Tenants in non-compliant rental properties in ZIP 48215 now have easy system to place their rent in escrow
DETROIT, Michigan - Detroit’s effort to get every rental residential property in the city registered and compliant with city codes entered a critical phase Aug. 1, as the city began to systematically issue tickets to landlords who haven’t brought their properties up to code in the 48215 ZIP code.
Now, tenants living in rental properties that do not have a certificate of compliance from the city have a system in place that will allow them to place their rent into escrow accounts. Landlords will not be able to access the rent payments until they have addressed all code violations and obtained their certificate of compliance from the city. The citywide rental compliance effort is part of the city’s overall strategy to strengthen neighborhoods and assure quality housing for all Detroiters.
“Our inspectors have been busy writing tickets to non-compliant landlords to encourage compliance,” said David Bell, Director of Buildings, Safety Engineering & Environmental Department. “Now our attention is shifting to the tenants to make sure they are aware of our new rental escrow system.”
The city’s enforcement is moving across the city ZIP code by ZIP code, with the first one being 48215, where the deadline for compliance was Aug. 1. Since then city inspectors began systematic enforcement and have written more than 800 tickets to landlords who have not brought their property up to code. The tickets can cost landlords up to $750.00 and will be issued every thirty days in until compliance is achieved.
How to set up an escrow account
For renters, the city now has established a simple system to setting up an escrow account to place their rent into until their landlord obtains the certificate of compliance for that property. The system is available only for tenants in ZIP code 48215 until the next ZIP code’s rental compliance deadline passes.
To set up their account, tenants can online at www.detroitmi.gov/rental to determine whether their landlord has obtained a certificate of compliance with the City. If the property they’re renting is not properly certified, the renter will be able to set up escrow accounts, managed by PNC Bank, by enrolling online or by visiting the Buildings Safety, Engineering and Environmental department.
Escrow Fair this Saturday for renters in 48215
To help guide tenants through the enrollment process, the city will host an Escrow Fair this Saturday, August 18th for residents of ZIP Code 48215 at the Salvation Army, located at 3000 Conner Road. The event will be held from 10 AM until Noon. To properly enroll, participating tenants will need copes of their rental agreements, utility bills and photo IDs. Tenants also will need to enter their landlord’s name and address.
Once approved, residents may visit any one of the 45 electronic DivDat Kiosks to make their payments. The kiosks also allow residents to pay water and electricity bills, Detroit property taxes and bills from the Wayne County Treasurer. The DivDat Kiosks are located at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, Detroit Water and Sewerage Department customer service centers, the Northwest Activities Center and at pharmacies and grocery and convenience stores throughout the city. DivDat Kiosks will accept cash or checks for rental escrow payments. A map of kiosk locations is available at www.divdatkiosknetwork.com.
Once the escrow account is set up, accounts will be available for review, including balances in the escrow accounts, for review by tenants and landlords at www.detroitmi.gov/rental.
Detroit City Councilman Andre Spivey said the option to pay rent into escrow will be a powerful tool for renters after the city gave landlords months of advance warning that they needed to fix up their properties.
“From the onset, we needed some teeth in this ordinance to encourage our landlords to do the right thing,” Spivey said. “We believe we have given them ample time to get their properties in order. And now we’re looking for our renters to be able to have a decent place to live and a quality of life. I think this will entice landlords to move quickly to update their properties, and it will give renters some hope that, for people living in less than desirable conditions, they will see some changes where they live.”
Landlord will forfeit escrowed rent after 90 days of non-compliance
If a landlord receives a certificate of compliance within 90 days of the escrow account being established, the escrow funds will be distributed to the landlord within 5-7 days, paid by check from PNC Bank, minus a $20 administrative fee. If the landlord does not receive a certificate of compliance within 90 days, the escrow funds are disbursed to the tenant within 5-7 days of the 90-day certification deadline, minus a $20 administrative fee.
While stricter compliance efforts will be conducted a ZIP code at a time, BSEED inspectors will continue to respond to complaints of health and safety violations citywide as they arise. BSEED Director David Bell said his team will be able to conduct inspections in the active enforcement zone within four days of a request. Requests for inspections that fall outside of the active enforcement zone will be conducted within 30 days. To prepare for this, the City has added seven additional inspectors and partnered with three outside inspection companies to get inspections done in a timelier manner.
How landlords can get certified
Owners of rental properties can start today by registering their property online at www.detroitmi.gov/rental. To help owners registered of one- and two-family rental buildings get their inspections done as soon as possible, the city has listed on this website the names and contact information for the private companies approved to do that work. City BSEED staff will continue to conduct all inspections at larger multi-unit apartment buildings.
There are nearly 40,000 rental properties in the city, the majority of which are not properly registered and have no current certificate of compliance. Mayor Duggan and BSEED last year launched a process to encourage more landlords to register their properties. Since that time, the city has increased its number of registered rental properties from about 2,000 to 8,783.