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.

24 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

  3. I live in Southfield, Michigan and have been in my apartment for a year now and upon moving in, I filled out the maintenence check list and gave it to the apartment manager. A whole year later and several maintenance requests made, no one still haven’t come to fulfill the work order. They even sent me texts stating the work orders was completed and i come home from work to absolutely nothing being done

  4. Hi,
    I have been renting this house for 2 years and have 1 year left on my lease. I pay my rent two weeks in advance, I have never been late and I’ve made some substantial updates to the house at my own expense including having the interior painted. I was verbally promised reimbursement but that net happened. My garage door opener stopped working, there is no handle for manual opening and there is no other entrance to the garage. I suspect this is not up to code. My landlord stated that I have to pay for any repairs and if I call the city on code violations that I will “make trouble for myself” and I will be evicted.
    I live in Michigan, do I have any recourse?

    1. Congrats on being a great tenant!

      Unfortunately, you’ll have a hard time proving any verbal agreements in court:( ALWAYS get everything reltated to business in writing.

      Regarding the garage, we’re not aware of any Michigan laws dictating egress to a garage.

      Not sure how your landlord can threaten you with eviction for asking the city for an inspection?
      #1 – that would be retaliation. It’d have to be in writing for you to prove though.
      #2 – if you pay your rent on time, have no other lease violations and your lease isn’t expired, how can you be evicted?

      Since none of this is legal advice, highly recommend you speak with a real estate attorney before acting.

  5. Hi – I am a landlord and we have a washing machine that our tenant called about in the middle of may. We looked at it ourselves the next day and determined we would need a service tech. Tech was scheduled the next day, and came to the house a day later. Determined washer needed to be replaced. We ordered a new washer over the weekend and were given a delivery date in the first week of June. We were contacted the day of delivery by Home Depot and they said they could not deliver and we are now rescheduled for the next week. Is the tenant able to withhold rent over this or not because we are attempting to fix the problem, we aren’t ignoring the request.

    1. In our experience, a tenant withholding rent for this issue would not be approved by a judge.

      At best, the tenant could deduct laundrymat receipts from their rent. NOT dry cleaning receipts.

      Suggest you reveiw your lease as most property management companies state in their leases that appliances are “as-is” and will not be repaired or replaced. Of course, you can still choose to repair/replace them for a good tenant.

  6. I take care of a special needs adult. He lives in a privatly owned/leased duplex. His particular unit is an absolute mess. The downstairs isn’t useable/liveable because of mold, presumably black mold. There was a major mouse issue this winter, which took WEEKS to get handled by the landlord. No, he doesn’t not have ANY food or consumables in his home.
    Now, here in Michigan, it’s 96⁰ with a heat index over 100. The a/c is broken beyond repair, as stated by the landlord. He did provide a single window unit. However, it isn’t adequate at keeping the home cool enough to be comfortable for a special needs senior.
    Anything I/his guardian can do legally?

    1. It’s unfortunate to hear all this.

      As the article states, someone could sent the landlord a request in writing, preferrble by certified letter, the repairs and clearly state if they are not address within 30 days, the rent will be used to make the needed repairs. Then forward the landlord ALL receipts from said repairs. Understand that the landlord may retaliate by filing eviction.

      Another option is to contact the city for a health hazard inspection, and the cit may force the landlord to make repairs or they may write tickets or even red-tag the property. Please understand a red-tag means the property is unsafe to live in and the tenant will be required to move. Also, again, the landlord may retaliate by filing eviction.

      Lastly, the letter mentioned above about repairs could also be modified to state that if the repairs aren’t made the tenant will be vacating the unsafe property.

      NONE OF THIS IS LEGAL ADVICE, PLEASE CONSULT WITH AN ATTORNEY.

