I am not sure I agree with Attorney Martin. What I AM sure of is that your failure to read the paperwork is not a legally justifiable excuse. Given the real estate climate in Michigan, it is possible that your landlord is willing to excuse the failure to pay the added fee, to ensure that the property stays rented. I would not allow this situation to continue, however.
In Michigan, any contract involving real estate should be in writing. If the original contract is in writing and you remain in the tenancy beyond the original term, it is considered "holding over." At that time, depending on the terms of the original contract, you either renew for another term, or you renew on a month to month basis. In either case, the contract should provide for the price terms. In YOUR case, this obviously did not happen.
The question I have is whether his written statements would constitute an "offer" and your ongoing possession constitutes acceptance, OR does your payment of the prior rent constitute a counter-offer on your part and his receipt of the payments without complaint constitute acceptance of the former rate? The only way that would be settled for sure is in court. In most situations, it is not in your interest to go to court. That is why I suggest that you do not allow this situation to remain uncertain.
I would suggest that you contact your landlord and let him know that you were unaware of the added charge until you just noticed it. Let him know that you are not able or willing to pay, but that you are willing to continue to rent the property at the originally agreed upon price. You may then have a decision to make as to whether or not to vacate the premises, if he is unwilling to continue to have you rent the place for the former price. If you have otherwise been good tenants, then the landlord may agree to waive the extra charges. Either way, you would not have them hanging over your head.
Generally state law provides that upon expiration of the term of a lease the relationship becomes a month-to-month tenancy. This would apply even on an oral lease. Under general common law landlord-tenant principles, as long as you had possession you owe rent. On contract principles a benefit was conferred on you, unjustly enriching you unless you pay for it. Not reading his statements rendered does not excuse you from paying them. Sorry. No free ride this time.
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DISCLAIMER–This answer is for informational purposes only under the AVVO system, its terms and conditions. It is not intended as specific legal advice regarding your question. The answer could be different if all the facts were known. This answer does not establish an attorney client relationship. I am admitted only in California.
(Bryant) Keith Martin
Attorney Fredrick's answer is fairly comprehensive the only comment I have to add would be whether the language in the proposed contract or other documentation regarding the month ot month charge was written in plain English or legalese. You may not be liable if it was an offer too good to understand. However not noticing is not an excuse as non collection by the landlord does not equal a waiver.
I am only admitted to the MI bar therefore this is only general advice it is highly recommended to contact an attorney in your area for definitive guidance.
If the landlord gave 30 days written notice of the fee change at the time the lease expires, then the month-to-month fee is valid and enforceable. Failure to pay might give the landlord grounds to evict for non-payment of rent, which starts with a 7-day demand for possession and moves through the landlord-tenant court very quickly. Do not ignore it if you are served with such a notice.
The above comment is meant as general advice. More information would be needed at a confidential consultation in order to provide an accurate evaluation of your legal options.