Birmingham to review tenant’s rights protections
By Grace Lovins
The Birmingham City Commission directed city attorney Mary Kucharek on Monday, December 19, to begin drafting examples of ordinance language intended to provide protections around residential tenants’ source of income and right to renew.
The direction comes after former mayor and prominent local figure Dorothy Conrad nearly lost her home at Baldwin House, located at 200 Chester Street, after the facility pulled her lease renewal and informed her that she needed to vacate the residence in mid-September. Conrad is known for being an outspoken advocate in the community, and most recently exposed Baldwin House for violating a 1994 parking agreement between the facility and the city.
While legislation was introduced at the state level in 2019 for source of income protections, the two bills have yet to be passed. Michigan law, as of now, does not include source of income protections, right to renew or the right to counsel – but the option is open for local governments to take the matter into their own hands.
Kucharek had drafted a report for the commission that included a breakdown of current state laws surrounding tenant’s rights, as well as ordinances recently passed by other communities that offer additional protections. She presented information about three different protections the city could look to introduce: the right to renew, source of income protections and the right to counsel.
The right to renew protection could potentially require landlords to provide additional time for tenants to renew their lease, barring the landlord establishing good cause not to renew the tenant. Typically, landlords give tenants a 30-day notice to renew or give notice that the landlord will not be renewing the lease. However, one community, Ann Arbor, has adopted an ordinance extending the time frame from 30 days to 180 days.
While the right to renew protection has not reached many other communities yet, several cities around the state have adopted ordinances offering source of income protections. These protections safeguard tenants from being denied a lease because of their source of income, whether it be from Social Security, disability services, veterans services or Section 8 vouchers. Currently, 11 communities in the state – including Royal Oak, Ferndale and Hazel Park – have adopted ordinances for this protection.
While Kucharek advised the commission that the right to renew and source of income protections would be viable directions for the city to go, she advised against an ordinance that would offer the right to counsel. “In order to mandate that you have to provide counsel, you have to pay for that counsel, and I don’t the city would be in a position to want to pay for that,” Kucharek said.
Instead, she proposed that the city potentially partner with activist groups or local groups, such as the Fair Housing Center of Southeast and Mid-Michigan or Oakland County Tenants Rights and Responsibilities Council, that could help tenants with the financial aspect of legal representation should a tenant need it.
The commission came to a consensus to direct Kucharek to move forward with additional information and example ordinance language for the right to renew and source of income protections for the commission to discuss at a later date.