Michigan Governor Granholm has just approved a new law that becomes effective immediately. This law, codified as MCL 554.601b, provides assistance to tenants who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.
Victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking are often in a situation where they must move immediately, whether to a shelter or another residence, because there is an immediate danger of injury, harm or potential assault. However, if that victim is a tenant in a rental residence, the victim/tenant is still responsible for rent even if they vacate. Prior to this new law, there was nothing in Michigan’s law that provided assistance or help to the victim—and the victim/tenant could be sued for rent that was not paid.
The new law, which applies to leases entered into, renewed, or renegotiated after October 20, 2010, allows a tenant, who is in reasonable apprehension of present danger to themselves or their children, submit a written notice of intent to be released from their rent payment obligation. The law dictates that the tenant must deliver to the landlord, by certified mail, a notice that they intend to be released from their rent payment and must include, with that notice, written documentation that there is a PPO, a probation or parole order, or a written police report (if it resulted in charges being filed within 14 days). There are other types of written documentation that can be provided as well, and this is explained in the new law. Upon providing the proper notice with supporting documentation, the tenant is released from the rent payment obligation on the 1st day of the second month that rent is due after notice is given. However, the release is not effective unless the tenant actually vacates.
As family law attorneys, we are seeing escalated instances of domestic violence. This law is designed to assist victims who are truly in danger so that they can better protect themselves and their families.