Landlords Beware when Evicting Tenants

In Anderson v Chaundy, an unpublished Michigan Court of Appeals opinion, the landlord evicted the tenants pursuant to a court order and, as alleged in the complaint, the tenant’s belongings were placed on the front lawn for about an hour and then removed by the landlord’s agents to an undisclosed location for disposal and destruction.  The tenant sued for conversion.

The landlord claimed immunity pursuant to MCL Sec 600.2918(3)(a), which provides for immunity from action taken pursuant to a lawful court order.  The court held, based upon a 2007 Michigan Supreme Court case, that this section does not provide immunity for actions which were neither necessary nor incidental to an order of eviction.

These decisions put a landlord in an untenable situation:  the landlord wants the tenant’s belongings out of the property, but apparently the landlord cannot dispose of them without facing the possibility that a claim of conversion will be filed.  Some municipalities have ordinances requiring landlord’s to have a dumpster available for the court officer to place the tenant’s belongings.  Will the protection of MCL Sec 600.2918(3) be extended to the court officer placing the tenant’s property in the dumpster?  If the property is piled on the curb, some cities cite the landlord for littering.

The legislature needs to act here to provide either for immunity if the tenant’s property is disposed of, or provide a different mechanism than currently exists for a landlord to get rid of the tenant’s possessions.

© Steve Sowell 2018