Breaking a lease in Michigan comes with different outcomes, depending on the case. If you, as a landlord, prepare accordingly for these cases, you will get protected and compensated for all the money you could potentially lose.

However, there are some scenarios that may allow tenants to break their lease agreement without many penalties. The following article will outline all the scenarios that may come up if a tenant tries to break a lease in Michigan.

What Are the Lease Termination Notice Requirements?

Tenants in Michigan should provide their landlords with written notice if they want to break a lease for any reason. Here's an overview of the applicable lease terms:

  • Weekly Lease - Seven days of notice.
  • Monthly Lease - 30 days of notice.
  • Yearly Lease (with no end date) - One year notice.

On the other hand, tenants aren't required to provide any notice for fixed-term leases, as they expire on their last set day.

There are three methods the tenant can consider to deliver the notice letter to their landlord. Those include:

  • Serving the notice letter in person.
  • Sending a copy of the letter via registered/certified mail.
  • Sending a copy of the letter to the landlord with someone of a suitable age.

Landlords are also free to evaluate which delivery method they prefer and write it on the lease agreement.

Breaking a Lease Early

Tenants can break a lease agreement in Michigan for any reason. However, they may face some penalties if they didn't break the lease for a valid reason. We'll explain that later.

There are some scenarios where a tenant may be able to break a lease without facing these penalties, though. The following section will cover all of them:

Active Military Duty

People starting active military duty can get protected under the Service members Civil Relief Act (SCRA). This act protects members from the date they start their service until 30-90 days after they get discharged.

Tenants who use this act to end a lease agreement must send proper notice to their landlord, as well as a copy of the deployment or any other applicable letter/document. Moreover, they need to prove that they will remain on duty for at least 90 days and that they signed the lease before starting their duty.

Even if the tenant is able to break a lease under this protection, they can only do it 30 days after the next rent period starts.

The SCRA applies to members or commissioned corps of the:

  • Public Health Service
  • Activated National Guard
  • Armed Forces
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Early Termination Clause

An "Early Termination Clause" outlines all the terms/conditions the tenant should be aware of if they try to break their lease agreement before it expires. Typically, the landlord charges a penalty fee to those who end their lease without a valid reason.

Each lease may have different terms for its termination clauses, so both parties should review their agreement carefully before doing anything else. Some documents may have provisions that may allow tenants to break the lease without paying penalties.

Landlord Harassment

Some tenants may be able to break their lease under the argument that they're being harassed continually by their landlords. If they're able to prove they're being harassed, they may be able to leave the property without paying penalties.

Here are two scenarios that are considered harassment:

  • Changing Locks: Landlords in Michigan aren't allowed to lock their tenants out of the property. In that sense, a landlord can't change the locks of the property without the tenant's permission or consent, as that would be considered a constructive eviction.
  • Entry Without Notice: Entering a property continually without providing notice is considered a privacy violation. Although Michigan doesn't have any statutes that outline a notice period for landlords, they should still provide a reasonable amount of notice before they enter the unit.

Uninhabitable Unit

All landlords have to comply with local and state housing codes to avoid having legal problems with their tenants. In other words, landlords have to keep their properties in good shape, ensuring all common areas and appliances are in good/safe working order.

Moreover, landlords have a legal obligation to provide reasonable repairs when requested unless the problem was caused by the tenant's irresponsible acts. If the landlord fails to comply with the state's housing and safety codes, the tenant may be able to leave the property without paying penalties.

Domestic Violence

Many states in the U.S. protect tenants who are victims of domestic violence. Here's everything the Michigan state offers:

Tenants may be released from all their payment obligations if they can prove they're victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, or stalking. To apply for this protection, tenants must send proper notice to their landlord, as well as a copy of a personal protection order or any other applicable document that proves the perpetrator can't be near the tenant or their child.

Moreover, landlords must notify their tenants that they have the legal right to release themselves from rental obligations if they have a reasonable fear of any of these cases.

Senior Citizen Cases or Qualified Disabilities

Tenants who have been in the unit for over 13 months can end their lease without penalty if they can prove they've become eligible for subsidized senior citizen housing. In those cases, they must send a 60-day notice to get the process started.

On the other hand, if the tenant becomes incapable of living on their own due to old age or a disability, they must get a notarized statement from a physician and show it to the landlord to be able to move out.

