RENT CANCELLATION is not the same as a STAY on EVICTIONS

Please note: The Eviction Stay has now been extended to June 11, 2020 by Governor Whitmer.

https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/michigan/2020/05/14/gov-whitmer-extends-eviction-suspensions-through-june-11/5196505002/?fbclid=IwAR1tWGdowOvFxNenN9kIr06q1pXddc9gblwF_suTh5913j8wdIzQK_7YE9o

In consideration of the devastating health and economic impact of COVID-19 virus pandemic many housing advocates and activists are calling for a MORATORIUM on rent payments including late penalties and fees. Some advocates are even calling for RENT CANCELLATION during the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to a STAY on EVICTIONS.  (Moratorium is a suspension or an authorized delay or period of time during which the law authorizes a delay in payment or some other legal obligation. This type of moratorium is most often invoked during times of distress such as war, natural disaster or emergencies)

We want to make sure Detroit renters are clear on the current policy that exist in regard to rent payments and evictions. The STAY on EVICTIONS issued under Michigan Governor Whitmer’s current Emergency Order extends the STAY on EVICTIONS thru May 28, 2020.  This also applies to 36th District Court.

The STAY on EVICTIONS does not mean you do not have to pay your rent. RENT CANCELLATION or RENT FORGIVENESS is not the same as a STAY on EVICTIONS.  

Nowhere in the Governor’s recent Emergency Order or the 36th District court order does it say or suggest that you do not have to pay your rent or that you are not expected to pay your rent during the COVID-19 emergency.

At Detroit People’s Platform we have joined with national partners in advocating for proposals to cancel the debt of rent and utilities arrears as a result of the tremendous economic hardship many of our individuals and families are facing. However, that advocacy does not at this time influence the nature of the Governor Whitmer’s Emergency Order in Michigan or the 36th District Court policy on evictions here in Detroit.

Details of Governor Whitmer’s Order and the 36th District Court Order from The Supreme Court as it relates to rent payments include the following:

  • The current extension on Stay on Evictions that also includes pending court evictions is 5-28-20. After which non-payment of rent action can be filed by landlord or property owner.
  • Michigan’s current RENT MORATORIUM applies also to cases that were filed and evictions put forth before the Governor’s executive order.
    • If you had an eviction case in process prior to the STAY on EVICTIONS, deadlines for filing complaints & additional paperwork is suspended and the delay will not be held against you. Contact the court for further guidance. Some courts will have e-filing &/or mailing available.
  • exception is that if any tenant or mobile homeowner poses substantial risk to another person or property they can be evicted.
  • After 5-28-2020 landlord are expected to take the same measures required for a legal eviction process.

COVID-19 Housing Recommendations

DOWNLOAD AND PRINT: COVID-19 Policy Recommendations- Detroit People’s Platform

Detroit is a 53% majority renter city. The city residents must be protected during the COVID-19 health and economic crisis, and the aftermath. Low and median income Detroit renters and homeowners have been working hard to avoid displacement for years. Citizens have been able to hold onto their rental properties and maintain their homes with hard work and dedication. Now, they face losing their homes despite all their efforts. The money provided in the CARES Act must be thoughtfully distributed to meet urgent needs such as protecting housing for Detroit’s longtime residents who are likely to experience permanent displacement. Detroit People’s Platform(DPP) is offering the following recommendations centered in racial and economic equity with the aim of contributing to the Detroit’s future prosperity. We prioritize the importance of secure and quality housing for our low and median income families in achieving that goal.

HOUSING STABILITY

  • Rent Moratorium: Keep the majority of Detroit’s residents housed and protect and preserve the city’s affordable housing.
    ○  Renters who are cost burdened and/or unemployed or under-employed are not required to pay rent until 90 days after the end of the Michigan State of Emergency Declaration associated with the CODVI -19 pandemic.
    ○  Rent Payments will be issued directly to landlords by the city.
    ○  All tenant past due rent payments, penalties, and late fees for 2020 must be cancelled by the landlord in order to receive rental payments from the city.
  • Rent Payment Extension for 2020: Provide tenants time to recover financially to preserve their homes.
    ○  Tenants will have 6 months after the expiration of the MI State of Emergency Declaration to pay any past due rent, fees, or tenant debt owed to landlords.
    ○  Landlords may issue a written “Notice of Overdue Rent” once rent becomes 30 days past due.
    ○  Tenants and landlords must create a payment plan to outline the amount of past due rent that tenants can realistically repay along with a an agreed upon payment schedule.
    ○  If an eviction is initiated for a tenant that has signed a payment plan, the Tenant/Landlord Payment Plan signed by both parties must be reviewed prior to initiating eviction proceedings.
    ○  If a payment plan cannot be agreed upon, or the payment plan is not adhered to, tenants will retain the 6 month timeframe after the end of the Michigan State of Emergency Declaration to pay past due rents before landlords can begin the eviction process.
  • Housing Affordability: Property owners preserve affordability in rental housing properties in exchange for public financial assistance.
    ○  Rent is frozen at current rates for all tenancies until 120 days after the end of the Michigan State of Emergency Declaration. Rents may not be increased during lease renewals from now until 120 days after the end of the MI State of Emergency Declaration.
    ○  Landlords must maintain rent affordability for a period of 3 years after the Michigan State of Emergency Declaration has ended in order to participate in any city program or receive any funding that is related to the COVID-19 global health pandemic and the Michigan State of Emergency.
    ○  Landlords must agree to annual rent increases not to exceed the Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Cost of Living Adjustment, whichever is less.
  • Utility Assistance: Preserve the health and safety of Detroit’s vulnerable residents by preserving Water, Gas, and Electrical services in homes.
    ○  All utilities will be paid for cost burdened renters from now until 90 days after the end of the Michigan State of Emergency Declaration. Cost burdened renters are renters paying 30% or more of their monthly income towards rent each month.
    ○  Utilities include water, electricity, and gas.
    ○  Payments will be made directly to utility companies at a negotiated rate that is lower full billed amount (in exchange for the savings generated by receiving all payments on time).
    ○  All past due utility debts for 2020 must be waived by the utility company.
    ○  Renters will not be assessed any administrative fees related to utility operations (shutoffs/reconnection fees, late fees, etc. until 90 days after the end of the MI State of Emergency).
  • Grants and Loans to Small Landlords for Property Maintenance: Provide landlords financial assistance to maintain their low and median income properties.
    ○  Small Landlords are defined as owning no more than 15 leased units total.
    ○  Provide grant and loan funding to low and median income landlords with rents that are affordable to residents earning 60% AMI or less. This funding must be used to cover the cost of emergency maintenance and to increase the accessibility of rental properties. Availability of grants vs. loan funding should be based on need.
    ○  Provide grant and loan funding for Property Tax Payment Assistance to low and median income landlords. Availability of grants vs. loan funding should be based on need.

COVID-19 ENVIRONMENTAL & HOUSING IMPACTS

  • Local Safe Housing Programs Expanded:
    ○ Funding to expand Bridging Neighborhoods Program to include communities throughout the city impacted by industrial development and operations. Programs will be available to all residents earning 60% AMI and below.
  • Increased Environmental Hazard Monitoring in High Risk Areas:
    ○ Funding to institute state of the art air quality monitoring for communities with poor air quality, high exposure to PM2 , or a history of disparate respiratory health outcomes.

Submitted by: Amina Kirk- Senior Legal & Policy Analyst
Detroit People’s Platform
April 20, 2020