A Guide to Breaking a Lease In Michigan

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In Michigan, renters are legally protected if they need to break their lease, but only under certain circumstances. If you're a Michigan renter looking to break your lease, knowing your legal options is critical to avoiding financial penalties. 
Our lives are constantly changing and moving in different directions. One day you are living in your quaint apartment in Three Rivers, and then next, your job moves you to Motor City, and you find yourself househunting in Detroit. While change is exciting, it can also be expensive,particularlyif you have to break your lease.  
This is why Jerry, the super app for saving money on car and renters insurance, is here to help you learn what to do if you need to break your lease and what options are available in Michigan. 
In Michigan, there are seven legal ways you can break our lease, and most of them allow you to do so without having to pay any fees or penalties:
  • Active duty military: Military members are protected by The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) in case of deployment. To qualify, the tenant must have signed the lease before entering active duty status, and the deployment must be for more than 90 days
  • Domestic violence: Per Michigan law MCL § 554.601b, tenants that are victims of domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault or fear for their or their children's safety can break their lease by providing a copy of a protection order or other documentation to the landlord
  • Early termination clause: Part of the rental or leasing contract will include the terms, required timeframes, and penalties for breaking the lease early 
  • Landlord harassment: If landlords are excessively invading your privacy or harassing you, you may be able to break the lease without penalties
  • Senior Citizens: Tenants who can no longer live independentlyand have lived in the rental for more than 13 months can break their lease with a 60-day written notice. This is usually for when a senior is moving into subsidized housing, but it can also apply to tenants with physical or mental impairments, as stated by Michigan code MCL § 554.601a
  • Unit is uninhabitable: Per Michigan law MCL § 554.139, landlords must keep the unit safe and habitable unless it is the tenant that has caused the damage
As a tenant in Michigan, just know that you always have rights

What are the penalties for breaking a lease in Michigan?

Most people assume landlords have plenty of money and can afford to get a new tenant, but that isn't usually the case unless you rent from a larger management property. Smaller landlords use your rent to pay the mortgage for where you live, and without your rental income, they now have to cover their mortgage and yours. 
That is why a financial penalty is in place. Here is how breaking your lease can impact you:
  • Fees and rent payments: Some landlords may require you to pay out the rest of your rental contract, while others might need 30 or 60 days of rent. Take a close look at your lease agreement 
  • Lawsuit: You can be sued for breach of contract. In most cases, landlords will file a suit through small claims court
  • Decrease in credit score: Landlords can contact a collection agency to work on their behalf. If this happens, it becomes part of your credit history which impacts any future purchases that require a good credit score, such as credit cards, insurance premiums, mortgages, and car loans 
  • Fewer housing options in the future: Your rental history will follow you around, and future landlords do not want tenants with prior evictions or broken lease agreements
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How to break a lease without a penalty in Michigan

You are free to move once your lease is up without a penalty. That said, if you plan to move when your lease expires, it would be nice to give the landlord a heads up.
Some tenants and landlords have an agreement that once the first year is up on a lease, it automatically converts to an at-will tenancy. This means there is no specific end date. Michigan requires tenants to provide landlords with written notice when terminating an at-will tenancy. 
Here is the required notification timeline:
Lease agreementNotification
Week-to-Week Lease7-day notice
Month-to-Month30-day notice
Yearly Lease with No End Date1-year notice
Large corporations tend to adhere strictly to the lease agreement rules, so you will likely be stuck with the fines stipulated in your rental contract. 
If you rent from a mom-and-pop company (someone that owns only one or two rentals), there may be some wiggle room. They don't have the time or money to fight you in court, and they will be more willing to work with you if it helps mitigate their loss. 
Here are some tips so that you and your landlord can come out ahead:
  • Sublet: Can you sublet? Some lease agreements allow you to find someone to take over the remaining time on your lease, while other contracts strongly do not, so check your lease to learn your options
  • Offer to help them find someone else: If you have to pay the rest of your rental contract, the sooner someone moves in, the less you have to pay. Check with friends and co-workers, and post an ad if you are allowed to
  • Read your lease carefully: Landlords know how hard it is to collect on rent if the tenant has moved. Instead, some contracts may have a flat fine of around $250 or $500, which is a much more achievable amount to pay
  • Negotiate: See what else they will accept. Can you pay over time? Will they keep the security deposit and call it even? Maybe you can clean, paint, and have the apartment move-in ready for the next tenant. Sweat equity is real and has value to smaller landlords. 

How to save on renters insurance in Michigan

We know moving can be expensive and saving money is a top priority if you are forced to break your lease. Here is where Jerry can help! 
Jerry is America’s best-rated insurance super, saving users on average $800+ per year on car and renters insurance. We can save you even more with our insurance bundles! 
After downloading the Jerry app, getting started takes just 45 seconds, and you will receive competitive quotes similar to your current coverage—only cheaper!
“My speeding ticket raised my insurance to $310/month. Jerry got me full comprehensive coverage on two vehicles for $144/month through Progressive. I definitely recommend giving them a try.” —Brandon D.
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FAQs

Michigan started COVID Emergency Rental Assistance (CERA) to help tenants pay their rent; however, the program ended on June 30, 2022. If you would like to know more about your rights as a tenant, read this guide provided by the MSU College of Law Housing Law Clinic: A Practical Guide for Tenants & Landlords.
Yes, if your landlord sends your past due rent and fees to collections, it will negatively impact your credit score. Learn more about your credit score and improve your financial future by using Michigan's Financial Toolkit.

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