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Detroit launches broad plan to bring rental properties up to code By KURT NAGL

  • First zone enforcement begins Feb. 1 on city's east side
  • Ordinance gives tenants more protection
  • Landlords face stricter rules, repercussions for noncompliance


The city of Detroit is set to begin a sweeping plan to bring tens of thousands of rental properties in the city up to code starting Feb. 1.

Following City Council's approval in November of a stricter ordinance, the city's Buildings, Safety, Engineering and Environmental Department will divide the city into compliance zones to enforce the new regulations, according to a news release from the city.

All building owners in the first compliance zone, ZIP code 48215 on the city's east side, have until May 1 to register their rental properties with the city.

A new zone will be added each month, giving building owners six months to bring their properties up to code and to obtain a certificate of compliance from the city. Informational brochures will be distributed to each residence prior to the zone being activated.

"… We are going to start moving across the city in a systematic way to make sure that anyone who lives in a rental property is living in a safe and healthy environment for their families," Mayor Mike Duggan said in the release. "As part of this new approach, we are going to support good landlords and give renters greater protection against those who are not keeping their buildings in good condition."

The tougher policy was first proposed by Duggan in May to protect tenants and support good landlords. The city has hired seven new inspectors and teamed with four third-party inspection companies to execute the plan.

Not everyone has welcomed the new rules. Two property management companies are suing the city over the ordinance, calling it a violation of property owners' rights by giving the city authority to enter properties without a warrant, The Detroit News reported.

The first six compliance zones have been scheduled, stretching into 2019.

Terms of the new ordinance:


  • Tenants will have the ability to pay rent into an escrow account if the landlord is not compliant by the end of the six-month period. The landlord receives those funds only if their building passes inspections and receives a certificate of compliance within 90 days. If not, the money is returned to the tenant.
  • The ordinance protects against tenants being evicted from noncompliant buildings solely for withholding rent.
  • The city can withhold certificates of compliance for landlords more than one-year delinquent on property taxes.
  • A website will be created listing all properties registered as rentals in the city with its compliance status.
  • There will be less frequent inspections for landlords who have remained current on taxes and received no blight violations for at least a year.
  • Certifications would be extended from one year to two years for multifamily dwellings and to three years for one- and two-family dwellings.
  • Annual lead risk assessments will be performed on all rental properties unless the owner has taken permanent or long-term measures to abate lead.
  • A more expedited appeal and denial process for compliance suspensions will be implemented.

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