Illegal Evictions

Does your eviction feel informal? It might be illegal. 

To legally evict you from your rental property, your landlord must follow a formal legal process. If your landlord skips one or more of the steps below, the eviction may be illegal. 

*Note: All situations are different. This page offers general  information, not legal advice.* Visit or speak to a lawyer about your specific situation.

STEP 1) Cause for Eviction 

  • Landlords must have a legal reason to evict you. The most common reason is nonpayment of rent, overstaying a lease, or the tenant violating a term in the lease that states will lead to eviction.
  • A landlord may NOT evict you as penalty for exercising your legal rights, which include:
    • Filing a complaint with the government about the safety or condition of your property; your landlord failing to make accommodations for people with disabilities; or illegal harassment.
    • Legally withholding rent (usually through escrow) if your landlord neglects important repairs or the property is out of compliance with state and local rental registry laws and/or standards.
    • Participating in a tenants union.

STEP 2) Notice of Eviction

  • Landlords must provide formal notice to the tenant in writing before they can file an eviction case in court. Verbal notices are not legal. They should use specific legal documents – usually, a Notice to Quit, or Demand For Possession.
  • This notice must be delivered in person to the tenant, to an adult member of the tenant’s household, by first-class mail, or email (only if the tenant has agreed to receive an email).
    • Improper notice includes slipping the demand under your door or attaching it to your door.
  • The landlord must usually provide notice 7 to 30 days before filing to evict, depending on the cause.
    • 7-days are required for unpaid rent. 30-days are required if the lease is oral or month-to-month.
  • An eviction notice is not an eviction order.

STEP 3) Legal Action for Eviction (aka filing of an eviction lawsuit)

  • After the time specified in the eviction notice passes, the landlord may file an eviction lawsuit.
    • The landlord-tenant division of the 36th district court handles eviction cases in Detroit.
  • The landlord must file a specific court document known as a Complaint.
  • When the court receives the complaint, it will issue a Summons. This should include:
    • The date/time of the court hearing and/or when you need to respond to the court in writing.
  • The landlord must deliver (“serve”) these documents to you by mail AND at least one other way, at least 3 days before your court hearing.

STEP 4) Eviction Court Hearing

  • If an agreement cannot be reached before the court date, you and your landlord can go to trial.
  • Even if your landlord has legal cause to evict you, you might have a valid legal defense or counterclaim to the eviction. 
  • If you do not respond to the court summons and/or do not appear at the 36th district court on the date of your hearing, the court will likely enter a default judgement against you. 
    • This lets your landlord evict you and collect any unpaid rent (or other relief they asked for).
  • You have 10-days after the court judgment to file an appeal or motion to “set aside” the default.

STEP 5) Court Order of Eviction

  • Landlords must wait 10 days after an eviction judgment to request an court Order of Eviction.
    • If this happens, the 36th district court will send you a copy of the Order.
  • Only a court officer has the authority to execute the Order and remove your possessions from the property.  The landlord may never act on their own to remove you or your personal items! 
  • In Detroit, landlords are not permitted to leave tenants’ personal belongings on the curb. Local law requires landlords to provide a clean “eviction dumpster” to store the tenant’s possessions.