Enforcement begins of modified Detroit Rental Ordinance focused on lead safety and Landlord compliance

Enforcement begins of modified Detroit Rental Ordinance focused on lead safety and Landlord compliance

  • Amended rental ordinance keeps Detroit tougher on lead safety than other cities
  • Ordinance rewards compliant landlords, increases penalties for non-compliant ones
  • Builds on efforts that have reduced child lead poisoning in Detroit by 90% in past 20 years
  • The Buildings Department educates landlords about efforts to make rental units safe  

The City of Detroit Buildings, Safety Engineering, and Environmental Department (BSEED) starts the new year with increased enforcement for rental properties in continued efforts to reduce child lead poisonings in the city. The modified ordinance was approved by City Council in October 2021 and is effective now.

“The ultimate goal here is code compliance, most importantly, making rental properties lead-safe to protect children and families,” said Dave Bell, director of BSEED. “These changes will help us achieve that by providing carrot-and-stick incentives for landlords to come into compliance and keep tenants safe.”

The updated ordinance was adopted based on the recommendation of BSEED, which had incorporated significant input from landlords and advocates. Under the new guidelines, the City of Detroit maintains its role as one of the strictest in the nation on requiring lead compliance from landlords.  BSEED staff surveyed approximately 20 other major cities and found that Detroit was the only one to require regular risk assessment analyses for rental properties.  

The ordinance’s focus on lead safety is part of the city’s multi-faceted efforts to reduce lead exposure, especially in children, whose cognitive abilities can be impaired at younger ages.  Over the past 20 years, the number of children that test positive for elevated blood lead levels each year has gone down by more than 90 percent, according to State of Michigan data. In 1998, more than 16,000 children tested positive, compared to about 1,400 in 2018, the most recent year for which data is available.

“The City of Detroit also provides nurse case management for children ages six and under who have elevated blood levels, through the Lead Prevention and Intervention Program administered by the Detroit Health Department,” said Chief Public Health Officer Denise Fair Razo. “Our Lead team provides education so Detroiters are aware of potential sources of lead exposure in their homes, testing, and most importantly, services to reduce blood lead levels below an actionable level in children who may have been exposed.”

To receive a Certificate of Compliance to operate as a rental property, properties must be inspected and determined to be safe. To achieve this compliance, the city conducts regular inspections, educates those landlords who are non-compliant, and enforces, when necessary, through tickets and fines.   Key provisions in the amended ordinance include:

  • For those landlords who show good faith efforts by performing interim controls, such as painting over or encasing lead paint, the ordinance will require risk assessments every three years, as opposed to every year. In a survey of 20 other cities and HUD, Detroit still has one of the strictest rental ordinances regarding lead inspections.    
  • Landlords who have abated all lead will be eligible for a 7-year Certificate of Compliance upon a passed rental inspection.    
  • For properties that are federal government-supported and inspected, the ordinance also allows for those properties to be considered compliant with the city if they have passed a federal compliance inspection, which includes lead compliance. This eliminates any unnecessary duplication of inspections.    
  • For those landlords who have been doing nothing to address the lead in their properties, there will be more significant fines. If a child tests positive for elevated blood lead levels,​the landlord could be fined up to $2,500 and face possible misdemeanor charges​ if they are not in compliance with the ordinance.  The ordinance also allows Council to know on a yearly basis the status of known cases of Elevated Blood Lead Levels (EBLL) in children in rental properties. 

The key is balance and ensuring safety for all residents of rental properties and employing the workforce to handle the inspections needed to hold landlords accountable and compliant, Bell said. “We think these are all common-sense modifications to the ordinance that will result in greater safety, better living conditions for tenants, and reduce financial burdens on responsible landlords,” said Bell.

FOR LANDLORDS

How to register your rental property

BSEED is encouraging landlords to register themselves online: https://aca-prod.accela.com/DETROIT/Default.aspx. Per the ordinance all rental properties in the City of Detroit are required to be registered and have a Certificate of Compliance. Failure to do so could result in fines.

To schedule a rental inspection for a 1 or 2 single-family home, please call one of our 3rd party inspections groups at the following listed numbers:

ETC – Environmental Testing & Consulting Inc. (734) 955-6600

Safe Built Inspections – (313) 920-5143

Detroit Inspection Group – (313) 879 -0409

Prospections – (734) 224-8979

To schedule a rental inspection for 3 or more units which includes condominiums and cooperatives, call 224-3115.

Please have the following information:

  • Ownership name, number, and email
  • Address of the location
  • Year the building was built
  • How many units
  • Date desired for inspection

FOR TENANTS

How to put your rent in escrow if the landlord is not compliant

The updates to the rental ordinance ensure that tenants in the City of Detroit have a safe place to live. If a property does not have a Certificate of Compliance, tenants have the right to sign up for the City of Detroit rental escrow program. Applications can be found on the BSEED website:

https://detroitmi.gov/departments/buildings-safety-engineering-and-environmental-department/bseed-divisions/property-maintenance/rental-property/rental-property-escrowHow to verify if a property is registered or has a Certificate of Compliance


LANDLORD EDUCATIONAL FORUM BSEED hosted a Landlord Educational Forum in late October and has another scheduled for late April. More than 200 landlords attended the forum in October with a large number of participants in the virtual workshop showcasing the importance of landlords working with the City to ensure Detroit access to quality, lead-safe housing. 

“We wanted to hit the ground running after Council approval and were very encouraged by the turnout.  We see it as a sign that landlords across the City understand the need to make sure their properties are up to code and don’t pose lead safety risks,” said BSEED Chief Enforcement Officer Jessica Parker. “We’re taking an educational approach with landlords to ensure tenants are safe and are also prepared to enforce the modified ordinance’s tougher penalties when necessary.” 

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