Handling Squatters in Michigan


Handling Squatters in Michigan

When you hear the word “squatters”, it probably conjures up images of a homeless community or an abandoned house used as a drug den in the inner city. Though in many cases that may be true, modern-day squatters may be someone you diligently screened and leased to. Whether one of your holdover tenants refuses to vacate or a complete stranger moves into one of your properties, you’ve got yourself a squatter. As a property owner, you’ll need to act quickly and know the local laws, because unfortunately, squatters have rights, too.

Who Is A Squatter?

A squatter is anyone who moves into and/or refuses to leave a property that they have no legal right to occupy. Usually a squatter moves into a vacant home, but technically it could be a tenant who refuses to vacate their home after their lease term has expired, also known as a holdover tenant. Though their actions may be considered illegal, they aren’t always necessarily recognized as criminal, as far as the courts are concerned.

Getting Rid of Squatters

If you find that you have someone who is not authorized to occupy your property, call the police. Just be prepared for the police to tell you that it’s a civil matter and you will have to evict the squatter through the courts. This is the police being either lazy or not knowing that Michigan has made squatting a misdemeanor.

Instead of waiting on or dealing with the police, you can also take matters into your own hands, with limitations. Michigan law allows a property owner to do the following to remove illegal occupants without the help of police:

1. Ask the squatter to leave within a certain amount of time.
2. Advise the squatter that legal action will be taken if they do not leave promptly.
3. When the squatter is not in the home, you can change the locks, block entryways, board windows, etc.
4. You can also create barriers of entry by installing fences and other obstacles around the home.

You CANNOT forcibly remove a squatter from a property. Only the police can do this.

Evicting A Squatter

Sometimes a squatter may have a fake lease or some other documentation that leads the police to avoid getting involved. If you change the locks, they may also keep breaking in. So, sometimes you have to start the eviction process and get the courts involved. Unfortunately, this process can easily take 45 days or more and if bailiffs have to be hired, cost $1,000 or more.

Another alternative is to make the squatter a “cash-for-keys” offer. Yes, it sucks having to basically bribe someone to leave your home they shouldn’t be in to begin with, but keep in mind: you’re losing more money the longer the process takes, the squatter is usually causing more and more damage the longer they stay and your water bill just keeps climbing. So, crunch the numbers and focus on how much you’ll save with a cash-for-keys offer!

Finding squatters occupying your property is frustrating, at best. However, it is important to abide by all local laws, or you could find yourself in hot water. Do your best to stay calm, notify the local authorities, and use the legal system to get possession of your property back.


Image Courtesy of Min An

19 thoughts on “Handling Squatters in Michigan

  1. Squatters living in my barn; he came to get help with his truck and never left. The barn has no electricity but they have run an electric cord from house..Can I stop the power at the plugs? I sent 7 day eviction notice thru court.

    1. Check with an attorney, but you should be able to deny them electricity from your house. If you are in Michigan, you are legally allowed to remove their belongings from the barn when they are not there. You can then secure the barn so they can re-enter. Again, you should consultant an attorney.

  2. So we had a family member watch over our home while we traveled for a month. Found out I had to evict them, because they started receiving mail here. Anyway, we had to call the police after they became verbally abusive. They moved all their stuff out yesterday, before eviction ever went to court. How long do we have to wait to change the locks and ban them from our property?

  3. My husband and I have been living in my daughter’s home for 3 1/2 years. She wants to sell the house, and we cannot move into an apartment until the end of October. She is harassing us about moving out, but we don’t have anywhere to move to until the apartment is ready. I have tried to reason with her to wait until we move and all of our belongings out of the house., but to no avail. She has threatened to change the locks on the doors, and I want to know what our rights are? We plan to move as soon as we can.

    1. You don’t identify the state you are in, but most states wouldn’t classify you as squatters.

      Squatters are typically viewed as having illegally entered a property to occupy it.

      Appears your daughter invited you to stay with her, so you didn’t illegally enter her home.

      So, by default, most states would consider you tenants, with certain rights.

      So, most states would require your daughter to evict you formally through the courts. Changing the locks would usually be seen as a violaton of your tenant rights.

