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First-time renter searching for rent listings on laptop

A first apartment brings not only new freedoms, but also new responsibilities, such as dealing with a landlord and roommates and paying a security deposit. Understanding some legal basics might help renters navigate these new situations.

In Michigan, a landlord cannot require payment of a security deposit without a written lease, and the amount of the security deposit cannot exceed one-and-one-half times the monthly rent.

In addition, roommates should document who paid what portion of the security deposit. Often, the landlord will write one check to one tenant. Roommates should have an agreement in place for who will receive the check from the landlord, and that person should be responsible for turning over the other tenants’ share.

The landlord must provide the tenant with a move-in checklist to complete within seven days of moving into the apartment. The tenant should carefully note any damage, such as carpet stains, missing blinds, or rust spots on appliances. The condition of the apartment at the end of the lease will be compared to the condition noted on the move-in checklist. The cost to repair damage beyond reasonable wear and tear may be deducted from the security deposit.

At move-out, the tenant should receive an itemized list of damages and costs for each repair to be deducted from the security deposit. Tenants have seven days to object to the landlord’s notice of damages. The landlord must either return the full security deposit or file a lawsuit to forfeit the security deposit within forty-five days of the tenant’s move-out.

Most importantly, tenants should read the entire lease carefully before signing. A tenant should assume lease provisions will be strictly enforced as written—even if the landlord gives verbal assurances that certain provisions are not enforced in practice.

Questions about a lease or about renting? Contact us at 248.477.6300 or

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