The Crackdown Begins: Detroit vs. Landlords, Round 1


The Crackdown Begins: Detroit vs. Landlords, Round 1

Tenants are now keeping a careful watch for an opportunity not to pay rent.

A house under a magnifying glass.

February 1st marked the official commencement of Detroit’s initiative to get all rental properties certified by the City, and they’re doing it by ZIP code. Here’s how it works:

• Each month (except April), the City adds a new ZIP code to the Rental Certification Program.
• Starting the 1st of that month, property owners have 90 days to register each property they’re renting out.
• Starting the day their ZIP code goes live (not the day they register!), property owners have six months to get each registered property up to code and schedule an inspection of the property to validate that it is up to code.
o If the property fails the inspection, they will have a specified period of time to make corrections and schedule a new inspection (the length of time varies depending on the specific issues).
o If the property passes the inspection,
and the owner is up-to-date on their property taxes (or on a payment plan for
their property taxes),
o the City will issue a Certificate of Compliance.
• Once you have a Certificate of Compliance, it’s good for one year the first time you receive it.
o If, after a full year, you are still up-to-date on your property taxes
and you have not received any blight citations
and your property passes a second inspection,
o Your property will receive an Extended Certificate of Compliance that lasts
 3 years for single family residences and duplexes, or
 2 years for any dwelling that houses 3 or more families.

Here’s a chart of the relevant dates for all currently-announced ZIP codes:

ZIP Code Launch Date Registration Date Compliance Date
48215 February 1, 2018 May 1, 2018 August 1, 2018
48224 March 1, 2018 June 1, 2018 September 1, 2018
48223 May 1, 2018 August 1, 2018 November 1, 2018
48219 June 1, 2018 September 1, 2018 December 1, 2018
48209 July 1, 2018 October 1, 2018 January 1, 2019
48210 August 1, 2018 November 1, 2018 February 1, 2019


Rather than hiring and using a bunch of inspectors — which has always been the problem with rental enforcement in Detroit — the City has chosen instead to create a website (not available as of this writing, but we’ll add a link here as soon as it’s up) where property-seekers and tenants can check to see if a property has an active Certificate of Compliance.

Punishingly, if the city receives an inquiry on the website about a property and it’s not currently registered as a rental, they will send someone out to that property to see if it’s a rental in person — and if it turns out that you have an unregistered rental, they’ll slap you with a fine between $250-$1500.

Even more punishingly, the City has given existing tenants the right to withhold rent if their landlord doesn’t obtain a Certificate of Compliance by the due dates above. You can count on your tenants checking that website monthly for an opportunity to not pay rent, so the motivation to keep your Certificates of Compliance up-to-date is powerful…no inspectors needed.

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