MCL 600.2918, in the context of landlord-tenant relationship is commonly known as the anti-lockout statute. Landlords who violate the statute may find themselves reaching into their own pockets to compensate tenants three (3) times their actual damages or $200.00, whichever is greater for each occurrence. The law is unsettled as to how the term “occurrence” is defined.
A landlord is subject to liability under the statute if it unlawfully interferes with a tenant’s possession of the premises by:
- use of force or threat of force;
- removal, retention or destruction of the tenant’s personal property;
- changing, altering, or adding locks or other security devises without immediately providing keys or other unlocking devices to the tenant;
- boarding of the premises that prevents or deters entry;
- removal of doors, windows, or locks;
- causing, by action or omission, the termination or interruption of a service procured by the tenant or that the landlord is under an existing duty to furnish, which service is so essential that its termination or interruption would constitute constructive eviction, including heat, running water, hot water, electric or gas service.
- introduction of noise, odor, or other nuisance.
While there are limited exceptions to the statute, it is most advisable and economical for a landlord to speak with an attorney prior to taking self-help action against a tenant particularly if the tenant has failed to pay their rent.