The Aftermath of COVID Continues to Cause Delays in Michigan Landlord-Tenant Cases
April 27th, 2022 | By: Robin R. Mocabee, Esq.
Owners of rental properties continue to be adversely affected by the delays and disruptions emanating from the Michigan judiciary’s attempts to address the COVID pandemic. Here are three reasons landlord-tenant cases are routinely delayed and unable to be quickly resolved as intended by Michigan law.
Most District Courts are Overwhelmed and Underperforming Despite Best Efforts
Michigan District Courts are still dealing with the consequences of:
- the Michigan Supreme Court’s Administrative Order 2020-17
- loss of experienced court staff due to retirement
- newly hired court staff or unfilled staff positions
- a limited number of cases permitted to be scheduled on each hearing date
- hearings on landlord tenant cases only occurring a few times month
All of this adds up to District Courts being way behind and unable to efficiently process the large backlog of filed cases or handle new ones. Some courts are scheduling hearings up to 45 to 60 days after the filing of a case. Several other courts, unfortunately, are scheduling hearings 90 to 120 days out. These delays are contrary to Michigan’s Summary Proceedings Act, which requires a hearing to be set within 10 days of filing. In addition, Michigan Court Rules require a landlord-tenant case to be completed within 56 days from the first hearing. This 56-day timeframe is routinely not followed by District Courts due to their deference to the requirements of an Administrative Order entered by the Michigan Supreme Court, which remains in effect.
Minimum of Two Hearings Required on Most Cases Before Entry of Judgment
At the beginning of the pandemic, on an emergency basis, the Michigan Supreme Court issued Administrative Order 2020-17, as last amended in July 2021. This Order intentionally altered and slowed down the statutory process of landlord-tenant cases under Michigan law to help tenants who fell behind in their rent payments.
Under AO 2020-17, two hearings are required in most landlord-tenant cases. At the first hearing, a tenant is informed of their rights to speak with an attorney, and a housing agency staff member about available rental assistance funding programs. Then a second hearing is scheduled by the Court, which is supposed to occur within one week. This one-week requirement is not being followed by most District Courts. Instead, cases are routinely adjourned for several weeks or more than 30 days.
A Tenant’s Pending CERA Application Results in Either the Closure of a Case or Lengthy Delay
Another pandemic-tenant protection provided under AO 2020-17 involves when a tenant applies to receive rental assistance funds through the Covid Emergency Rental Assistance (CERA) program. Two different outcomes currently exist. Some District Courts close a case and require a landlord to ask that the case be reopened after at least 45 days have passed. If a tenant’s CERA application is denied or the landlord does not receive payment, the case will be reopened and scheduled for another hearing.
In contrast, other District Courts set another hearing at least 30 to 45 days out to allow a tenant’s application to be processed. Unfortunately, Michigan’s housing agencies are overwhelmed by the sheer number of tenants submitting applications. They do not have the staff or resources to timely process applications by the next hearing date. As a result, many District Courts are routinely granting more time for an application to be processed.
Let’s be clear, the Michigan District Courts are overwhelmed and in most circumstances are doing the best they can to uphold the mandate of AO 2020-17. The Michigan’s Summary Proceedings Act, however, contains a time-specific statutory process to protect owners of rental properties by enabling them to get non-paying tenants to either quickly pay delinquent rent or to vacate the rental property. Unnecessary pandemic-tenant protections under AO 2020-17 continue to hinder the rights of property owners and cause delay.
The Bottom Line: AO 2020-17 must be immediately rescinded and District Courts should be restored to their judicial authority to fulfill the requirements of the Michigan Summary Proceedings Act.