the landlord could be liable for disposing of the tenant’s personal items unless all of the requirements listed above are followed precisely.