The Paletz Law Blog

Set of Bills Proposed in Lansing Gives New Powers to Tenants

June 12th, 2024 | By: Matthew I. Paletz, Esq.

A new group of concurrent legislation designed to make life even more difficult for Michigan landlords has arrived in Lansing. Entitled the “Tenant Empowerment Package,” the proposed legislation, if passed, could prove to be another nightmare for property owners. 

Introduced by District 21 State Senator Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing), this new set of bills would, among other things, require landlords and property owners to:

  • Allow the formation of tenant unions
  • Bar landlords from any retaliation against those unions
  • Face fines of up to $1,000 for each violation deemed by the union to be delays in maintenance or restriction of access to amenities
  • Failure to notify tenants of a rent increase three months before the end of a 12-month lease and six months before the end of a lease of 13 months or more 
  • Allow tenants to fix their units themselves without bearing any costs, keeping them in their homes when their landlords neglect to tackle needed repair work in a timely manner.
  • Address hazardous conditions such as bed bugs or mold within 24 hours of being alerted, 72 hours to repair broken appliances and a week to make other repairs after receiving written notice. (Tenants could withhold rent or deduct the cost of making the repairs themselves if those timelines aren’t met.)

Regarding unionization, isn’t collective bargaining meant for people with the same collective rights? This legislation concerns individual tenants and landlords so it’s not a one-size-fits-all. I’m all for landlords honoring their obligation to keep units for habitability, but what’s the end game here? 

The supposed impetus for this stack of bills is the stated belief that though a quarter of Michiganders are renters, they lack basic legal protections to ensure safe and affordable living conditions.  My first question is, where is the data to support this? We work in this space daily and watch tenants not only be given free legal representation but also watch as judicial activism supports them. Statements like these are extremely cavalier and demonize landlords while undermining the good-faith relationship that many landlords and tenants currently have.

As for legislation holding landlords to specific response times for repairs, isn’t it in the landlord’s best interest to have their units in good repair? If a unit is to be re-rented, it has to be repaired, and property owners understand this. If there are some bad actors, then tenants already have the courts as recourse to redress their issues. Why aren’t we talking instead about the lack of labor and inflationary costs that hinder property owners today?  As for the unionization issue, if tenants are having problems paying supposedly rising rents, how in the world does paying union dues help that situation? 

Although this set of bills has not yet reached the committee, they are being pushed by some of the highest-ranking state senators in Lansing, including the sponsor, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee. We will continue to follow this and give you updates as we become aware, and we will continue to speak loudly and firmly in our defense of our clients. 

The Bottom Line: Call your elected representatives and tell them this package of bills (Senate Bills 900-904) is unfairly targeting landlords and property owners in Michigan. 

The information contained in this article is only meant to be a basic overview and should not be construed as legal advice. Readers should not act upon this information without the advice of an attorney. The contents are intended for general information purposes only and may not be quoted or referred to in any other publication or otherwise be disseminated without the prior written consent of Paletz Law.

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