What do you know about Squatters Rights in Michigan?
What is a squatter?
A squatter is a person or persons who take up residence in a dwelling unlawfully. In other words, they are people who just move into any old vacant property they want and then “squat” there illegally.
In 2014, the State of Michigan made a major shift in the law which went from being “pro-squatters” to being much more protective of landlords and property owners.
Squatters Right of Adverse Possession
Squatters in Michigan may gain title, or ownership, to the property they are squatting in through “adverse possession”. Adverse possession is the occupation of land to which another person has title with the intention of possessing it as one's own. Some may even say the intention of “stealing” it.
In Michigan, gaining title by adverse possession was accomplished by living continuously and openly for 15 years. This is now much harder for a squatter to do given that the changes in the law make it much easier for a landlord or property owner to remove such a squatter.
Squatters’ Rights in Michigan have diminished
Before 2014, landlord and property owners in the State of Michigan had to go to court and formally evict a squatter. Cherry Hill Real Estate had to do this many times for homeowners who came to us with a squatter problem.
Pre-2014, a landlord or property owner could not use any self-help eviction practices. Meaning they could not change the locks on the property to keep the squatter out, could not remove their possessions and definitely not bodily remove the squatters. These “protections” had by a squatter where significantly changed by the Michigan Revised Judicature Act (MCL 236-1961-29) through enactment of House Bill 5069 which allows self-help, and House Bills 5070 and 5071, which make squatting a criminal offense and impose increasing penalties on those offenses.
Property owners and landlords still may not resort to self-help against squatters who are hold-overs from a previously valid lease that has expired. This would have to be done through a 30-day notice.
The amended Michigan laws now allow for a property owner or landlord to enter a dwelling, remove a squatters’ possessions and change locks to keep the squatter out.
However, squatters are still protected against bodily removal as this would constitute assault as set out by the Michigan Penal Code.
The landlord or property owner may now call the police and have a squatter arrested because the law now makes squatting a criminal offense.
Squatters are now treated as criminals
Before 2014, squatters were protected from criminal conviction. The worst charge they could get would be a trespass offense.
Since 2014, squatting in a duplex or single-family dwelling is a misdemeanor for the first offense, and a class G felony for any subsequent offense. The first offense carries a fine up to $5,000 and jail time up to 180 days. Subsequent felony offenses carry a fine up to $10,000 and jail time up to two years.
The State of Michigan has made it much easier for a property owner or landlord to retain the title to their property. It also makes it easier to get a squatter out and a paying tenant in.
Gone are the days of spending months trying to evict a squatter and then having to pay for the damage they left behind.
Brian DiBartolomeo is the founder and broker of Cherry Hill Real Estate and speaks to many investors and property management professionals about the importance of documentation and tenant relations.
If you are interested in becoming a client of Cherry Hill Real Estate, give us a call at (248) 651-2700.