Michigan Security Deposit Laws

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The Michigan Civil Code, which regulates the state’s rental laws, allows landlords to charge renters up to one and a half months’ worth of rent as a non-refundable security deposit. When you move out, your landlord must return this security deposit within 30 days.
There are many reasons why you may not get your full security deposit returned to you at the end of your rental period. Michigan law allows landlords to withhold some or all of this security deposit to cover damages to the rental unit, among other things. 
What are these expenses, what are your rights as a renter, and what happens if your landlord refuses to return your money? To help answer all these questions and more, car and renters insurance broker Jerry has compiled everything you need to know about security deposits in Michigan.
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What is Michigan law on security deposits?

A security deposit is a down payment you make to your prospective landlord to secure the apartment and usually amounts to a month or so of rent. 
The security deposit also protects your landlord after you move in—if you violate the terms of the rental agreement or damage the apartment, the landlord can use the money in your security deposit to cover the cost of repairs.
If you want to know more about the exact letter of the law when it comes to security deposits and all other things surrounding renter’s rights, the Michigan Act 348 of 1972 is the place to look.

What is the maximum security deposit a landlord can charge in Michigan? 

Landlords in Michigan are allowed to charge their renters up to one and a half months’ worth of rent as a security deposit. For example, if you agree to a monthly rental price of $1,000, your landlord can ask for up to $1,500 as a security deposit.
This is important to remember as it can make move-in more expensive than expected. In the example above, you will need to have at least $2,500 on hand (your first month of rent plus the security deposit) to move into the rental space.
The landlord will keep your security deposit until you move out and should return it thereafter. Make sure you know your rights as a renter and don’t let anyone wrongfully withhold your deposit after you leave. 
If you have any questions or think a landlord is not following the law, the best practice is to contact a landlord & renter’s lawyer.

How long does a landlord have to return a security deposit in Michigan? 

Landlords in Michigan are legally required to return your security deposit within 30 days of the last day of your tenancy. Be sure to give your new address and information to your landlord so they may send you the deposit without delay.

When can a landlord withhold a security deposit in Michigan?

Security deposits exist in part to reimburse landlords should they need to repair the apartment or if the renter violates the terms of their agreement. Here are the permissible reasons a landlord may withhold a security deposit in Michigan:
  • Unpaid rent 
  • Unpaid utility bills, like water and power
  • Damage to the property beyond normal wear and tear
  • Breach of the leasing agreement
Think of it this way. Landlords are obligated to furnish a clean living arrangement for renters, and renters should return a clean apartment back to their landlord. A security deposit pays for any work the landlord must complete to make sure the apartment is ready for the next renter.
You may be wondering: what counts as ‘beyond normal wear and tear’? While some instances are quite clear-cut—you knock a hole through a wall with a baseball bat—other situations are more ambiguous. 
It’s good practice to photograph the apartment’s condition before you move in so you can prove to a landlord that any scrapes, dings, or broken appliances weren’t the result of your activity if a dispute arises. 
If the landlord does make any deductions or keep the entire security deposit, they must send an itemized list of damages and the cost to repair each one. You must respond by mail within seven days after receiving the list to acknowledge or dispute the deduction. 
Key Takeaway Michigan renters should get all of their security deposit returned to them at the end of their rental unless a landlord can claim one of the exemptions above. 

How to get your security deposit back in Michigan

In the best-case scenario, you shouldn’t have to do anything to get your security deposit refunded by your old landlord. By law, the landlord must return your whole deposit within 30 days unless they’re entitled to make a deduction to pay for damages you’ve caused. 
If you do not receive your deposit within this time period, the best course of action is to contact your landlord. It may simply be the case that the deposit was lost in the mail or the landlord didn’t see your new address yet. 
If your landlord refuses to return your security deposit and does not supply you with the legally required notice of withholding payment, you may take them to small claims court
This can be an annoying and confusing process, and some communities have free resources and legal counsel to consult before you jump in. 

How to save money on car and renters insurance in Michigan

Car ownership is important, especially in the land of the Motor City. Many areas in Michigan, and especially Detroit, face much higher rates than the rest of the country—but that doesn’t mean you can’t find savings. 
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FAQs

Unless you come to a specific agreement with your landlord, you may not use your security deposit as your last month’s rent.
No—you cannot be charged for a typical carpet cleaning. However, if you are negligent and damage your carpet, the landlord may be entitled to take money from your security deposit to pay for repairs and replacements after you leave.

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