Renters fair housing ordinance amendment tabled
By Grace Lovins
Despite the call from residents for Birmingham to adopt rules and regulations to protect rights for renters, city commissioners voted to table the drafted ordinance amendment during the meeting on Monday, August 14, at the recommendation of the city attorney.
Commissioners first began looking at adopting additional protections for renters in the city after an incident at the Baldwin House almost got former mayor Dorothy Conrad booted from her home. City attorney Mary Kucharek presented commissioners with three options they could pursue to offer further protections for renters in December 2022.
The commissioners opted to pursue two of the three options: right to renew and source of income protections. Right to renew would require a landlord to provide good cause as to why they decided not to renew a tenant’s lease, to prevent landlords from refusing to negotiate an agreement or changing the terms and conditions of a lease. Source of income protects renters from being discriminated against for incomes such as housing vouchers or Social Security.
During the commission’s previous discussions of the amendment, commissioners agreed that something was likely needed to help prevent the issue from happening again but had differing views of what a solution would look like. Over the last few discussions, the ordinance evolved from additional protections for all renters to protections for only those over 65, eventually reaching Kucharek’s recommendation to table the amendment altogether.
Kucharek said that she feels the city shouldn’t offer additional protections on a local level and believes these regulations are better suited for state legislation. Currently, the Michigan House of Representatives is reviewing House Bill 6565 and House Bill 4063 that would add right to renew and source of income protections. Kucharek recommends writing letters to state representatives advocating for the two bills.
Several members of the public commented, with most stating they’re frustrated that the city is considering stopping discussions about the protections. Kucharek offered that there are organizations to reach out to that provide help if they need it, but, to her, the issue should not be handled on a local level.
“If the residents of Baldwin House are finding that they’re afraid of their landlord or they're afraid to exercise their First Amendment rights, there is an entity to reach out to get the help that they need, but the city should not become civil litigators and civil attorneys on behalf of their residents,” she said.
Commissioner Andrew Haig’s recommendation for a tenant-landlord code of conduct resurfaced in the discussion, with Kucharek saying it could provide reassurance for both parties. The code of conduct would be voluntary, but Kucharek argued that landlords could advertise that they adhere to the code which could help ease tenant concerns and help landlords attract tenants.
The commission voted 7-0 to table the discussions and adoption of the tenant’s rights ordinance amendment. Instead, they decided to draft letters to state representatives to advocate for the passing of the two state House bills and Senate Bills 205, 206 and 207.