The Michigan Landlord Tenant Relationship Act (“LTRA”) regulates rental agreements between landlords and tenants of residential property. In 2010, this act was amended to include a clause that releases tenants from their payment obligations when the tenant has reasonable apprehension of present danger arising from domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.

In order to be released from their leases, the tenant must submit written notice via certified mail of his/her intent to seek a release and provide written documentation demonstrating that the tenant has reasonable apprehension of present danger to the tenant himself or to his/her child. Acceptable forms of written documentation demonstrating reasonable apprehension include:

    • a copy of a valid personal protection order or an order removing an abusive person from a home,
    • a valid probation order, conditional release order, or parole order that is still in effect ordering that the released person is to have no contact with the tenant or child,
    • a written police report that has resulted in charges being filed with the prosecuting attorney that has jurisdiction over the matter,
    • a written report from a qualified third party, such as a professional services provider, clinic, or protection agency, testifying to the factual basis for the tenant’s apprehension.

Landlords must be aware of the other burdens this amendment thrusts upon them. First, landlords are required to provide notice of this release clause to their tenants, either directly in their lease agreements or through personal notification, or indirectly through postings in their management office. Second, this release clause does not apply to prepaid rent, or release other tenants who are parties to the rental agreement. Third, the release is only effective upon the tenant vacating the premises, and is only applicable to leases entered into, renewed or renegotiated after October 5, 2010. Fourth, the tenant is released from his/her obligation to pay no later than the first day of the second month that rent is due after notice is given. Finally, to ensure the safety of tenants wishing to move an account of their reasonable apprehension of danger, landlords must not intentionally reveal forwarding addresses or documentation submitted by the tenant under this provision to the alleged aggressor. Importantly, this amendment does not prevent the landlord from withholding the tenant’s security deposit.

Landlords who are concerned with the implications of this law should consult an attorney.

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