Evictions, Executive Orders and Rental Properties in Michigan
Provided by Haley Clough, Kotz Sangster Wysocki P.C., RPOA Referral Attorney (March 23, 2020)
In light of Executive No. 2020-19, which was signed by Governor Whitmer on March 20, 2020, I want to provide RPOA members with the following general advice, which is the same advice I have been giving my clients:
First, at this time there is no clear order from the federal government regarding eviction or foreclosure prohibitions. There was an announcement by President Trump regarding a stay on evictions and foreclosures–during which announcement the President referenced HUD–but we have not yet been given further guidance on this announcement from the federal government. It is relatively safe to assume that the federal government is working with HUD to stop foreclosures of HUD-based mortgages and the resulting evictions. It is also relatively safe to assume that non-payment-based evictions of HUD tenants (i.e., evictions of tenants from municipal housing commissions) are currently prohibited. However, there does not yet appear to be a mechanism in place allowing the federal government to prohibit private landlords from continuing their eviction processes as normal. What does apply to private landlords is Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order No. 2020-19.
Executive Order No. 2020-19 states in part that “no person shall remove or exclude from leased residential premises or residential premises held under a forfeited executory contract a tenant, a vendee of a forfeited executory contract, or a person holding under a tenant or vendee, except when the tenant, vendee, or person holding under them poses a substantial risk to another person or an imminent and severe risk to property…until April 17, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.” Further, “nothing in this order shall be construed to abrogate the obligation to pay or right to receive payment due under a lease…”
The purpose of this Executive Order is not to allow tenants to remain in their leased homes or units free of charge. Rather, the purpose of the Order is to allow tenants to continue to have the protection that a residential home provides from the COVID-19 pandemic, and comply with the orders to self-quarantine. At this time, landlords may of course continue to accept all rent payments tendered by their tenants. Landlords may also continue to send letters in an attempt to collect rent payments. At this time, my office is operating under the understanding that landlords may continue to issue 7-day demands to their tenants who are late on rent. However, I would encourage landlords to consider including a cover letter with any demand they send. The cover letter should state that the landlord is aware of Executive Order No. 2020-19 and is not intending the enclosed notice to constitute a demand for the tenant to immediately vacate the property. Rather, the 7-day demand is being sent with the understanding that no eviction proceeding will be formally commenced with the court until the time period set forth in Executive Order No. 2020-19 expires. To the extent that a tenant is able to pay the amount set forth in the 7-day demand, the tenant should pay as normal. The landlord can make the tenant aware that the Executive Order does not waive rent payments, which is why the Landlord is sending the 7-day demand in the usual course.
It is important to note that effective immediately, demands for payment may not be served by personal delivery. However, because the order is silent on delivery by mail, I am at this time providing the advice set forth above regarding mailing 7-day demands. Given the limited information that has been received by landlords, their attorneys, and the landlord-tenant clerks and district judges, the best we can tell is that courts are accepting eviction filings (i.e., complaints), however the courts will simply hold those filings and will issue them out in the order that they are received once the temporary stay has been lifted.
In summary, in an attempt to not be “last in line” when the temporary stay is lifted, my office is currently advising landlords to continue mailing out 7-day demands as usual, with a cover letter referencing Executive Order No. 2020-19 and the stipulations I have set forth above. If landlords are not anticipating representing themselves pro se, I would further encourage landlords to turn their eviction matters over to their respective attorneys at their usual pace. Attorneys can then send the initial case filings by mail to the court and, presumably, get the matter(s) added to the list of matters that will be formally filed once the executive order expires. In the event that my office hears from any court that we should not be mailing complaints to the court or advising our landlords to continue to send 7-day demands, we will let the RPOA know immediately. However, at this time, I would rather my clients and RPOA members err on the side of “saving their spot” on the court’s docket by continuing their processes as normal.
Finally, if RPOA members have questions, please call my direct line: (616) 552-6381. This line will be forwarded to my cell phone so I will have the ability to take calls during this time.
Editor’s Note: As clarification is made regarding evictions from a state or federal level, we will continue to provide relevant updates. The RPOA is in conversations with the Governor’s office to continue to advocate for assistance and relief for landlords. A conversation with the Governor’s office did not result in any additional updates. However, a call has been scheduled for this Thursday, March 26 to hear more from the Governor’s office on issues related to landlords. The information contained in this article is not intended to replace legal advice on any particular matter, but rather is intended only to provide general advice regarding the current understanding of Michigan’s Executive Order No. 2020-19, given the limited information and guidance currently available.”