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


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

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

If you've complied with the security deposit law, 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.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.