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Detroit City Council OKs Stricter Rental Property Ordinance

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The goal of Detroit's new rental property ordinance is to prod landlords into getting the city's stock of apartments up to code within two years.

At the heart of the measure, which was approved by the Detroit City Council this week, is a provision that allows tenants to withhold rent without fear of eviction if their units are not in compliance with code, Crain's Detroit Business reports.

Now that the ordinance has passed — it was announced in May — the city's Buildings, Safety, Engineering and Environmental Department will begin dividing the city into compliance zones.

Landlords in the first compliance zone will have six months to repair their properties starting in 2018. New zones will be added every three months so that enforcement of the ordinance will be staggered throughout the city over the next two years.

Any landlord whose building does not meet code will be legally unable to collect rent. Once that happens, tenants will pay into an escrow account for three months. At the end of that period, if the building is up to code the landlord gets the back rent. If not, the tenants get a refund.

The ordinance also provides for annual lead hazard inspections, withholding landlords' certificates of compliance if they are behind on property taxes totaling more than $1K for more than six months and less frequent inspections for landlords who have received no blight violations in the prior year.