Other Reasons That Allow Tenants to End a Lease Early

The following situations may allow a tenant to break their lease, as long as they get them approved by a court first:

  • Repeated violations of the lease agreement.
  • Using a contract that's deemed illegal.
  • Not being able to provide mandatory disclosures as the law requires.

Arguments That May Not Allow Tenants to Break the Lease

Here are a few other reasons tenants may use to break their lease. However, these reasons often don't offer protection against penalties, as they don't provide enough justification on their own to break a lease:

  • Buying a new house or property.
  • Moving in with a close friend, family member, or partner.
  • Moving out because of a divorce or separation.
  • Criminal activity around the area.
  • Upgrading or downgrading the property.
  • Relocating to a new school or job.

Tenants who want to avoid legal consequences from breaking a lease in this way may try to negotiate with their landlord to come up with a mutual termination agreement.

How Does Michigan Law Compensate Landlords?

Landlords in Michigan can get compensated if a tenant tries to break the lease before it expires. Overall, they can enforce penalties through an "Early Lease Termination Clause."

As mentioned before, these clauses are meant to outline the terms and consequences of ending a lease before it expires. Including those provisions in your lease will prevent any misunderstandings and/or legal problems in the future.

The penalty may vary depending on the case. Some common scenarios include:

  • Keeping the security deposit.
  • Charging the tenant for the remaining rent.
  • Charging the tenant for advertising and screening expenses.
  • Suing the tenant through a small claims court.

Technically, tenants can end their lease at any moment and for any reason, but if you include the right provisions in your lease, you will be able to get compensated for the money you deserve.

Do Landlords Have a Duty to Find a New Tenant?

Some states require landlords to make a reasonable effort to re-rent their rental unit regardless of the reason why the old tenant broke the lease. According to Michigan law, it's the landlord's duty to credit the new rent they got to the old tenant's debt.

In these cases, the tenant would only be liable for the money the landlord lost when the unit was vacant.

Moreover, keep in mind that the law allows landlords to charge the tenant for legitimate expenses, including advertising costs and screening fees.

Can Tenants Sublet the Property to Cover All the Rent They Owe?

Tenants should be able to sublet the rental unit as long as the landlord or property manager allows it. Some leases include a clause that outlines what the tenant must do if they want to sublet the property, including asking for the landlord's approval.

If the lease doesn't include this type of clause, then the tenant may still ask for permission by sending a letter through certified mail. The letter should explain all the terms surrounding the subletting request, as well as include the proposed tenant's information.

Landlords in Michigan have the right to refuse or approve the subletting request. However, they may only refuse these requests if the reason is based on reasonable or legitimate factors.

Bottom Line

That's everything Michigan law says about breaking a lease in the state. You should be able to avoid most issues if you're as clear as possible with your lease's terms and communicate with your tenant about any concerns they may have.

If you want to protect yourself when renting your property, you should create a detailed and easy-to-understand rental agreement. While doing that won't prevent your tenant from moving out, it will provide you with all the protection you need if that ever happens.


What Is the Most Important Duty for Tenants When They Sign a Lease?

Tenants who sign the agreement are responsible for meeting all its terms and conditions until the periodic/fixed-term lease expires. They're also believed to have good intentions and stay on the property until the specified date.

Failing to break a lease for a valid reason can bring several consequences to the tenant, which can make it harder for them to find another place to rent in the future.

Can Landlords Keep the Security Deposit as a Penalty?

Yes, landlords can keep a security deposit as a penalty for breaking a rental lease early. However, if the amount of the deposit isn't enough to cover the remaining lease term, the landlord may decide to sue the tenant through a small claims court.

Do Landlords Need to Make Reasonable Efforts to Re-rent Their Units?

According to Michigan law, landlords have to make a reasonable effort to re-rent their rental unit if the old tenant broke the lease for any reason.

With that being said, landlords don't need to lower their renting standards and choose someone that's not appropriate for their property. If the landlord doesn't find a suitable replacement for the tenant, they may still ask them to pay rent until the lease expires.

What Happens If the Tenant Doesn't Pay What They Owe?

Tenants who fail to pay rent for the time they rented the property may face several consequences, depending on the case. Most of the time, landlords decide to file a case with a small claims court, which may allow them to recover some of the money they lost.

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David is the co-founder & CMO of DoorLoop, a best-selling author, legal CLE speaker, and real estate investor. When he's not hanging with his three children, he's writing articles here!