Ann Arbor landlords, City Council members, students and University administrators met yesterday in the Michigan Union to discuss proposed changes to the lease-signing ordinance.
The proposed changes would prevent landlords from bypassing the 90-day waiting period for showing properties by having tenants sign a waiver.
Landlords have also begun offering incentives to tenants in the form of cash or free home cleanings if tenants signed a new lease for next year or signed a waiver allowing landlords to show their property before the 90-day waiting period.
At the meeting, which was held in Michigan Student Association Chambers, City Council member Leigh Greden (D-Ward 3) said it is already illegal to offer incentives to tenants before the 90-day period expires.
“I can tell you right now that we’re already having discussions with the city attorney – we will prosecute,” Greden said. “The law is clear.”
The changes would also reduce the waiting period to 70 days after the current lease’s start date.
Proposed modifications to the ordinance will go before the City Council next month.
Both landlords and student tenants said they disliked waivers, claiming they are advantageous for the other group.
Fred Gruber, manager of Gruber Management, said students were the ones asking about housing availability and pressuring landlords for earlier vacancies. He said many landlords have resorted to illegal tactics in order to compete in the local real-estate market.
“The market has gone underground and the good guys are left in the cold,” said Gruber, who claims his company has obeyed the ordinance. “If you obey the law you’re out of the market, because the market is doing it.”
Public Policy senior Nick Assanis, a student representative at the meeting, said certain groups of students – freshmen, out-of-state and international students – may be uninformed when it comes to finding suitable housing.
He said that students felt waivers made it more difficult to enforce the current ordinance.
“We are more than willing to recognize that cheating to speak has occurred on both sides of the table,” Assanis said. “Not only did we feel it made the ordinance cleaner and easier to enforce but we also thought it made educational efforts.”
Landlord Lelahni Wessinger said reducing the waiting period is a step in the right direction.
She said the housing system in Ann Arbor should be revamped so that seniors have first priority when looking for larger residences in Ann Arbor because they have the most experience in the local housing market.
“I’ve always said I don’t have a problem with the experienced people benefiting from their experience,” Wessinger said.
According to Greden, the changes to the ordinance will be reviewed by the City Council twice in January. He also said there will be a public hearing about the ordinance on Jan. 22.
If the council approves the changes, they will go into effect immediately after that.