Whitmer suspends evictions statewide until April 17

Christine MacDonald
The Detroit News

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order Friday immediately halting all evictions until April 17 as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

The move allows tenants and mobile home owners to remain in their homes even if they can't pay rent, according to a press release.  

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks during the press conference.

“Families across the state are facing a number of uncertainties, from concerns about their health and well-being and that of their loved ones to when their next paycheck will arrive. Worrying about whether they’ll be evicted from their home, apartment or mobile home should not be on this list,” Whitmer said in a statement. “This executive order will ease a burden on families struggling to make ends meet and allow them to focus on what’s most important — staying safe and healthy.”

The order does allow for evictions if the tenant "poses a substantial risk to another person or an imminent and severe risk to property," according to the order. 

Detroit's 36th District Court announced an immediate moratorium on evictions earlier this week. 

Housing advocates praised the measure.

"We are encouraged by this much-needed order," said Joe McGuire, staff attorney with the Detroit Justice Center. The group is a part of a coalition of legal organizations and community groups that pushed for the stay this week.

"It is very clear ... that this crisis is not going away," he said. 

McGuire said he hopes the state suspends mortgage foreclosures as well. And once the crisis abates, he said the state should give tenants at least 60 days to pay their back rent. 

But attorney Aaron Cox, who represents Metro Detroit landlords, said Whitmer's order puts an "inordinate burden on the backs of landlords and property owners," potentially crippling them. 

"The vast majority of my clients are not people with deep pockets and very frequently have mortgages on properties they rent," Cox wrote in an email.

"Unless the government’s next order is to remove potential mortgage defaults that occur at the same time, this order could potentially cause a cataclysmic domino effect throughout the entire housing market. Everyone understands that the burdens caused by this crisis should be born equally, but this order has the potential to be abused a great deal."

Many of his large landlord clients were already working on payment agreements with renters affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

"Nobody wants to see people removed, and my clients were already actively working to prevent it," Cox wrote.