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Michigan renters could soon fix up their apartments on their landlords’ dime

Michigan renters could soon fix up their apartments on their landlords’ dime

By Kyle Kaminski

June 25, 2024

State legislation known as the “Tenant Empowerment Package” would enable Michigan tenants to take on their own repairs—and then deduct the cost from their rent.

MICHIGAN—Legislation introduced this month by state Sen. Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing) spells out clear requirements for Michigan landlords to provide safe housing and make timely repairs.

And it also includes an ultimatum for landlords who fail to live up to those obligations—namely by creating a new legal mechanism in which tenants can deduct repair costs from their monthly rent payments if their landlords fail to “promptly” take care of their properties for themselves.

Senate Bills 900, 901, 902, and 903—otherwise known as the “Tenant Empowerment Package”—were introduced in the state Legislature earlier this month and have since been referred to the state Senate’s Committee on Housing and Human Services for further review.

In addition to enshrining Michigan renters’ rights to repair their own apartments and homes for themselves, the bills would also protect their legal right to organize and form a tenant union, as well as require all Michigan landlords to provide an “adequate” notice for future rent increases. 

That’s defined as at least three months for renters with a fixed-term tenancy of one year, or at least six months for those with a fixed-term tenancy with a duration of 13 months or more.

In a statement, Anthony said the bills would serve to protect tenants’ rights, as well as “tighten up” existing state laws to ensure all renters have the tools they need to fight for those rights.

“These bills will have a real impact on urban and rural communities across Mid-Michigan and in every corner of the state,” Anthony said. “It’s time we took action to empower Michigan’s renters, to uplift their voices, and to ensure people feel secure in their own homes.”   

The timeframe for landlords to complete repairs depends largely on the severity of the issue. 

The bills would require the most hazardous, life-threatening repairs to begin within 24 hours of a written notice from a tenant. Appliance repairs would need to commence within 72 hours of a written notice. Most other repairs would need to begin within one week—or else trigger a tenant’s ability to repair the problem for themselves and deduct the full cost from their rent.

State data shows that more than 27% of Michiganders are renters. But according to Anthony, many tenants lack basic legal protections to ensure safe and affordable living conditions.

In Greater Lansing alone, more than 600 homes and apartments have been vacated due to unsafe conditions—which Anthony said reflects a “failure” in Michigan’s ability to maintain basic housing standards and tenants rights. Her bills are designed to fill those gaps, namely by enshrining landlords’ duties to provide safe housing and make timely repairs into state law. 

“We are glad to see bills to protect tenants’ rights to organize and make essential repairs to their homes,” said William Lawrence, state coordinator for Rent is Too Damn High, in a statement. “Both chambers should pass these bills and send them to the governor’s desk this summer.” 

All four bills were also co-sponsored by state Sens. Sue Shink (D-Northfield Township); Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit); Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak); Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor); and Rosemayer Bayer (D-Beverly Hills). They’ll still need to pass through committees, the full Senate and House, as well as garner a signature from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to become law.

READ MORE: Michigan farmers call on lawmakers to pass ‘right-to-repair’ bills

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Author

  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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