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Saginaw targets landlords to improve neighborhoods

cincy Project
Creative Commons

Saginaw city council is targeting landlords for their tenants’ bad behavior. Proponents say the new local law adopted Monday night will improve neighborhoods.

Under the change, landlords would pay a fine if they don’t work to evict tenants with multiple complaints. The complaints could range from noise violations to alleged illegal activity. The ordinance says the tenant doesn’t need to be convicted of a crime to be considered a “quality of life” violation.

After three incidents, a landlord must work to evict a tenant. If they don’t, the city of Saginaw could fine the landlords up to $500.

Bill Schmidt is the president of the Saginaw Landlord Association. He says the new law is likely unenforceable.

“You know they wrote this up and you just sit there and wonder ‘what is going through your mind?’ the things in here, there’s stuff that just simply doesn’t work,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt says trying to reduce crime is good, but making landlords pay for their tenants’ actions is not.

“It’s really foolish to think we can govern the behavior of tenants,” he said.

He says the new law could probably be used to intimidate landlords, but he’s doubtful it would hold up in court. He also has concerns some tenants would hesitate to report certain crimes, like domestic violence, if there’s a risk their landlord would then be forced to work to evict them.

Schmidt says he uses language from the new ordinance to deter criminal activity by including it in his leases. But he says the lease is legal document that’s enforceable without an ordinance.

“But anything you put into any legal paper is legal until it’s tested in court. And so the crime-free lease addendum is fine. I’ve been using it for years. As to actually making use of it in an eviction, I haven’t done that,” he said.

The city councilman behind the ordinance did not return requests for comment on this story.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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