Before you move in to your new rental unit, make sure you follow a few basic steps:
-Carefully review your lease. Make sure you understand the length of the lease, rent payments, pay close attention to late fees or other penalties, etc. Do you really need a year lease or do you plan to move somewhere else in a six months?
-Get copies of your lease and all documents from your landlord. Keep them in a safe place.
-Note where and how your landlord intends to be keep your security deposit.
-Get a checklist from your landlord. Pay close attention to the checklist and make sure everything is in working order prior to resubmitting it you landlord.
-If things are not in working order, notify your landlord.
-Rent from reputable rental companies and individuals you trust.
-Only have roommates that you trust.
-Don't sign any lease unless you are absolutely committed to living there.
During your Lease:
-Document any concerns you have about your rental in letters sent to the rental management company. Use letters when you have a maintenance issue as well as phone calls. Be polite but explain the issue in sufficient detail.
-Keep copies of any maintenance requests or receipts with your lease and other documents.
-If you intend to fix, alter, or do anything to the interior or exterior, make sure provide notice to your landlord in writing and have their permission to do so.
-If you wish to sublease, and if it is permissible to do so under the terms of your lease, make sure you get your landlord's permission to do so. Preferably, have your sub-leaser just take over the lease completely.
-If you have a serious maintenance issues, notify your landlord immediately. If they fail to respond, again, make sure you document their response in a written letter to your landlord prior to any self-help efforts to fix the matter.
When you move out:
-Provide proper notice to your landlord, as required, prior to your new move date. For a month to month lease, 30 day's notice is typically required. Your lease provides more information
-Carefully review your closing checklist and thoroughly inspect your rental unit.
-If possible, take pictures of the interior, including appliances, etc.
-Put your new address in the form of a letter, mailed to your rental management company, ideally when you move out but no later than a few days afterward. Ask that your security deposit or any other correspondences be sent there.
-If there are any issues after you move, document them and respond in writing.
Phone calls alone are not enough; Michigan law requires written notice for many things.
Additional resources provided by the author
If you end up in litigation with your landlord, legal assistance may be available regardless of your income level. In addition to legal clinics like the Michigan State University College of Law, Rental Housing clinic or Legal Aid services, there are referral services including:
Lawyer Referral Information Service (800) 968-0738. (Statewide)
Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Monroe, Lenawee, and Washtenaw Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association (Wayne County) (313) 961-3545
Genesee, Genesee County Bar Association (810) 232-6000
Grand Traverse, Leelanau, and Antrim Grand Traverse – Leelanau – Antrim Bar Association (231) 922-4713
Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon, and Allegan Grand Rapids Bar Association (616) 855-0273
Macomb, and St. Clair Macomb County Bar Association (586) 468-8300
Oakland Oakland County Bar Association (248) 338-2100
Washtenaw, Western Wayne, Lenawee, Livingston, and Monroe Washtenaw County Bar Association (734) 996-3229