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Answers in Landlord & Tenants from Blake Lipman

Putting rent monies into Escrow

QUESTION
I have a lease dispute, concerning my obligation to pay for electricity, with my landlord . I lived here for 15 months without paying for electricity and with the understanding that there was a $30.00 monthly fee, as part of my rent, that offset the electricity charges. Now they want me to pay $442.59 for 16 months of electricity service that they paid on my behalf. The $30.00 fee was removed in Jan 2006, without my knowledge, and I was told 3 months later that the concession I would have to pay, if I paid my rent late, was reduced by the $30.00 as a favor to me. According to apartment management, my account was incorrectly coded as a corporate rental. Am I financially responsible for there error? Can I put my rent money into an escrow account until this is settled and without incurring any late fees?

ANSWER
The terms of your tenancy are controlled by your lease agreement. Whatever it states in your lease is binding, generally. For more info., please contact my Oakland County law office at bplipman@sbcglobal.net and leave a call back number, or call (248)851-3175.

Security Deposit return before you move in

QUESTION
I gave a landlord a $1200 security Deposit hold, but have Section 8 and had not been approved for this house yet. I signed a lease to hold the house, along with my money, she agreed to wait until they decided and now that I am not approved for the house, she will not return my security deposit. I never received possession of the home . Please let me know my rights.

ANSWER
The landlord has no right to retain your "security deposit." If the money was given as an option to hold the house for rental, that may be an entirely different matter. What the deposit was called matters most. For more info., please contact my Oakland County law office at (248)851-3175.

Landlord is selling the home we're renting

QUESTION
We currently rent the downstairs of a duplex. Our landlord recently put our house up for sale and yesterday a potential buyer came to look. We are not under a lease. We go month to month. This potential buyer has stated if they buy they'd move into where we're living and kick us out. Are they able to do that? We also live in Upper Michigan where we are kicking off the winter season. If we are required to move what type of time frame should we be given to find another place? Do we have to move if the weather is bad (ie 3 ft of snow) or if we can't afford it at all?

ANSWER
This is why people sign a lease for a longer period. As you are on a month to month tenancy, the landlord need only give you 30 days notice and then they can file to have you evicted. The whole process if done properly should take about 2 months to get you out. For more info., please contact my office at (248)851-3175.

Broken Window Repair Cost

QUESTION
My Daughter is renting an apartment in Three Rivers Mi. In early Sept. the outer window of her sliding glass door was broken. Maintenance advised her the window was broken & said it could have happened while they were mowing grass, but now are saying a kid may have thrown a rock at it. The Apartment complex repaired the window & sent my daughter a bill for the repair ($198), threating evicting her if she does not pay. Isn't this the responsibility of the Apartment &/or Maintenance or Insurance Co. to cover this? Can they legally evict her for not paying?

ANSWER
As a general rule, this type of maintenance falls on the landlord. She should review her lease. If it is the landlord's responsibility, she should not pay it. In this case an eviction would be wrongful. How long is her lease for? If it is a short term lease or if it is about to expire, the landlord may

refuse to extend/renew her lease. She should make other arrangements in this case. For more info., please contact my law office at (248)851-3175.

My rental home being sold before the end of the lease

QUESTION
I am one year into a two year lease on a private residence. My landlord is selling the house, but not the lease. I asked the landlord for something in writing about how the lease will now end (because it is for sale and I will have to leave the home for their new owner), but have not recieved anything. Am I resposible for the lease any longer once he puts it for sale, thus taking away my ''quiet enjoyment'' of living there?

ANSWER
Unless the lease states that your tenancy is terminated upon sale of the property, the new owner may have to let you stay until the tenancy ends. If you wish not to stay, now is the time for you to seek a full release from the landlord (orig. owner) so you can avoid any liability. For more info on real estate law, please contact my law office at (248)851-3175.

Security deposit for damages

QUESTION
Hi,
My tenants moved out and I sent them a list of damages by normal mail. 39 days later, they claimed they never received the letter and wondered where the deposit was? The original deposit was 1650 and they decided they were going to pay the last months rent from this deposit. (gee thanks) I sent them another letter (certified) and they received it. They claim that since I did not send the letter in time that they can sue me for double the deposit! I mailed the first letter by regular mail and I know that they are conveniently lying. So, now what? How do I prove that I sent this letter by regular mail. Should I just go to small claims court and let the judge decide? It has been 46 days now since they moved. The damages were 1400.00 and I am claiming they owe me approx. 900. Since the letter was never received do I have a leg to stand on?

ANSWER
First of all, if the amount of damages was less than the security deposit, you should have returned the difference by check with your list of damages. The law requires this. Also, if they cashed the check, you would have had proof that they received your first letter. The law merely requires that you mail the notice to the tenant, but by not sending it by certified mail, it opens the door for the tenants to deny receiving the original notice. I'm afraid a judge will have to sort this one out. For more info, please contact my office at (248)851-3175.

Landlord not responding to problem that causes health risk

QUESTION
My air conditioning broke in my apartment and the landlord said it would be Friday at the earilest to get it fixed...It's tuesday. I wouldnt really make a fuss about this except I have asthma and can't breath in the humidity and heat of 90+ degree days. I had to leave my apartment and stay elsewhere because of my Asthma. What can I do???? Im paying rent to stay there and I cant even stay there? PLEASE ADVISE. thanks?