  7. I moved my mobile home into a new park three weeks ago. Are Michigan and the landlord keeps lying about why they have not provided any utilities. I can’t hook anything up till they fix their boxes and lines. The owner of the park just told me I could find someone else to do it. I can’t do anything till they update all their utilities on their end they told me I. May they where doing it. I just got off phone with consumers and the landlord didn’t call till last week. They never called the semco gas company

  8. Im having trouble understanding but I’ve been living a my residence for over 10 years there’s always needed work down I have only been able to use my bathroom since in 6 months out of 2 years theres also another things that need to be done. I’ve bee doing most myself. Yes I’m late on yet. My landlord sold half my lawn to the neighbors then increased my rent $50 and now I just received another letter she’s increasing it again another $50 starting Oct. Ty hats $100 increase in less then a year and my water was $50 a month and now it’s $95 is that aloud in Michigan. I signed a year lease over 10 years ago and that’s it.

    1. In Michigan, leases automatically convert to month-to-month instead of expiring.

      So, your landlord is well within their rights to raise your rent with proper notice.

      Regarding the repair issues, you should look up your rights or speak to an attorney.

  9. Land lord has to be section 8 ready, though I’m not on section 8 I have to be inconvenienced with them interrupting my peace coming to inspect. I’m in my 12th year he says his house will not pass inspection and wants to take possession of the land have me move by September 12th. He refuses to make these repairs that are life and safety threatening as well do not keep my enjoyment being at the property. The land lord has violated me and Section 8 as well, so what recourse do I have today? He needs to give me all my money back for the 22 years here because the bathroom was already falling in in the sink, the mild and mold in basement and upstairs covered up with paint, holes in linoleum, and carpet past 20;years before moving in ( not able to live on)cabinets worn,the kitchen sink flooring same many soft spots in duplex

    1. There are several misconceptions here.

      1) The landlord does NOT have to be Section 8 compliant if landlord is not receiving payments for your lease from Section 8.

      2) The landlord is NOT required to refund you any rent. If the property is not up to habitable standards you can either escrow your rent, based upon state or local requirements, or you can move. How do you justify living in the property for free?

  10. My michigan landlord is sending me an eviction notice on Monday because she will not repair or replace anything like the leaking roof. I have a years worth of emails I have sent and no repairs. What are my options and is this legal?

    1. If they are sending you a Notice for Possession (30-Day Notice) and your lease is up or month-to-month, it is entirely legal.

      If they are sending your a Notice of Nonpayment (7-Day) then you may have legal options to protest to the judge.

      Please seek advice from an attorney.

  11. Our main drain has collapsed today and we have some serious plumbing repair scheduled with the city tomorrow to excavate. Until then our water and plumbing as been turned off. Is there any law stating how long they can keep us without water or plumbing? They didn’t leave us anywhere to use the bathroom. As a result of the blockage I had sewage water come up through the toilet and sat on my bathroom floor for 7 hours before someone came out to clean it. The cleaning company they had come out said under these conditions they would replace the floor and wood vanity that had soaked up and sat in the sewage. The management company wants me to move to a more expensive different property instead and doesn’t want to replace the floor or vanity. Are they able to evict me because they don’t want to make these repairs?

    1. First, it’s unfortunate that you have to go through this.

      You have asked two separate questions:
      1) How long can they keep you without water & sewer?
      ANSWER: You don’t really say who “they” are. If this is the fault of the city, then you have to pursue the city for your answer as the landlord is powerless. If the collapsed sewer line is the responsibility of the landlord, then the answer would depend on the state and local laws. Typically 24-48 hours is allowed.

      2) Does the landlord have to make repairs or can they force you to move?
      ANSWER: Replacing the floor will take some time, during which you will be without a bathroom. Check your lease and local laws for language about repairs causing non-habital condition and what a landlord must do. Also, if your lease has expired or is month-to-month, the landlord can terminate it with a 30-day notice.

  12. I am in Michigan and I have submitted multiple requests for over 2 years about a roof leak, it has now rendered mold in my unit and is damaging the walls. How can I break my lease early in this situation.

    1. Sorry to hear about your maintenance issue.

      Just follow the legal process, outlined in our article. You may also want to use a Home Depot mold test kit to document the mold is a health issue and send to your landlord. If they still refuse to make repairs, contact Legal Aid for advice on breaking your lease.

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