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Municipalities Can No Longer Trample on Tenants Right’s Under U.S. Constitution

Governor Snyder signed Senate Bill 107 into law on November 28, 2017.  The bill, popularly called the “Tenant Permission Bill,” was promoted by the Rental Property Owners Association of Michigan (RPOA-M), Apartment Association of Michigan (AAM) and the local Rental Property Owners Association in Grand Rapids (RPOA).  The law, now Public Act 169 of 2017, will take effect 90 days from the Governor’s signature which is February 26, 2018.  The law changes various aspects of the Housing Law of Michigan rental inspection enforcement regulations.

The most prominent change under the new law is the removal of the right of a municipality to enter a rental premises for an inspection—without the tenant’s permission–under the landlord’s contractual right within a lease to enter the premises.  Several U.S. courts, including the Supreme Court, have ruled time and time again that municipalities must obtain permission from a tenant before entering their unit for a rental inspection, except in cases of an emergency.  This new law will now require municipalities to obtain permission or an administrative warrant or wait until the unit is vacant before entering for an inspection.

Specifically, the new law requires a tenant to allow a municipality entry in the following situations:

  • The lease authorizes an enforcing agency inspector to enter the leasehold for an inspection. (A clause in the lease must specifically state that the tenant agrees to allow the enforcing agency inspector to enter the premises for a municipal rental inspection.)
  • The lessee has made a complaint to the enforcing agency.
  • The enforcing agency serves an administrative warrant ordering the lessee to provide access.
  • The lessee has given consent.

What about units where there are more than one tenant/leasee?  Requesting and receiving permission from one leasee satisfies the permission for the entry requirement.

What about a landlord’s rights?  The same Federal courts which have ruled that tenants must give permission have also ruled that municipalities have a right to carry out rental inspections for health and safety purposes and may enter a unit as long as the tenant gives permission—with or without the consent of the landlord.

Under the previous and new modified Housing Law, landlords must, in good faith, seek to obtain permission of the tenant for a municipal inspection.  Landlords are not allowed to discourage, in any way, a tenant’s choice to allow entry.  Doing so could endanger the landlord’s protections under the law.  This does not, however, mean that a landlord cannot inform the tenant of their right to refuse the inspection.

The law also includes two very important protections for the tenant and the landlord, namely that neither the tenant nor the landlord can be discriminated against for the tenant exercising their right to refuse an inspection.  For the tenant this means the municipality can’t threaten the tenant with condemnation of their rental unit or otherwise fine the tenant for refusal of entry.  For the landlord, this means that the municipality cannot condemn the property, remove a certificate of compliance or otherwise charge a fee or fine for the tenant’s refusal of entry…as long as the landlord has fulfilled their obligations under the other parts of the law.

So, when do landlords have to allow the municipality entry?  Here are specific circumstances under the new law when a landlord must provide entry:

  • The lease authorizes an enforcing agency inspector to enter the leasehold for an inspection. (A clause in the lease must specifically state that the tenant agrees to allow the enforcing agency inspector to enter the premises for a municipal rental inspection.)
  • The lessee has made a complaint to the enforcing agency.
  • The leasehold is vacant.
  • The enforcing agency serves an administrative warrant ordering the owner to provide access.
  • In cases of an emergency.

The changes to the law were necessary to protect tenants from aggressive municipal tactics that used threats of eviction and more to gain entry into a rental premises—all of which were contrary to the rights of all citizens under the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Clay Powell, Director of the RPOA-M and RPOA, stated that it has taken nearly four years to get these changes made and wishes to thank all the legislators that were involved along the way to make the changes reality and bring Michigan into compliance with Federal Law.

As always, except in cases of an emergency, a landlord/property manager must give tenants a 24 hour notice before entry.

For a complete copy of the Public Act, go here.

 

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