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Proposed Modifications to Michigan Court Rules Seek to Make Pandemic-Inspired  Changes Permanent, Making it Harder to Evict Tenants

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Michigan’s court rules related to landlord-tenant eviction procedures were modified in some ways to utilize video conferencing and to make certain proceedings more efficient, and modified in other ways that made it more difficult for landlords to evict residential and commercial tenants. Pursuant to recently proposed amendments to Michigan Court Rule 4.201, Michigan’s State Court Administrative Office has taken steps to make many pandemic-era changes to minimize evictions permanent.

The rule changes were subject to a shortened public comment period which ended on November 1, 2022. The Supreme Court will take them up at its November 16 public hearing.

Some of the highlights of the rule modifications include:

  • Giving courts discretion as to whether to enter an eviction order if a tent fails to appear at an eviction hearing (pre-pandemic such an order was mandatory).
  • Allowing a judge to adjourn trial for at least seven days if a default judgment is not entered.
  • Staying an eviction case if a tenant has applied for rent assistance.
  • Allowing tenants to request a jury trial with only 48 hours’ notice before a trial.
  • Permitting online pretrial hearings.
  • Requiring tenants to be served in person if a landlord is seeking an immediate default judgment.

Eviction is an issue that every Michigan landlord must grapple with at some point while running their business. Ever since COVID-19 began, it’s become harder for landlords to move forward with eviction. And now, given these proposed rule changes, it may not get any easier for the foreseeable future.

One of the best ways to avoid having to deal with the eviction process is to do due diligence on potential tenants to assess their ability to fulfill their obligations under a lease. Ensuring that a lease agreement is unambiguous and contains clear procedures for eviction (that are consistent with the law) is also critical.

To protect and enforce your rights as a landlord, please contact Fraser Trebilcock shareholder Jared Roberts.

Jared Roberts is a shareholder at Fraser Trebilcock who works in real estate litigation and transactions, among other areas of the law. Jared is Chair of the firm’s Real Estate department, and also “walks the walk” as a landlord and owner of residential rental properties and apartments in Downtown Lansing. He may be reached at jroberts@fraserlawfirm.com and (517) 482-0887.

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