The two basic types of leases:
1. Fixed-term (usually yearly) has a specified starting and ending date. The monthly rent is fixed and may not be changed during the course of the lease. However, landlords may change the rent with 30 days notice ONLY to compensate for an increase in the rate of utilities or taxes, and then only if such possible increases have been stated in the lease. Leases for less than one year cannot waive tenants' rights, but in some cases, leases written for longer than one year can waive some tenants' rights, particularly in regards to repairs. Most written leases have a "joint and several liability" clause that makes all tenants who signed the lease responsible for the entire rental agreement. Therefore, for example, if one tenant fails to pay their portion of the rent, the other tenants can be held responsible for paying it.
2. Month-to-month is automatically renewed at the beginning of each month when the tenant pays the rent and the landlord accepts it. Either the tenant or the landlord may terminate the lease by giving a minimum of 30 days written notice. The 30 days notice can be given on any day of the month, except when there is a lease clause which specifically states that notice of termination must be given on the first or last of the month. Landlords may increase the rent as long as they give written notice at least 30 days prior to the increase. Verbal agreements (leases that are not in writing) are considered month-to-month leases.
* The Consumer Protection Act protects consumers (including tenants) from unfair trade practices in any business transaction. This act makes illegal any lease clause or representation concerning the lease, the unit, or ownership, that misleads or confuses tenants about their legal rights and obligations.
* The Truth in Renting Act prohibits lease clauses that waive a tenant's legal rights. The act also requires that all leases include the landlord's or manager's name and address, and a notice about the Truth in Renting Act.
* "Tenant agrees to pay cost of legal actions initiated by the landlord." Under Michigan statutory and case law, only minimal statutory costs, not actual attorney's fees, can be assessed against the losing party in most lawsuits. Attempts to change this law by a lease are void. (MCL 600.5759)
* Waiver of legal notice and/or legal proceedings. This type of clause says that if you fail to pay your rent or abide by the terms of the lease, the landlord can declare the lease void and evict you without the legally required notice or due process. However, any waiver must be intentional and voluntary. Because tenants usually do not know what rights they are giving up and they do not bargain for leases, a valid waiver of rights is rarely valid. If tenants do not knowingly waive their rights, such clauses are illegal and unenforceable.
* Clauses that say tenants must pay rent whether or not the landlord repairs and maintains a dwelling are known as "separation of covenants" and are illegal. By Michigan law, in every residential lease landlords must keep the unit habitable, in reasonable repair, and in compliance with all local and state housing laws. Such promises cannot be modified in leases of less than one year. Most Ann Arbor leases are a few days less than one year. (Implied Covenant of Fitness, MCL 554.139)
* "Tenant agrees to take the premises as they are." This means that once tenants sign the lease, they give up the right to object to the condition of the premises, appliances, or furniture. However, the same legal objections apply as above.
* "Landlord disclaims liability for damage to property or for personal injury." According to Michigan case law, landlords cannot use lease clauses to remove themselves from liability for negligence. The state's Truth in Renting Act also specifically prohibits this. (MCL 554.633(1)(e))
The University of Michigan's Housing Information Office provides a standardized lease used by many landlords. Many things landlords add to it are illegal. Be careful of addenda or extra clauses written in by the landlord.
1. Breach of covenant In this situation, the tenant is breaking the lease because the landlord violated the terms of the lease.
To prove that the landlord did not uphold the contract and thus broke the lease, you will need a well-documented history of serious repair problems or landlord harassment. Write a letter to your landlord stating that she or he has not provided maintenance, what the problems are, how often you contacted your landlord about the problem, and how she or he responded. Include copies of inspection reports, etc. You should give the landlord notice of when you will be moving out. (See our information on Privacy for what you can do about landlord harassment.)
If you believe your landlord broke the lease and you wish to move out, contact your tenant organization or an attorney.
If the landlord's attempts at finding someone else to move in are unsuccessful, you may be held responsible for rent for the time the place stays vacant. The more notice the landlord has, the less likely it is that you will have to pay. Once the landlord signs a lease with someone else through the end of your lease, you are no longer responsible for the lease. There is a possibility that, if the landlord signs a lease with someone else for a lower dollar amount, you would be responsible for paying the difference. You may want to help look for a new tenant, thus reducing the risk of getting stuck with the lease.
Your landlord must attempt to find someone else to move in to mitigate damages. You would be required to pay rent for as long as the place stays vacant. It is therefore in your best interest to help find someone to move in.
The landlord may require in the original lease that the tenant get their approval before subletting. However, a landlord may not unreasonably withhold approval of a subtenant.
One disadvantage of subletting is that, if the subtenant does not pay all of the rent, the landlord can hold the original tenant responsible. The original tenant would have to sue the subtenant for rent money or take it out of his or her security deposit.
Look at your current lease for ideas of lease provisions. Subtenants have the same rights as tenants.
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