Landlords with tenants who have fallen behind on rent payments and are in the pre-court eviction process can now apply directly to get help from the state’s Eviction Diversion Program, which helps ease the financial burden of the pandemic.

This story also appeared in Detroit Free Press

Starting Monday, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority began taking applications for the  program from landlords in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw, Ingham and Kent counties who have three or more tenants who owe rent and are in the eviction process.

Previously, landlords had to apply through local housing agencies, but now they have the option to apply locally or through MSHDA. About $8 million, or 16%, of the allotted $50 million for the program has been used, Katie Bach, communications director at MSHDA, said in a statement Monday.

“MSHDA is allowing landlords to apply directly for EDP relief due to the high volume of applications and the timeline by which funds need to be spent,” she said. “MSHDA will process these applications internally in support of the local service organizations so that tenants and landlords can be served at a quicker pace.”

If landlords and tenants have already applied with their local housing agencies — tenants also must fill out paperwork — they should continue to work with them on their application and landlords should only apply directly through MSHDA if tenants have not already done so through the agencies.

Here’s how to start the direct application process:

  • Landlords can email MSDHA at MSHDA-EDP-Landlord-Applications@michigan.gov and include the following information: property name, address and number of tenants that will be included in the application.
  • MSHDA will then email a link to a form that the landlord will use to create a secure application folder. The landlord can upload the complete application to that folder and then MSHDA will use this folder to exchange paperwork with the landlord during the process.
  • Landlords should give their tenants a copy of the tenant application and a flyer with more information about the program.

For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/mshda.

Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a nationwide halt on evictions through the end of the year.

Michigan’s Eviction Diversion Program was put in place after a statewide moratorium on evictions expired in July. Under the $50 million program, landlords can opt in and receive up to 90% of a tenant’s back rent paid in a lump sum, depending on a tenant’s income, until the end of the year. Landlords are required to forgive late fees and penalties and up to 10% of the COVID-19-related amount owed after March 1.

As of Sept. 30, 2,400 families have used the  program, although some housing agencies “are still in the process of reporting closed cases so this number may be higher,” Bach said.

Landlord-tenant filings remain fewer than last year, according to the most recent data from courts that have reported to the State Court Administrative Office. There were 8,023 filings in September of this year. Last year, there were 15,219.

There have been about 2,000 landlord-tenant cases filed after the 36th District Court’s moratorium expired in mid-August, Chief Judge McConico said in a statement Monday. These include cases involving nonpayment of rent, termination of tenancy and land contract forfeitures. The court has conducted about 612 hearings and about 249 eviction cases have been settled.

“When comparing through the first three quarters of 2019 to 2020, we have seen a decrease of 67% in landlord-tenant case filings. But that number is deceptive because the mail coming to the court has been severely delayed,” McConico said.

Though tenant advocates have called for a halt  to eviction proceedings, McConico said the court “does not expect to establish any additional eviction moratoriums” because “an eviction moratorium would prevent tenants from being able to access the very programs that were designed to help those facing eviction.”

Tenants can go to www.michiganlegalhelp.org to get connected with free legal services. Detroit renters can also go to www.detroitevictionhelp.com.

Contact Nushrat: nrahman@freepress.com; 313-348-7558. Follow her on Twitter: @NushratRBecome a  Free Press subscriber. 

Nushrat Rahman covers issues related to economic mobility for the Detroit Free Press and BridgeDetroit as a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project.

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