Michigan landlord-tenant law: money and possession judgments

When a landlord evicts a tenant, the non-lawyer landlord who prepares the notice to quit, summons, and complaint, must specifically request money damages. When using the Michigan court forms provided by SCAO, the box next to paragraph 12, under the heading “Supplemental Complaint”, must be checked and it must specifiy how much money is owed. This paragraph states that the landlord is seeking “judgment . . . for money damages against the defendant . . .” in a specific amount.

Even though, in a non-payment of rent case, it must be alleged that there is unpaid rent owing, this statement does not entitle the landlord to a money judgment. For that, the landlord must complete paragraph 12 and pay the appropriate filing fee. Otherwise, the landlord is simply stating that because the tenant has not paid rent and the landlord are entitled to possession.

Simply put, it is the difference between saying, “You owe me rent, therefore you must pay me or move out,” and saying  “You owe me rent, therefore you must pay me now or move out; or, move out and pay me later.”

What choice the landlord will make depends on how charitable they feel and whether or not the tenant is collectible (i.e., whether they have valuable property to be seized, wages that can be garnished, or sizable state tax returns that can be garnished).

By Jason Wapiennik

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