Can a landlord (Michigan) charge 12 months worth of fees to the security deposit when there was no warning of a violation?

The lease states: “Having pets at the premises will result in a charge of $50 per month per pet. The landlord shall have the sole determination as to whether or not unapproved pets are at the premises. A notice-to-quit may also be given.” After moving out, my landlord charged me $600 for having an unauthorized pet for 12 mnths. I was never given any warning about the pet or told that the pet was “unapproved”. I only had a pet at the residence for 9 months, and he found out about my dog 2 weeks after brining her to the rental and never indicated there was problem or provided me any notice.

Asked on June 26, 2009 under Real Estate Law, Michigan

Answers:

GW, Member, Michigan and Hawaii Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

If you've complied with the security deposit law, http://www.michiganlegalaid.org/library_client/resource.2006-01-10.0288515769/html_view you might have a chance in court, but it's unlikely. The problem is that you had a pet there, approved or not. You didn't pay the extra rent. Most leases have language in them that says that delay in asserting rights is not a waiver, and Michigan courts tend to enforce contracts even if they seem fairly oppressive. So you agreed, and admit you owe at least $450 (9 months times $50). The landlord would have to prove the dog was there and for how long, but if the facts are as you say, he'd probably get at least $450. I doubt the court would find that his knowledge about the dog gets you a pass, but it's not out of the question.


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