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REAL ESTATE 6: Complaint against defendants for a violation of the anti-lockout statute.

This case arises from defendants’ actions in removing plaintiff and his personal belongings from the rental property, on two occasions, without resort to summary proceedings in the court.

In 2008, plaintiff entered into a month-to-month tenancy with the property owner and resided in the apartment unit thereafter. The property owner lost the property to a tax foreclosure in 2015. Defendant purchased the property at an annual tax auction in the fall of 2015. After the purchase, defendants sent a letter of ownership to all occupants of the property, including plaintiff, which gave plaintiff 10 days to vacate the property. Thereafter, defendant came to plaintiff’s unit and demanded that he vacate within 3 days.

When plaintiff did not vacate the premises, defendants came to the property and removed plaintiff’s personal belongings from his unit. After defendants left, plaintiff returned to the property, purchased and installed a new lock on his door, repaired the door, and placed his personal belongings back into his unit. The next day, defendants returned and once again, removed plaintiff’s possession from the property.

Plaintiff filed a six-count complaint against defendants for a violation of the anti-lockout statute, injunctive relief for illegal lockout, conversion, negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and for exemplary damages.

The Michigan anti-lockout statute, MCL 600.2918, virtually eliminates the self-help remedy in Michigan in favor of judicial process to remove a tenant wrongfully in possession. The statute prohibits forceful self-help regardless of whether or not the tenant was in rightful possession of the premises. Although plaintiff admitted, and the trial court found, that he had not paid rent for seven months before eviction, non-payment of rent, standing alone, is insufficient to exercise self-help under the statute. It must be accompanied with a good-faith belief that the tenant has abandoned the property.

The appeals court held that the trial court’s decision to dismiss plaintiff’s complaint was erroneous. The trial court also failed to explore the adequacy of the notice to quit and whether the oral and written demand to quit constitutes a legal notice under the law. Although plaintiff alleged that he received a letter from defendant informing him that it was the owner of the property and giving him 10 days to vacate the property, this notice was insufficient as a one month’s notice to quit is required to terminate a month-to month tenancy.

Are you involved in a real estate dispute in Michigan? Are you seeking an efficient and effective resolution to a property litigation matter? If you are facing a residential or commercial real estate dispute, seek the advice of an experienced and skilled real estate litigation attorney at Aldrich Legal Services in Plymouth.

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