Illegal Evictions & Available Damages – What Landowners & Tenants Need to Know

Illegal Evictions & Available Damages

Michigan law generally does not provide a landowner or landowner the right to engage in self-help options to remove a tenant from their property. Instead, a landowner must provide the tenant with a proper written notice demanding possession of the property, and then initiate a summary proceeding action in court to remove the tenant. Michigan’s Anti-Lockout Statute, MCL 600.2918, prevents a landowner from forcefully entering the property or unlawfully interfering with a tenant’s possessory interest. Should a landowner fail to comply, they may face paying substantial damages.

Under Michigan’s Anti-Lockout Statute, a person that is forced off the property or kept off the property in a forcible and unlawful manner may recover 3 times their actual damages, or a minimum of $200.00, and may also regain possession of the property:

Any person who is ejected or put out of any lands or tenements in a forcible and unlawful manner, or being out is afterwards held and kept out, by force, is entitled to recover 3 times the amount of his or her actual damages or $200.00, whichever is greater, in addition to recovering possession.

A tenant may also recover their actual damages, or a minimum of $200.00, for each time that a landowner or landowner unlawfully interferes with the tenant’s possessory interest.

The Anti-Lockout statute defines acts of unlawful interference as:

  • Using force or threat of force;
  • Removing, retaining, or destroying personal property;
  • Changing, altering, or adding to the locks or other security devices on the property without immediately providing keys or other unlocking devices;
  • Boarding the premises that prevents or deters entry;
  • Removing doors, windows, or locks;
  • Terminating or interrupting an essential service, such as heat, running water, hot water, electric, or gas service; and
  • Introducing a noise, odor, or other nuisance.

However, a landowner may take certain actions without violating the Anti-Lockout statute, including 1) acting pursuant to a court order; and 2) temporarily interfering with possession when necessary to make needed repairs or inspections as allowed under the law.

Additionally, a landowner’s actions do not constitute unlawful interference when it appears that the tenant has abandoned the property and not paid rent. A landowner may remove the tenant when “the owner believes in good faith that the tenant has abandoned the premises, and after diligent inquiry, has reason to believe the tenant does not intend to return, and current rent is not paid.”

Lastly, a person may not bring an action under the Anti-Lockout statute if that person did not lawfully enter the property. As the law states, “An owner's actions do not unlawfully interfere with an occupant's possession of premises if the occupant took possession by means of a forcible entry, holds possession by force, or came into possession by trespass without color of title or other possessory interest.”

Who Can Bring a Claim?

When considering whether to bring a claim against a landowner, there are certain time requirements that the tenant must comply with under the Anti-Lockout Statute:

  • An action to regain possession of the premises under this section must be commenced within 90 days after the time the cause of action arises or becomes known to the plaintiff.
  • An action for damages under this section must be commenced within 1 year after the time the cause of action arises.

Michigan’s Anti-Lockout statute can provide for significant damages and assist with recovering possession of property when a landowner attempts to utilize self-help remedies, such as locking a tenant out or removing a tenant’s personal belongings. If you are a tenant whose possessory interests are being interfered with or a landowner seeking to remove a tenant from your property, please contact our experienced attorneys at Grewal Law PLLC for a consultation.