How to Use Michigan’s ‘Repair and Deduct’ Policy

2015-10-31

How to Use Michigan’s ‘Repair and Deduct’ Policy

Step One: Call a Lawyer and Ask Them about Everything You See Here — We’re Not Lawyers, and this is Not Legal Advice!

A bunch of DIY drywall-repair gear.

In general, if you have a problem with your rental property that causes it to no longer meet the state’s basic health, safety, and structural standards, it’s the landlord’s job to fix it. But what if the landlord simply doesn’t?

When You Need a Repair
The first thing you should do when you realize the need for a repair is contact your landlord/property manager and communicate what is wrong, how it’s affecting your life, and ask if there are any further steps you need to take. Some will tell you to fill out a particular form or call a particular number, etc. Keep notes of when you communicated, who you communicated with, and what the response was. Preferably, send an email or some other written form of communication.

Wait
Now, you have to give the landlord reasonable time to address the issue. What is ‘reasonable time’?  Well, that’s not specifically defined in Michigan law, but there are some informal guidelines that work. Michigan state law recognizes three categories of repair need:

  • Emergency Repairs are those needs that threaten the health and/or safety of the tenants — gas leak, busted furnace (during the cold months), sewage flooding into the basement, and so on.
  • Major Repairs are those that negatively affect the tenant’s ability to live comfortably, but not their health or safety. A broken water heater, a busted furnace (during the warm months), a clogged bathtub drain, etc.
  • Minor Repairs are the needs that make life annoying, but are merely nuisances — peeling wallpaper, buzzing lights, and ants getting inside, as examples.

In general, emergency repairs need to be started within 24-72 hours, major repairs within 7 days, and minor repairs within 31 days. If you’ve waited that long, and there’s no sign of action on the manager’s part, move to the next step.

Get an Inspector
If you have reason to believe that the landlord/PM is going to try to pull one over on you, call a property inspector to come out and assess the problem. In some municipalities, you will have to pay the inspector’s fee; in others, the landlord will have to pay if the building turns out to be not up to code, and you’ll only pay if it is just fine. Ask the inspector to summarize his findings and send you a copy.

Inform the Landlord/Property Manager
The next critical step is to get in touch with your PM or landlord and tell them that you’re going to pay for the repairs yourself and deduct the cost of those repairs from the rent you’ll be paying. You don’t have to wait for a reply at this point — just put something in writing and move forward.

Get Three Reasonable Estimates
The next step is to get estimates from three well-reputed groups that can handle the repair in question. Forward all three estimates to the landlord/PM, choose the least expensive of the three options, and move forward with the repairs. Warning,  if you intend to perform the repair yourself, understand that you will usually only be allowed to deduct materials, not labor — and you may be held responsible for shoddy workmanship.

Document Expenses
Just in case the repair ends up costing more than you expected, document every expense that comes up — and get signed statements from all of the repair crews involved as to each change. Documentation is your best friend in this whole process!

Pay Rent with Repair Costs Deducted
Continue to pay your rent as normal through this process, until the repairs are complete. Once you have the final bill in hand, deduct that amount from your rent and send a copy of the bill in with your remainder (if any) and a letter explaining what you did and why.

NOTE: do your best to work with your landlord on repair issues before starting down the path of deducting repairs from your rent and get a legal opinion before doing so. Many cosmetic repairs don’t have to legally be repaired, so if you pay for them you may not legally be able to deduct them.

Hopefully, this is information you’ll never need — the vast majority of landlords will rush to make repairs the moment they understand that you intended to use the ‘Repair and Deduct’ law. But it’s nonetheless information that all Michigan tenants should know, on the off chance it becomes useful.

4 thoughts on “How to Use Michigan’s ‘Repair and Deduct’ Policy

  1. My air conditioning unit went out on Saturday, June 5. I live in a brick apartment building on the 2nd floor. I immediately emailed the PM and she responded that she would make a request for repair. The weather this weekend and this week has been in the high 80’s.

    On Monday I was contacted by the maintenance man who came to check the thermostat. Informed me the batteries needed to be replaced and replaced them. Ironically, this thermostat was installed by the same maintenance man in Febuary and those batteries are new! I reached out again Monday afternoon to the PM requesting an update and was told “the service contractor will contact you to schedule an appointment.”

    On Monday afternoon I received a call from a service provider offering me an appointment on Wednesday, June 9 between 12:00-2:00pm. I received a “we’re on our way” call at 1:00 and they arrived approximately at 1:20. Made some adjustments to the thermostat, checked the vents and the air began to flow with thermostat reading 84 degrees. Told us it would take about 2 hours to cool the apartment off.

    One hour later, the unit stopped working and the temperature immediately began to rise and returned to 84 an hour later. Now I’m being told the unit needs to be replaced but the service provider doesn’t know how long it will be before they do. The PM has yet to contact me to offer my any assistance! To add insult to injury – the apartment directly across from me is vacant!!

    The forecast for the remainder of the week is the same – high 80’s. My unit is equipped with 1 ceiling fan that is going 24/7 and portable fans I have throughout the house. I’m sleeping with my front door leading to the hall open as well as my balcony door to get air movement.

    Needless to say, these conditions are unlivable and I don’t know how much longer I can take!

    What are my options? Am I able to deduct rent for any of these days? I am considering getting a hotel room at this point. Is that reimbursable? How long do they have to fix this issue? If this was the winter time the situation would be just as dire!

    1. You haven’t indicated what state you are in, but we’re only familiar with Michigan statutes.

      While there is a law that requires a landlord to provide sufficient heating to maintain a temperature of no lower than 65 degress, we are not aware of any law requiring a landlord to provide air conditioning to maintain a temperature below any set amount.

      So, you would need to review your lease and see what it states about air conditioning. If it is mentioned, then you’ll want to follow the process laid out in the document at this link:

      https://www.legislature.mi.gov/Publications/tenantlandlord.pdf

  2. I would like a list of some lawyers in Grand Rapids, Michigan Who can help me get minor things done. I have lived in a condo developement for 1yr and 10 months nd nothing I have asked for to be fixed has been done

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