Tuesday evening’s City Council meeting unanimously approved the first reading for changes to the Early Leasing Ordinance, which places restrictions on when landlords may show prospective tenants property for the following year. City Council efforts to reform the Early Leasing Ordinance have been ongoing for months in collaboration with tenants, landlords and community members alike.
The new ordinance brought forth Tuesday evening will allow tenants the “right to renew” a lease until 150 days before the lease expires. Landlords will also be prohibited from showing new prospective tenants a property until 150 days before the lease expires. The proposal also includes a “just cause eviction,” which states that a landlord may not evict a tenant unless a tenant fails to pay rent, vacates upon notice or violates other terms of the lease.
The city’s current ordinance — which was established in 2006 — allows landlords to begin showing and leasing properties to new prospective tenants as early as 70 days into the lease. But student renters and local tenants have long expressed frustrations around this pressure to renew contracts with only a few months into a lease, prompting efforts to amend the ordinance.
During the public comment period, Rackham student and Graduate Employees’ Organization member Amir Fleischmann urged City Council to approve the new ordinance to protect student renters who make up a large portion of downtown housing.
“These are basic human rights,” Fleischman said. “I have a right to the quiet enjoyment of my residence. That right is violated every time a landlord tells me I have 24 hours to decide to renew after only having lived there for less than three months. Please, please, please help us through the government. Stand up to the landlord.”
Councilmember Elizabeth Nelson, D-Ward 4, who co-sponsored the proposal, said changing the timeline alone would not address the pressure tenants are facing. She said the solution lies in ensuring that the ordinance addresses both tenant and landlord rights to renew and have a just cause of eviction, respectively.
“We cannot just impose a timeline and hope it sticks, because we don’t have good enforcement mechanisms,” Nelson said. “This ordinance has proposed an elegant solution where both tenants and landlords are protected. It’s going to be fair, it’s going to apply across the board.”
Nelson also reiterated the importance of the different voices that came together to inform the timeline in the proposed ordinance, including GEO and Central Student Government (CSG).
“The other point I would make is that one of the reasons that we have central leadership bodies within the University community is that they are representing their colleagues, and so I cannot overstate the significance of the leadership and the collaboration that happened between GEO and CSG and so I really, really hope that we can respect that,” Nelson said.
Councilmembers Travis Radina, D-Ward 3, and Lisa Disch, D-Ward 1, were co-sponsors to the ordinance. Disch said she supports moving the ordinance forward but said she has concerns with the basis for law or city authority in creating a “right to renew.”
“It was suggested earlier that we ought to be bold and stand up for vendors’ rights and let ourselves be sued and win and blaze a trail, and I’m perfectly happy to blaze a trail,” Disch said. “But I have a rule that I don’t want to let us be sued when I think we cannot win. I’m happy to pass this on for second reading, but in the interim, I will need clear legal advice regarding whether this is a thing we can champion and win, or whether this is a thing that will expose the city to financial damage.”
The proposed ordinance unanimously passed its first reading and will be up for a second vote at a future meeting. If approved then, Ann Arbor would be the first city in Michigan to have an Early Leasing Ordinance with a right to renew and a just cause eviction.
Ann Arbor resident Julia Goode told the Council that this issue is also prevalent among non-student renters in the city.
“There is a real need for affordable housing, and there is a real need to have a little fairness for the people who are renting places,” Goode said. “And I want to stress that this isn’t just a student issue. This is a big issue for others too.”
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