Michigan Landlord-Tenant Law & Snow Removal | Goodwin & Scieszka

What Michigan Landlord-Tenant Law Says About Snow Removal

by / Tuesday, 18 February 2014 / Published in Goodwin & Scieszka, Michigan Law, Tips

Well, considering Michigan just got slammed with yet another snowstorm that I had the pleasure of shoveling, I figured it would be entirely relevant to talk about Michigan’s landlord-tenant laws. More specifically, how landlord-tenant law applies to snow removal.

Who should shovel?

This might seem like a silly question, but remembering that America honors the freedom to contract, this is totally relevant in a contractual agreement to lease/sublease/rent. Especially given that promptly shoveling the snow and dealing with ice are extremely important steps in keeping the property safe for tenants, visitors, and anyone else who needs to enter the property, such as people making deliveries. If someone slips and falls on a rental property because the snow wasn’t shoveled, the answer to this question could become extremely important. So what does Michigan law have to say about it?

Michigan Landlord-Tenant Law

man shoveling a path through snow with piles over his head on both sides

Generally speaking, the contract always governs. While Michigan does have landlord tenant default laws, you need to check your contract and make any negotiations with your landlord before you sign the dotted line.

In any residential relationship, the landlord has a duty to keep certain aspects of the premise fit for the ordinary use:

Sec. 39. (1) In every lease or license of residential premises, the lessor or licensor covenants:

(a) That the premises and all common areas are fit for the use intended by the parties.

(b) To keep the premises in reasonable repair during the term of the lease or license, and to comply with the applicable health and safety laws of the state and of the local unit of government where the premises are located, except when the disrepair or violation of the applicable health or safety laws has been caused by the tenants willful or irresponsible conduct or lack of conduct.

(2) The parties to the lease or license may modify the obligations imposed by this section where the lease or license has a current term of at least 1 year.

(3) The provisions of this section shall be liberally construed, and the privilege of a prospective lessee or licensee to inspect the premises before concluding a lease or license shall not defeat his right to have the benefit of the covenants established herein.

Precedent for Landlord-Tenant Snow Removal Cases

There are examples of how Michigan’s landlord-tenant laws have been applied to cases involving snow removal. In one case decided by the Supreme Court of Michigan, they ruled there wasn’t a breach of the landlord’s duty when approximately 2 inches of snow accumulated and a tenant broke his ankle as a result.

Sometimes you’ve got to draw the lines of liability, and this one happened to be for the landlord.

What does that mean for tenants and landlords? Put it in writing in your lease. In the event that there’s a breach, you have a breach of contract claim and not some esoteric you should have done this type of argument.

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