Illegal Evictions

Division Of Student Affairs; Western Michigan University

A landlord must go to Court to evict a tenant. This is true even if the tenant owes lots of back rent and even if the tenant is causing damage to the rental unit (i.e., house, apartment, etc.) In other words, a landlord cannot put out a tenant for any reason without first getting a court order signed by a judge.

A landlord also cannot harass or try to make a tenant move out by doing any of the following things:

  1. using force or threatening to use force to make the tenant move;

  2. taking, keeping or destroying the tenant's property;

  3. changing or adding locks to the rental unit without immediately giving a key to the tenant;

  4. boarding up the doors and/or windows so that the tenant cannot get back in or has a hard time getting back in;

  5. removing doors, windows or locks on the rental unit;

  6. putting the tenant's belongings out in the street;

  7. turning off the tenant's gas, electricity, heat, water, or hot water, etc., no matter whose name they are in;

  8. not paying a utility bill which is in the landlord's name so that the tenant's gas, heat, water, or hot water, etc., is cut off by the utility company;

  9. causing or failing to get rid of an annoying noise or bad odors or any other nuisance which harasses the tenant.

If a landlord actually puts a tenant out by force, the tenant can sue the landlord for three times the damage done to the tenant or two hundred dollars whichever is greater. Damage to the tenant can include things like the cost of staying at a motel until the tenant can get back into his place as well as actual physical damage to the tenant or his belongings.

If the landlord harasses or tries to put the tenant out by changing the locks or cutting off the utilities, etc., the tenant can sue the landlord for the damage done to the tenant or $200.00, whichever is greater. This suit can be started in Small Claims Court if the damage is under $1500.00.

A tenant who has been illegally evicted by the landlord can also bring a court case to get back into the rental unit (i.e., evict the landlord) or to get the landlord to turn the utilities back on. This sort of case has to be started in District Court or Circuit Court. If the tenant does sue the landlord, the landlord cannot argue that the tenant owes back rent or is causing damage or that their lease says that the landlord can evict without going to Court.


Evicting or trying to evict a tenant without a Court order is illegal no matter why the landlord does it. If the landlord tries an illegal eviction and the tenant takes him to Court, the tenant will win.
3510 Faunce Student Services Bldg.
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5077
Phone: (616) 387-2336
Fax: (616) 387-2325

Original HTML by Timothy Strunk