My question involves landlord-tenant law in the State of: Michigan
I moved out of an apartment on Sept. 30 and was sent a notice of damages by the landlords dated Oct. 5. At the bottom of the form it is stated that I had until Oct. 20 to dispute the damages in writing, otherwise they would pass the charges on to a collection agency. I hand delivered them my written dispute on Oct. 19. I then received a letter from the landlords dated Oct. 25, stating that I was still liable for damages and demanding payment by Nov.9. On Nov. 9 I hand delivered another letter to the landlords informing them of the security deposit law in Michigan which states that the landlord has 45 days after termination of occupancy to commence court action for a money-judgement against the tenant in order to withhold the security deposit, otherwise the landlord waives all rights to damage claims and is liable to the tenant for double the amount of the deposit. On Nov.15 (the 46th day after move out) the landlords filed an affidavit for small claims court.
Upon advice from my attorney, I drafted a motion to dismiss based upon the landlords' failure to comply with the 45 day limit (which in the Michigan statute is explicitly strict, adding the phrase "and not thereafter".) The attorney magistrate refused a copy of the motion, citing the informal nature of small claims court proceedings. When called to give my argument, I read aloud the exact wording of the law which I had cited in the motion to dismiss, along with the section number, etc. The attorney magistrate decided to disregard the law, citing that I had failed to reply to the initial notice of damages within 7 days of receipt of same, and ruled in favor of the landlords.
Upon further research after the trial, I found that I did indeed only have 7 days to dispute the notice of damages under Michigan law. However, I also found this:
Act 348 of 1972
554.609 Itemized list of damages; check or money order; contents of notice of damages.
"...The notice of damages shall include the following statement in 12 point boldface type which shall be at least 4 points larger than the body of the notice: 'You must respond to this notice by mail within 7 days after receipt of same, otherwise you will forfeit the amount claimed for damages.'"
There was no such statement on the notice I received, instead (as noted above):
"If you object to any charges you must notify us in writing on or before October 20, 2011." As noted, the notice was dated Oct. 5, giving me a full two weeks to reply, as opposed to 7 days.
Before I move to appeal this decision, I would like to know if the landlords' failure to include the statement in section 9 above on the notice of damages (and instead giving me the false impression that I had two weeks to reply) in any way invalidates the notice, and can this be used as an argument in civil court to persuade the judge to enforce the 45 day limit for court action?
Sorry for the long post. Thank you for any replies.