The Michigan House of Representatives and Senate appear ready to send a bill to Governor Rick Snyder’s desk which would, in landlord-tenant eviction action:
- Allow a demand for payment or possession of property to be served electronically, if the person in possession of the property had specifically consented to electronic service.
- Prohibit a landlord from refusing to lease property because the prospective tenant declined to consent to electronic service.
This would not replace traditional service of process methods in eviction proceedings; rather, it would simply authorize email service if the tenant agrees to it in writing. Landlords would not, however, be able to demand that prospective tenants agree to email service (on pain of not renting to them).
There are supporters and detractors to the proposed legislation. For example, the State Bar of Michigan is opposing the legislation, generally on the ground that email service is unreliable (because of SPAM filters, changes in email addresses, or other possible technology failures). On the other hand, email is sometimes viewed as the best way to get a hold of people nowadays, and if people consent to such service in writing, they may be agreeing to accept whatever risks come with the technology.
If this becomes law, we nevertheless anticipate renters defending by claiming that they did not receive service and/or asserting other due process concerns. Further untested waters may be when landlords prepare their standard leasing documents and include an email consent provision in a lease or addendum to the lease. The tenant may be agreeing to something he has not really considered, even though the landlord could not refuse to rent if the prospective tenant were savvy enough to notice the provision and decline the email service. Indeed, there are no guaranties that prospective tenants will even know they have the right to decline.
Since the stakes are high in terms of evicting someone from a home, the only surefire way for the landlord to avoid these issues is to use one of the traditional methods of service. We will stay on top of this issue and update you on any changes to the law. You may wish to consult with us about any matters related to landlord-tenant law, as we have extensive experience in these matters and are happy to assist.
If you wish to discuss this article, or how it affects you or your Association, please contact us at (248) 644-4433 or email@example.com.