Listen to Kimm and Bob from WCSR talk about "Landlord Vs. Tennent Rights", which aired in August 2021. Or, download the text file and read it later!
Landlord Vs. Tenant Rights
What is the Current State of Housing Eviction in Michigan?
Housing evictions in Michigan and throughout the country have been halted since early in the COVID-19 pandemic. Originally the state had set a date of July 31, 2021, to end the moratorium on evictions. On August 3, 2021, the Center for Disease Control Director Rochelle Walensky extended the moratorium until October 3, 2021.
Dr. Walensky determined “the evictions of tenants for failure to make rent or housing payments could be detrimental to public health control measures to slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.”
The order applies to all areas of the state experiencing substantial or high levels of community transmission of COVID-19. Counties in southern Michigan, including Hillsdale, Branch, Lenawee, and Jackson, all meet these levels.
Do all tenants qualify for the moratorium?
Tenants must show that they qualify for an eviction moratorium and supply their landlords with an affidavit stating such. Qualifications from the CDC eviction moratorium include:
Not being able to pay full rent due to financial hardship such as:
Substantial loss of household income,
Loss of compensable hours of work,
Loss of wages,
Extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses. (The hardship does not have to be related to the COVID-19 pandemic.)
Meeting income requirements including:
Earning no more than $99,000 in annual income or no more than $198,000 if filing a joint tax return.
Were not required to report any income in 2020 to the IRS.
Received an Economic Impact Payment (stimulus check) under the CARES Act.
Making their best effort to pay rent including:
Making their best effort to make partial payments as their circumstances allow.
Making their best effort to obtain all available government assistance for rent and housing.
No other housing is available to them. An eviction would:
Make them homeless.
Force them into a congregate living situation (such as a homeless shelter).
Force them into a shared living situation (such as sleeping on a friend or family member's couch).
A tenant must meet 5 requirements to be covered by the eviction moratorium. If requirements are met, the tenant must complete a CDC declaration stating they qualify for the moratorium. A copy of the form can be found here. If a tenant has already given their declaration to the landlord they do not need to give another declaration during the extension.
Why extend the moratorium?
The reason the CDC made the decision to extend the moratorium was it "allows additional time for rent relief to reach renters and to further increase vaccination rate." The CDC looks at housing as an "effective public health measure utilized to prevent the spread of communicable disease." By allowing people to stay in their homes they can self-quarantine and self-isolate without the fear of transmitting COVID-19 to others.
How can tenants get help with rent?
There are several programs where tenants can apply for assistance with rent and/or utilities. In Michigan, tenants should apply to their local Housing Assessment and Resource Agency (HARA) - there is an agency in every county. Michigan also has a COVID Emergency Rental Assistance program (CERA) to help tenants pay back rent and utilities. There are also federal programs available such as the Emergency Rental Assistance program (ERA) which provides funds that can be used for rent or utilities. Payments usually go directly to the landlord or utility companies.
What does this mean for landlords?
The eviction moratorium does not mean that tenants should not pay rent. They can pay rent or even partial rent if they are able. It also does not mean that the rent that was not collected will never be due. Once the moratorium is lifted rent that has not been paid will need to be paid. Landlords should keep good documentation on what has been paid and what has not by their tenants during the moratorium.
Communication is important. Landlords should keep in good contact with their tenants during this time. Keep records of communications. Then, if an eviction needs to take place, there will be written documentation to show due diligence. With tenants who communicate through texts, landlords can take screenshots of the exchange and print and save them if they are needed.
Even with a moratorium, there are still reasons that evictions can take place. A landlord can still have a tenant removed if the tenant is engaging in criminal activity on the premises, threatening the health and safety of other residents, damaging or posing an immediate and significant risk to damage to property, violating a health and safety code regulations or violating a term of the lease (other than not paying rent).
Landlords can get help with rent, too. There are programs available for landlords to receive assistance for rent payments. If landlords are having difficulties paying their own bills or mortgage because of a lack of rental income they can contact their mortgage lender or call 2-1-1. Landlords can all call an attorney with any questions they may have about their rights during the eviction moratorium.
What happens after the moratorium?
Following the moratorium, landlords can begin the process of eviction of their tenants. The landlord files with the district court and when the case is heard the landlord has to show proof of non-payment. Landlords can also file for a money judgment to receive back rent that was not paid. However, at any time during the process, the tenant can pay any delinquent rent to stop the eviction process. Evictions are a slow process and both the landlord and the tenant have rights.
Both tenants and landlords should be sure to know their rights. A tenant has the right to a home that is livable. Landlords do not have the right to turn off utilities such as power or water - even for nonpayment.
Landlords have rights, too. They have the right to have a tenant that is going to pay their rent and utilities and, following their departure, leave the house or apartment in the same condition as when they moved in. Be sure to stipulate in the renter's agreement who will be in charge of yard maintenance, such as snow removal and grass cutting, but also stipulate whether the tenant can cut down trees or paint walls.
A licensed attorney in the community can answer questions about tenant or landlord rights or the eviction moratorium.
"I want to hear your side of the story."