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Letter: Michigan landlords pushed toward financial abyss

The Detroit News

The government overreach of the COVID-19 crisis continues to plague Michigan businesses. Last week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended the moratorium on residential evictions through June 30. It also wielded another blow to family-owned landlords who are struggling to pay their own mortgages.

Along with the governor’s extension, the Michigan Supreme Court issued an order detailing how an expected “deluge” in landlord-tenant cases should be dealt with once the moratorium expires. It estimated that because 17,000 landlord-tenant cases are typically filed each month, more than 75,000 could be filed "immediately” after the moratorium ends.

As an attorney who routinely deals with these cases, I can tell you that this is a blatant misrepresentation.

First, rent payments for April, May and June have been better than anyone could have predicted due to the additional unemployment benefits in the federal CARES Act.

Second, many landlords have used government-backed loans to acquire their properties and so are restricted from evictions until August because of federal regulations. A conservative number is that this represents over 50% of the potential cases filed in Michigan.

Organizer Joe McGuire walks and holds a sign while people drive their vehicles around Cadillac Place as part of a caravan protest organized by Detroit Eviction Defense in Detroit on May 13, 2020.

The Michigan Supreme Court has used this opportunity to take control over the entire landlord-tenant court system. The false narrative of courtrooms being overrun contrary to public health, even if true, would never need to happen because there are several Michigan courts that adopt a “court by mail” method which allows everything to be done by mail and remote Zoom hearings if needed.

No one is advocating for mass evictions in the midst of a pandemic. The local judges should be able to exercise their discretion while allowing landlords and tenants to keep working together.

As Michigan businesses continue to dig out of COVID-related economic trauma, our governor and our Supreme Court need to help small and family-owned businesses, instead of adopting a false narrative to drive their respective futures into financial ruin. 

Matthew I. Paletz, CEO, Paletz Law

Paletz is a leading advocate and supporter of legislative efforts on behalf of the real estate industry.