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Posted on: February 15, 2019

Jackson City Council passes new ordinance to help displaced renters

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The Jackson City Council has enacted a pioneering ordinance to help renters in the City of Jackson who have been forced from their homes because of dangerous living conditions.

At their Feb. 12 meeting, council members gave final approval to the Relocation Assistance for Displaced Tenants Ordinance. Under the new ordinance, if City inspectors find serious code violations that make the housing unsafe for tenants to live in, the unit is vacated, and the landlord has to pay for relocation assistance for the displaced tenants. That means landlords will have to reimburse the City for the costs related to placing tenants in temporary housing, like a motel, or placing them in more long-term housing. If the renter is at fault for the unit being vacated, the landlord doesn’t have to pay. But it’s up to the City to determine which side is at fault.

Over the past year, the City has seen an increase in renters being displaced due to unsafe living conditions at no fault of their own. This is usually due to a long list of violations at each location, such as exposed electrical wiring, unsanitary conditions, or no access to heat. Being abruptly vacated from housing is known to create financial hardships for tenants and may result in homelessness. Wanting to make sure these residents are not homeless, City staff often spend time and resources making sure they have a safe place to go. Before the ordinance, there was no way to insure landlords reimbursed the City for these costs.

This new protection is believed to be the first of its kind for a municipality in Michigan. Mayor Derek Dobies supported the new ordinance and says he is satisfied to see it becoming law. “Those landlords who do not properly maintain rental properties and allow units to become dangerous to live in should bear the responsibility of their neglect,” Dobies said. The mayor says he recognizes that there a lot of good landlords in Jackson who take care of their properties. “Only landlords who allow properties to fall into serious disrepair will be impacted by this ordinance,” Dobies said.  

Fifth Ward Councilmember Kelsey Heck also supported the ordinance and hopes it will encourage tenants to come forward when there is a serious problem. She says with a high population of renters in the City, it’s important that protections are in place. “This ordinance is all about giving people power who may not have it, and holding people in power accountable,” Heck said.

The new ordinance takes effect Tuesday, March 12.

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