In Detroit’s 36th District Court, landlord-tenant hearings are suspended through Dec. 8, with exception of emergency eviction hearings.
The court on Tuesday announced its temporary closure for all matters except for felony arraignments, virtual felony exams and emergency evictions, to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.
“The 36th District Court now needs to do its part to keep the public and our employees safe. Taking this precaution may likely save lives and prevent serious illness. It will also ensure that the court is in a good position to continue operations in three weeks,” Chief Judge McConico said in the announcement.
The temporary closure began Wednesday alongside the state’s sweeping new COVID-19 restrictions on colleges, high schools and eat-in dining at restaurants and bars. The 36th District Court had previously suspended all in-person hearings on Nov. 5.All postponed court matters — aside from felony arraignments, felony exams and emergency eviction hearings — will be rescheduled to later dates, which will be determined when the court re-opens, McConico said.
Landlord-tenant hearings are suspended except for emergency eviction hearings which include cases that involve criminal activity, threats to the health and safety of other residents or property damage. Emergency eviction hearings will be the only type of landlord-tenant hearings conducted virtually, according to the court.
Landlords can still file complaints during the closure but in order to keep court staff and the public safe, the complaints won’t be processed until the court re-opens, McConico said.
The court’s closure will not prevent tenants from getting legal help, he said.
“The temporary closure of the court does not stop anyone from applying for the Eviction Diversion Program,” McConico said in a statement Wednesday. “Tenants can still apply for EDP by calling the Eviction Prevention Hotline”
Detroit tenants can go to www.detroitevictionhelp.com or call 866-313-2520.
“Most, if not all, of the litigants who have appeared in the landlord-tenant since the pandemic commenced have been represented by counsel thanks to the free legal services provided by United Community Housing Council, Lakeshore Legal Aid and Michigan Legal Services,” McConico said.
There have been 2,465 non-payment of rent cases filed, between Aug. 16 — when the court’s eviction moratorium lifted — and Nov. 16. The total number of landlord-tenant cases filed is 3,143, including termination of tenancy, land contract forfeiture and health hazards cases, according to the court.
The court has conducted about 120 landlord-tenant hearings per day. Of the 273 cases the court settled since mid-August, 222 were conditional dismissals meaning the landlord dismissed the case after the tenant paid or moved out, and 51 were consent judgments, meaning the parties came to an agreement.
Deadlines for a federal halt on evictions and a state program are nearing.
The state’s $50 million Eviction Diversion Program, which began in July after a state moratorium on residential evictions lifted, and was created to help landlords and tenants with back rent, has a Dec. 30 deadline to allocate money. So far, about $17 million in financial assistance has been dispersed and the remainder is expected to be distributed by the end of the year, according to the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, which is administering the program.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s eviction ban, issued Sept. 1, which temporarily halts residential evictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and requires tenants to meet certain criteria and submit a declaration, is set to expire Dec. 31.
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. Click here to support her work.