Students may not have to camp out for housing in October ever again.

Jess Cox
City Councilwoman Wendy Woods and MSA President Jesse Levine discuss the proposed lease ordinance at a Student Relations Committee meeting last night. (NOAH KORN/Daily)

Last night, the Ann Arbor City Council’s Student Relations Committee unanimously approved the language used in the proposed lease dates ordinance.

The ordinance will go to City Council for approval next month.

If passed, it would push back both the lease-signing date and the date when landlords can show off-campus housing.

The committee, made up of MSA members and two City Council members, has been working since last November to pass the ordinance.

A similar ordinance in Madison, Wisc., was the inspiration for the proposal, but there is a major difference between the two ordinances. Madison’s law only prohibits landlords from showing houses before a specific time. The proposed ordinance in Ann Arbor will also put restraints on the date the lease can be signed.

If City Council passes the ordinance, signing a lease would be prohibited until one-third of the current lease period has passed. Showing the house to prospective tenants would be allowed after a quarter of the lease period has passed.

The staggering of the dates is intended to allow students a month to look at houses and make a more informed choice before signing a lease.

It would be illegal for the city to set specific dates for when renters can enter into a lease.

The ordinance has underlined the tension between students and landlords in Ann Arbor. “It’s a blame game right now,” said Laura Van Hyfte, MSA’s City Council liaison. “Students and landlords blame each other for the market pressure.”

The language would only affect September-to-September leases. Though the committee feels that most leases are designed in this manner, there is some concern that landlords may begin changing their lease dates to a May-to-May format.

Van Hyfte said if landlords make the change, it will prove that they are intent on creating market pressure.

“It would show they were trying to destroy the ordinance,” she said.

Cith Council and committee member Leigh Greden (D-Ward 3) said he is in favor the ordinance.

“The negative impact on landlords will be minimal, but the positive impact for students will be substantial,” he said.

The committee also said the University could aid its cause by shifting the housing fair back to fit the new lease-signing date.

“I think this ordinance will be even stronger if the University moves the date it holds its housing fair,” committee member Wendy Woods (D-Ward 5) said.

Much of the meeting was consumed by partisan tension between Students 4 Michigan, the dominant MSA party, and the Michigan Progressive Party, which plans to challenge S4M in next month’s elections.

MPP member Matt Stoker spoke repeatedly about a Feb. 3 meeting that MPP members had with Mayor John Hieftje. Stoker’s comments were dismissed as partisanship by some S4M members.

“It was just supposed to be students meeting with City Council members,” said Van Hyfte of S4M.

S4M members said MPP was trying to take too much credit for the ordinance.

“If we want to get technical about it, S4M was there from the start,” Van Hyfte said. “MPP met two weeks ago on something we’ve been working on for months.”

Walter Nowinski, MPP’s vice presidential candidate, said the party invitedVan Hyfte and MSA President Jesse Levine – a former member of S4M who became nonpartisan after being elected president – to the meeting. Van Hyfte, though, said she had never been contacted.

Approved language
Revised sections of the ordinance to push back lease-signing dates
“(1) Notwithstanding any other provisions of this Chapter, a landlord of residential premises shall not:
(c) enter the leased premises for the purpose of showing the premises to prospective tenants until one-fourth (1/4) of the current lease deadline has passed; or
(d) enter into an agreement to rent the leased premises to another tenant for a subsequent lease period until one-third (1/3) of the current lease period has passed.”

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