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Detroit rolls out plan to bring rental properties up to code

A neighborhood in Detroit
Jodi Westrick
Michigan Radio
Houses in a Detroit neighborhood.

Detroit’s plan to get all city rental properties up to code launches at the start of next month.

Landlords in certain parts of the city will have 90 days to register their properties, and another 90 days to comply with a city ordinance.

Detroit updated and strengthened its rental ordinance last year, after letting it largely go unenforced for years.

Buildings safety director David Bell says the ordinance includes new protections for tenants, and some benefits for landlords.

“Landlords don’t have to have annual inspections,” Bell said. "They don’t have to pay for a federal inspection and a city inspection. A lot of this ordinance does help the landlord out.”

Bell says many landlords simply ignored or evaded any attempts at code enforcement. “One of the challenges is that they weren’t readily responding to the tickets that they were receiving, and it was hard to locate some of these landlords,” he says.

But Bell expects to change now that tenants will be allowed to withhold rent and put it in escrow when landlords fail to comply.

Detroit will gradually roll out new registration-and-inspection deadlines citywide over the next year. 

Right now, only about 6,000 of Detroit’s estimated 40,000 rental properties are registered with the city. Within six months, the city plans to put the registry online tenants can see if their landlords have certificates of compliance.

Bell says the city has hired teams of at least 10 rental inspectors and 10 ticket-writing inspectors to do the job, as well as several contractors. The city aims to bring all rental properties into compliance by mid-2020.

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.
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