ANSWER
You can demad an abatement of the rent for the period that the apartment is unuseable by you. The abatement should be at a rate equal to 1/30th of monthly rent times the number of days that you have been unable to use the apartment. This should be conveyed to the landlord in a clear manner. In the event that your landlord takes legal action against you for non-payment of rent, you will have a clear record to show to the court. There is an implied covenant of habitability in all residential tenancies, you will argue that given your medical condition and the temperature and humidity on the days you were without air, you were forced to move out. For more info., please contact my office at (248)851-3175.

Getting out of my lease

QUESTION
If I live a long distance from my work, can i get out of my lease. To move closer to my shop?

ANSWER
No, but if your lease does not prohibit you from subleasing, you can find a subtenant. For more info, please contact my office at (248)851-3175.

Judgment in Court

QUESTION
I had taken a tennent to Court on 5/4/05. The origional amount would have been $2,147.76. We told the Judge we agreed upon $645.76. the tennant told the Judge he would pay 2 installments the first to be paid by 5/16/05 of $450 and balance by 5/31/05 the tennant failed to pay anything. Can I take the tennant back to court for the origional amount, if not what fees can I charge until Judgment is paid?

ANSWER
Well, that depends a lot upon the judge. Some judges will allow you to seek the full amount for failure to honor an agreement on the record. Others, will only require the tenant to pay what was agreed upon. Either way, you can seek enforcement of your settlement by appearing before the judge. If there was a court order reflecting the agreement, you should show cause the tenant for failure to obey the order. For more info, please contact my law office at (248)851-3175.

Lease agreements

QUESTION
Am I still legally bound to my rental lease if my landlord puts the house up for sale? I would like to move out before the realtor starts showing the house. My landlord says that I have to stay in the house until my lease is up or until the house is sold, whichever comes first. Is this true?

ANSWER
Unless your lease specifically lets you out in the event the house is sold, you are bound by the lease. How long do you have left on the lease? If you do decide to break your lease, the landlord has a duty to mitigate the damages (rerent the house to avoid the loss in rent revenue). For more info, please contact my office (248)851-3175.

Children

QUESTION
What are the laws about children living in upper-dwelling in an apartment complex, who constantly make noise. The manager says there is nothing he can do about it, and the parents refuse to cooperate with me to keep their children from making as much noise as they already do. my lease states I have the right to quiet and peaceful enjoyment of my apartment. i do not recieve this, what can I do?

ANSWER
If the noise is excessive and unreasonable (ie. into the late or early hours), you can demand that the landlord take action. If the landlord refuses you can abate the rent (pay it into escrow) until the matter is resolved. Make sure you notify the landlord that you are abating the rent and the reasons why. You probably should work through an attorney. For more info, please contact my office at (248)851-3175.

Truth in Renting

QUESTION
Good morning! I am looking for information on the Truth in Renting Law in the state of Michigan. I used to manage an apartment complex for a managing company and am quite familiar with the proceedings when a tenant moves out...I know the order in which they ''turn over'' the unit to ready it for new tenants, and I know what they do and do not charge for in the event the unit is trashed. I know what cost the mgmt company absorbs to flip the unit as well (new paint, cleaning fee, carpet cleaning). I recently vacated one of their apartments (and left it clean) and they are sticking me with the ENTIRE cost of the ''flip''...they're charging me $460 to paint my apartment, when I know full well that they have painters come in and paint EVERY apartment to freshen it for new tenants. Can they charge me for this? Can they send me to a collection agency for something that they ALWAYS pay for anyway? I feel that they are screwing me over because I signed the lease with no security deposit (the promotion at the time), and I don't want them to tarnish my credit over something I KNOW I should not be charged for...please
help?

ANSWER
It really depends on the language of the lease and any other documents or disclosures that were given at the beginning of the tenancy. I would need to see all the documents, most importantly the lease. For more info, please contact my office at (248)851-3175.

Working & Residency

QUESTION
I applied for a job in my apartment complex Leasing Office and they want to hire me. However, they say if I ''quit'' ''get fired'' or ''let go'' for any reason I'd have to move out of my apartment. I have already lived here a year and renewed my 2nd year lease. How can they kick me out simply because I may not like it or find something better and give them a notice after working there whatever period of time. That does not seem fair or sounds legal at all!! It's not like I'd be a threat to the office if I still lived here after working for them. Is there any grounds to this? Seeking Advice!!
Thanks Jacqueline (Jacquelinekor@comcast.net)

ANSWER
If I understand you correctly, you have signed a new lease. If that is correct and you don't sign an addendum or a separate agreement tying your tenancy to your employment, I don't see how they could force you out. If they insist on you signing an addendum or new agreement as a term of your employment, I'd reconsider taking the job. For more info, please contact my law office at (248)851-3175.

Getting Evicted & Need To Break Lease

QUESTION
We're getting evicted for non-payment of rent due to income decline/loss and are wondering if we can get out of the obligation to continue paying rent for the remaining period of the lease? We've paid a security deposit and are wondering if that can be used as the rent we owe? If we have to keep paying rent we won't be able to afford to live anywhere else. We do not want to continue living here and we have a different place to live when we get evicted. Another issue for consideration is the validity of our lease because when we met with the resident manager to sign the lease and move in, the manager told me to lie about my age and birthday because I was a few months shy of 18. Does that mean that our lease isn't even legal and that we can get out of it after eviction?

ANSWER
Yes, if you were under 18 at the time you signed the lease it is "voidable." That is, you can void your obligation. If you had a co-signor who was older than 18, they would still be liable under the lease. Now, the landlord, after he evicts you, has a duty to mitigate the damages by rerenting the property. For more info, please contact my law office at (248)851-3175.