Landlords who want to evict a tenant must follow specific rules and procedures in Michigan, that include serving the tenant with a notice of eviction, such as a 7-day demand for nonpayment of rent, and filing and serving a summons and eviction complaint. The Nolo article How to Evict a Tenant in Michigan and related articles in the Michigan Landlord-Tenant Laws section of this site explain how to begin the eviction process.
This article describes what happens next—the eviction hearing. The landlord must attend this hearing, at which time the judge will decide whether the tenant must move out of the rental property and whether the tenant should be ordered to pay any money to the landlord.
How the Eviction Hearing Is Scheduled
After the landlord files a summons and complaint to evict a tenant in Michigan, the court will set a date for the eviction hearing to take place at that specific district court. The court clerk selects a date taking into consideration Michigan law, M.C.L § 600.5735(2)(b),which requires an eviction hearing within 10 days of the date the court issues the summons. An eviction hearing is scheduled for a much sooner date than any other court hearing given the nature of the hearing matter. The tenant becomes aware of the eviction hearing date when the landlord serves the summons and complaint on the tenant because this date is included on the summons.
What to Take to the Eviction Hearing
Bring a copy of all of the documents filed with the court including an extra copy of the proof of service of the summons and complaint served on the tenant. Also bring a proposed judgment form to be able to immediately hand to the judge if a decision is made in your favor. If you do not have a judgment form prepared, the judge may ask you to prepare one on the spot and it is more efficient to get this work done ahead of time. For advice preparing a judgment see the Nolo article, Obtaining a Judgment at a Michigan Eviction Hearing.
It may also be useful to bring along the original copy of the lease or rental agreement, a spreadsheet of the rental payments and expenses, receipts for items you have paid because of the tenant, photos of the property showing physical damage, or any other useful photos and materials relevant to the eviction. You can also bring other witnesses to testify at the hearing, other than yourself, if the witness has direct personal knowledge of the facts of your case.
The Eviction Hearing Check-In Process
When you arrive at the district court for the eviction hearing date, you need to locate the courtroom for the judge who will be hearing your case. The judge assigned to the case can be found on your summons. If the courtroom doors are unlocked, then the court is ready for you to check in. Go into the courtroom and check in with the clerk or deputy, letting him or her know you are present and ready for your hearing. If you have not already filed your proof of service of the summons and complaint with the court, you will want to give the clerk a copy of this proof of service now. Once you are checked in, you will take a seat in the courtroom and wait for your case to be called.
Resolving the Case by Consent with the Tenant
Often the judge will require the landlord and tenant to go into a conference room at the courthouse or into the hallway outside of the courtroom to see whether the parties can work out the issues and agree to a resolution of the eviction claims. It is best to initiate this conversation with the tenant once you have both checked in with the clerk and you are waiting for your case to be called. If both the landlord and tenant come to an agreement about the eviction and any potential monetary payment for unpaid rent or damages to the rental property, the agreement can be presented to the judge by completing the judgment form and checking the box indicating the agreement is by consent. The parties will return to the courtroom and wait for their case to be called. Once the case is called the parties will inform the judge they have come to an agreement and present the judgment for the judge’s approval.
How Landlords Present Their Case at Eviction Hearings in Michigan
If you do not come to an agreement with the tenant, once your case is called, you and the tenant will both approach the judge and often stand at a podium to present your case. You will introduce yourself to the judge and state that you are the landlord; you will tell the judge the basis for your eviction action against the tenant and tell the judge what you want the judge to order the tenant to do. In addition to wanting the judge to order the tenant to move out of the rental property, you may also want the judge to order the tenant to pay you a sum of money owed to you for unpaid rent or for damage caused to the rental property.
The tenant will then have a chance to explain any defenses the tenant may have to your eviction request—for example, a claim that the eviction is illegal because it is a form of retaliation for the tenant complaining to local authorities about a repair problem. (For more on tenant eviction defenses, see the Nolo article, Tenant’s Defenses to an Eviction Action in Michigan.) You and the tenant may each have a chance to respond to the other’s arguments. The judge may also ask questions of both landlord and the tenant to help make a final decision.
What Happens If the Tenant Does Not Show Up at the Hearing?
If the tenant does not appear at the eviction hearing, the landlord’s case will still be called and you will explain your arguments to the judge. Since the tenant is not there to make any counter-arguments or bring up any defenses, most likely the judge will rule in favor of the party (in this case, the landlord) who is present. It is crucial that you properly served the tenant, as the judge will want to make sure the tenant is not absent from the hearing simply because you did not properly serve and notify the tenant of the hearing. As a result, the judge may have you testify as to how you served the tenant with notice of the eviction hearing. If the judge determines you followed all procedures correctly to bring the eviction action against the tenant, the judge can grant your request for the eviction and/or monetary payment by default. Thus, a default judgment will be entered by the court in your favor.
The Result of the Eviction Hearing
The judge will consider all of the testimony and eviction presented at the eviction hearing and will make a decision of whether to order the tenant to move out of the rental property and whether the tenant owes the landlord any sum of money. You will present the judge with your prepared judgment that reflects what the judge ordered as a result of the eviction hearing. The judge will sign the judgment and both the landlord and tenant get a copy.
Resources on Michigan Landlord-Tenant Law
The Michigan Courts Self-Help Center provides useful information on evictions and taking court action. Another useful site is Michigan Legal Help, which provides advice on housing-related legal issues, including evictions, for both landlords and tenants. The Michigan Legislature’s website publishes a useful guide to landlord-tenant law in Michigan.