      Of course, none of this should be construed as legal advice. You should speak with a local real estate attorney.

      1. I am from Michigan and I allowed someone to stay at my home and she has been here for approximately 60 days. She was supposed to leave and get her own place and she is now saying that she isn’t leaving. She also is not giving any money for rent. She has her mail coming here but has no utilities here. I own my home. Since I told her she had to leave she has broken things in my home, saying it was an accident. There is no lease with her or any drawn up paper work for lease of any sort. Is there anything I can do get her out or is eviction through court the only resolve

        1. We cannot give legal advice, so you should speak with a real estate attorney about leases and such.

          As she may be considered a guest, not a tenant, why can’t you put her things at the curb and change your doorlocks, so she can’t regain entry?

  4. I purchased a property at Michigan Tax foreclosure sale on August 12, and knew there were occupants. I delivered two notices , one on August 15th & 16th, on informing the occupants there is new ownership. Also was able to speak to an occupant who indicated they were aware of the property being sold and were packing. I called and emailed days following. I was informed by the previous owner that the occupants were tenant’s that knew she lost the property and informed they had to move. The occupants are squatters and refuse to leave. I filed an eviction notice for health & safety hazards, but the Court has a 30 to 45 day back log of cases. What else can be done to get these squatters removed so I can take possession of a property I purchased but can’t get access to!?

    1. You should have filed a 30-day notice ASAP as it goes by calendar month, NOT by any arbitrary 30 days.

      You can also try to offer than Cash-for-Keys, but don’t give them any funds until they are out and sign a letter stating they have given up possession of property & contents.

      Highly recommend you hire an experienced eviction attorney to assist you.

      1. I’ve just been informed by the City Enforcement Department that Michigan laws changed in 2014. Michigan have squatter law that makes it a crime, therefore I’m going to the Sheriff office to have them forcibly removed. There was another revision made in 2018, indicating the landowner can cut off utilities and change locks without an eviction.

        1. Technically, Michigan law allows you to also remove all of a squatter’s possessions, you just can’t remove or touch them.

          The challenge is many squatters now get fake leases and call the police if you try to remove their possessions, change locks, etc.

          The police then take the safe route and label this a civil matter, requiring eviction.

      2. I’ve just been informed by the City Enforcement Department that Michigan laws changed in 2014. Michigan have squatter law that makes it a crime, therefore I’m going to the Sheriff office to have them forcibly removed. There was another revision made in 2018, indicating the landowner can cut off utilities and change locks without an eviction.

  5. I’m considering purchase of a house in Detroit Michigan. I am aware that there is a squatter in the home at this time. Can I change the locks, remove their items and bar them from reentry or do I have to evict? They have not now nor ever had a lease with the previous owner nor with me. I’ve been told one thing then another. I understand that they can fake a lease but I can also be there with the buyer agreement and the new deed in my name … so there is that in my benefit. I’ve tracked their movements and know when they are not in the home.

    1. The challenge is how did they gain occupancy of the property?

      The Detroit Police Dept makes it VERY difficult to gain their assistance in removing squatters – because so many landlords misrepresent/confuse occupants for squatters.

      A squatter is ONLY someone that broke into the property to gain occupancy. If another tenant, a previous owner, etc. gave them access, then they are NOT technically a squatter.

      If they are a squatter, then yes, Michigan law allows you to change the locks and remove their personal possessions.

      Highly recommend you discuss with an attorney to avoid making a mistake and getting sued.

  6. Someone built structures across a property line in Michigan without getting a properly certified survey. When a survey showed the overage (almost 20 yards) what are the options to get them gone? The structures have been in place for about two years.

  7. I need help bad, I provided a month to month lease, but they haven’t paid a penny, I want to die, this feels like I’m defeated, please help me.

    1. Michigan Statute defines a squatter as an occupant that is occupying a property without owner/landlord permission.

      So, if you signed a lease, the occupant would have legal right to occupy the property and would NOT be a squatter.

      You would have to pursue eviction for nonpayment.

      NOTE: this is NOT legal advice, so seek the assistance of an attorney.

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