Becoming A Leaseholder
The Michigan State Legislature publishes Tenants and Landlords: A Practical Guide, a brochure providing step-by-step explanations of all parts of the rental process. A list of all Michigan Legislature publications can be found at www.legislature.mi.gov, or directly here. It includes sample leases, roommate agreements, checklists, letters, and court forms as well as an overview of the Michigan Truth in Renting Act (PDF) which regulates residential leases. Michigan Legal Help offers summaries of the law, do-it-yourself forms, and can connect you with a lawyer, community services, or a self-help center. The Fair Housing Center of Southeast & Mid-Michigan is also a resource if you suspect you may be being discriminated against.
Getting a Roommate
If you're getting a roommate, there is one part of the lease that may be of particular interest to you. Living with someone new is always an adjustment, and usually everything works itself out, but everyone knows someone with a story about when it just…didn’t. That is often the first time that tenants hear the phrase “joint and several liability,” and they usually wish they knew about it sooner—so we’re telling you!
Joint Liability Clause
Most leases include a "joint and several liability" clause, meaning that each person is responsible not only for his or her individual obligations but also for the obligations of all other tenants. This includes paying rent and performing all other terms of the lease. Therefore, if only one tenant stops paying the rent (or violates any other provision of the lease agreement), the landlord may choose to evict any or all of the tenants. In addition, the landlord may choose to collect the rent or other money for damages incurred from any or all of the tenants.
Having an upfront discussion about this clause with potential roommates before you sign any legal documents can go a long way toward the peaceful resolution of problems that may crop up.