People who rent apartments, condos and other housing inside the city of Detroit will have additional protections and faster inspections thanks to a revised ordinance and other changes coming to how the city handles rental properties.
The City of Detroit on Wednesday announced a tougher proposed rental ordinance as part of a sweeping citywide effort to demand that the owners of rental properties register them, get them into compliance and keep them that way. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Councilman Andre Spivey and Buildings, Safety, Engineering & Environmental Department Director David Bell (BSEED) outlined the new strategy today during a press conference at City Hall.
“Every renter in Detroit should have the expectation of living in a building that is safe and meets all city codes,” said Mayor Mike Duggan. “Our approach will be to make it as easy as possible for rental property owners to get into compliance more quickly and that tenants have the protections they need.”
There are nearly 40,000 rental properties in the city, the majority of which are not properly registered and have no current certificate of compliance. Last year, Mayor Duggan and BSEED launched a process to encourage more landlords to register their properties. Since that time, the city has increased its number of registered rental properties from about 2,000 to more than 4,500 today.
Next Tuesday, Councilman Spivey will introduce a revised rental property ordinance with more teeth for tenants, as well as incentives for good landlords, including:
• The ability for the city to withhold certificates of compliance to landlords who are more than six months delinquent on their property taxes and owe more than $1,000.
• Providing landlords an expedited process for appealing the denial or suspension of a certificate of compliance.
• Less frequent inspections required for quality landlords who, for at least one year, have remained current on their taxes and have received no blight violations. The ordinance would extend certifications from one year to two years for multi-family dwellings and to three years for one- and two-family dwellings.
• Maintaining annual lead hazard inspections. Under the Proposed ordinance, all rental properties – even those with two- or three-year certifications, will require an annual lead risk assessment and clearance. The annual assessment can be waived only if the property owner has taken more long term or permanent measures to abate the lead.
“As we hear the concerns from residents as to the importance of improving and building stronger neighborhoods, this rental ordinance will give us another tool to hold landlords accountable in maintaining their property and treating their tenants with dignity and respect.”
The draft ordinance has been posted online at www.detroitmi.gov/rental.
The process of getting all rental properties in the city registered and up to code is expected to be done within two years. To keep the process manageable, the compliance efforts will be phased in gradually across five zones of the city. Here’s how the process will work:
Sixty days after the ordinance being approved, BSEED will finalize its five compliance zones and inspection schedule. Sixty days after that, active compliance efforts will begin in the first zone. A new zone will be added every 90 days and landlords in each zone will have six months from the start of the compliance period to get their building up to code. Once the compliance period begins in the first zone, it will take approximately 18 months to have all rental properties across the city registered and in compliance.
Rental property owners who fail to bring their building up to code and have it inspected by the end of their zone’s six month compliance period will not be able to legally collect rent under the proposed ordinance. They also will not be able evict any tenant of a non-compliant building solely for withholding rent.
“This will be a powerful tool for us to get problematic landlords into compliance because it will be in their own financial interest to do so,” said Mayor Duggan.
After each zone’s six-month compliance period ends, the city will post data for each rental property in that zone on an interactive map, so residents and neighbors can know which properties are in compliance and which are not. This will allow them to know whether the owner of the property can legally rent.
Bell pointed out that while compliance efforts will be conducted a zone at a time, his inspectors still will respond to complaints of health and safety violations citywide as they arise. He also said his team will be able to conduct inspections in the active enforcement zone within four days of a request. Requests for inspections that fall outside of the active enforcement zone will be conducted within 30 days. To prepare for this, the City has added seven additional inspectors and partnered with three outside inspection companies to get inspections done in a timelier manner.
Owners of rental buildings can start their process today by registering their property online at www.detroitmi.gov/rental. To help owners registered of one- and two-family rental buildings get their inspections done as soon as possible, the city has listed on this website the names and contact information for the private company partners that have been approved to do that work. City BSEED staff will continue to conduct all inspections at larger multi-unit apartment buildings.
“This is a game changing initiative in which everyone who is trying to do the right thing wins,” said Bell. “Tenants and neighbors will get a better quality of life. The landlords get extended certificates of compliance, a better process, and more than ample amount of time to come into compliance.”