“I diverted money from here to there like I was playing Monopoly,” Randi Alexander said about piecing rent and bills together during the coronavirus.

LANSING, MI — Michiganders like Grosse Pointe Park resident Fletcher Sharpe are dealing with the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic in nearly every aspect of their lives. 

Health care, employment, and socializing norms are in constant flux. And arguably the most basic of human rights — shelter — is a top-of-mind concern for many Michigan residents.

Sharpe is grateful for the latest relief plan from Gov. Whitmer’s office that will create a path to financial redemption for renters in poor standing due to the coronavirus.

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“It’s been hard for everyone to keep up with rent and keep a job if you’re lucky,” he told The ’Gander. “But I’m also happy that the plan will help the landlords too. Some of them have no way of paying their own bills right now.”

Gov. Whitmer’s eviction moratorium expires July 15 but will be replaced by a new Eviction Diversion Program beginning on July 16. The program will provide $50 million in rental assistance paid directly to landlords as lump sum payments. 

In exchange for the payout, Michigan landlords are required to allow tenants to remain in their homes and give them opportunity to repay back rent owed.

“No Michigander should have to worry about losing their home during a global health pandemic and, at the same time, landlords and management companies need rent from their tenants to sustain their businesses,” Gov. Whitmer said in the announcement. “This innovative new program will save lives, save money, and save businesses by keeping families in their homes and providing immediate financial relief to landlords for back rent they’re due.”

The Eviction Diversion Program also forgives up to 10% of renters’ late fees. Tenants who were in poor standing with their landlords before the coronavirus outbreak will be given an opportunity to enter into a payment plan arrangement to bring them back into good standing. The option is a relief for Sharpe, who says he has experienced neighbor woes during Gov. Whitmer’s shelter-in-place orders. 

“One of my neighbors was supposed to be evicted in March for not paying rent for several months,” he said. “He was allowed to stay because of the pandemic, but he has no money and has stolen from everyone in the building in the months since. I don’t think he’ll be able to stay much longer with the governor’s new plan.”

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That plan is also good news for Lincoln Park resident Randi Alexander, who picked up a second job as a delivery driver for an app service to make ends meet.

“I diverted money from here to there like I was playing Monopoly,” she told The ’Gander. “If I could have paid all of my bills at once, I would have. But I’m glad that there are concrete plans in place to help everyone get back on their feet.”

Alexander rents from a private owner and not a large apartment complex. Gov. Whitmer’s latest plan would make Alexander’s landlord whole while also giving her reasonable time to recoup money she lost during the pandemic.

What to Do If You’re Facing Eviction

The ACLU of Michigan is a resource for disenfranchised Michiganders across the state. It has lobbied the governor’s office to ensure that Michiganders have shelter during the pandemic.

“We are thrilled the governor has extended the eviction moratorium, as it will keep thousands of people in their homes and provide some relief from the endless stress families are facing during this pandemic,” said ACLU of Michigan deputy legal director Bonsitu Kitaba. “We must continue to work to protect vulnerable communities.”

If you’re facing a possible eviction, here are a few tips to keep you in your home.

1. Keep detailed records

Keep a log of every payment, missed payment, and communication you have with your landlord or property manager.

2. Know your rights

Did you know that landlords are not allowed to enter your home without permission, and that you must be given time to move out of your home after an eviction notice has been served? Specific state information on renters’ rights can be found here.

3. Enter into a payment plan

Gov. Whitmer’s Eviction Diversion Program allows renters who owe back rent to pay it off over time with a reasonable repayment plan. Work with your landlord or property manager to find what works best for you.

4. Seek help

If you need additional or professional assistance, consider contacting the ACLU of Michigan or organizations like the United Community Housing Coalition or Here to Help Foundation.

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