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As winter descends, Detroit steps up heat enforcement for landlords

Flickr user sj carey

Detroit is putting landlords on notice: Heat your rental units properly, or face some major fines.

David Bell, director of the city’s Buildings, Safety and Engineering Department, says inspectors are targeting 143 homes and buildings that received violation notices in the past year.

“They’ve got three days to reach out to us and call for re-inspection. We’ll get somebody out there,” Bell said.

“We know that you have outstanding violations, and we’re not going to let them slide. You have to do what is right by city code, and by your tenants.”

Bell says those units need to get certificates of compliance, or face fines starting at $500-$1,500, depending on the unit.

“It’s a one-time ticket, but if you don’t come into compliance, we’re going to be out in seven days, maximum, to bring you another ticket,” he said.

Bell says his department is adding extra staff for the stepped-up enforcement.

That includes additional building inspectors, as well as a “court division” that will take care of violations that need court enforcement.

Detroit’s city code requires that landlords maintain adequate heat of at least 68 degrees throughout the winter, as well consistent access to other utilities.

Bell says the department will have a new website up after the new year as well.

It will allow tenants to check on whether their landlords are registered with the city and have certificates of compliance. Tenants will also be able to file complaints via the website.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.