The Crime Free Lease Addendum: Is This A Good Thing?


The Crime Free Lease Addendum: Is This A Good Thing?

Are We Penalizing The Right People, The Right Way?

One stick-figure holding another stick-figure up with a gun.In 2009, Saginaw passed a law requiring landlords to include a section in their lease agreements dubbed the ‘Crime Free Lease Addendum.’ In March of this year, Buena Vista Township (adjacent to Saginaw) passed the same law. In essence, this addendum adds a section to the lease agreements of every landlord in those municipalities that requires the tenants to agree to not commit or facilitate crimes, particularly singling out drug-related, gang-related, and other crimes that make the neighborhood a worse place to live.


How It Works
The same ordinance that obligates the Crime Free Lease Addendum (CFLA) also fines the landlord ($100 for a first offense, $200 for each subsequent) if their property (it is tracked by unit, not by individuals living there) racks up three “quality of life violations” (QLV) without the landlord taking firm action to evict those tenants. So what is a “quality of life violation?” In Saginaw, it’s any time a tenant, guest or ‘other person under the tenant’s control’ has been issued a:

  • Summons to appear in court,
  • Ticket fining them for an illegal activity,
  • Complaint made legitimately by a concerned citizen, or
  • Citation for violation of any State law or local ordinance

Related to an instance of

  • Drug-related activity,
  • Prostitution,
  • Criminal gang activity,
  • Dangerous or threatening behavior (including unlawful discharge of firearms),
  • Destruction of property, or
  • Conduct that jeopardizes the health, safety, and/or welfare of others.

Whenever the police are called out to a property for a purpose that falls into those categories, above, the city sends a notice to the landlord of that property informing them of the QLV. The first one a landlord sees, they can “safely” ignore, though clearly it’s a good idea to get in touch with the tenant and find out what’s up. The second one from the same address and you need to have a serious talk and start gathering evidence for an eviction case — because when that third one hits, you’re going to need to prove that you’re taking action to get them out.

If you succeed at evicting the problem tenants, congratulations! You’ve got a chance to get someone that doesn’t suck renting that property. If you fail, well, you won’t get fined, which is good — just keep an eye out, because anyone who has three QLVs is almost certainly going to get another, at which point the question of your eviction attempts pops right back up again.

The Numbers
As it turns out, the numbers back up the CFLA concept: across several dozen townships that have implemented this policy across the U.S., the average reduction in police calls from rental properties was just under 20%. That’s a genuinely meaningful drop in crime!

The Problems
Of course, the CFLA is not without its flaws — perhaps the most devastating lies hidden in the term “other person under the tenant’s control.” Imagine, if you will, a young lady moves in to your property and lives alone comfortably for a few months. Then, she gets a boyfriend who beats her silly and starts pimping her out. He doesn’t live at the property, and when he’s not around, everything is fine — but when he comes over, he brings Helena Handbasket.

There’s nothing in the CFLA that can recognize the tenant’s lack of culpability for the crime — the landlord gets fined for calls to the address, not calls about an individual, so what ends up happening here is that the woman who has been beaten, pimped out, and probably worse is now also getting evicted because her boyfriend has too much control over her life and can’t be excised from it.

Now, the argument certainly can be made that even though the situation isn’t her fault, it’s still an improvement to evict her and get someone else living there who won’t disimprove the neighborhood — but that doesn’t make it any easier on us landlords to take legal action against a person whose primary crime has been to suffer in a way that upsets her neighbors.

In Total
The Crime Free Lease Addendum is probably a good thing overall — from the perspective of the city, at least. For a landlord, it’s not really a meaningful change; Royal Rose Properties doesn’t put up with that kind of crap in the first place — but having a law in place that makes it a financial liability to be one of those hands-off flophouse owners who destroy neighborhoods…that would be kind of nice, actually.

6 thoughts on “The Crime Free Lease Addendum: Is This A Good Thing?

  1. What can be done in Detroit about an offending landlord who repeatedly rents to criminals, drug addicts and gangbangers, who throw garbage out the window and over the porch, boooze bottles, dirty diapers, withh kids who hand from dangerous edifices in the yard, and play by climbing the dangerous structure, and who burned down the adjoining garage, which was a blazing inferno. Landlord told others, he does not care what they do as long as he gets his money. The fire was never investigated, the renters were not told to move, and the debris, and stench burned out structure has ruined neighborhood and property values, also endangering neighborhood if they burn down house.

    1. We can relate to how frustrated you are as we’ve had similar issues as property managers — neighbors causing issue with our tenants, breaking into our vacant properties and destroying the neighborhood with their antics.

      While calling the Detroit Police Dept can seem a waste of time, start CONSISTENTLY calling and reporting them. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, so be that squeaky wheel. The police are trying to improve their services, just understand their challenge of trying to cover the geographic area of a city built for 1.5 million, with a budget based on an actual population of roughly half of that.

      The best thing you can do is band together with the rest of your neighbors that care and form a neighborhood watch group. Do more though than just “watch”! Cleanup your neighborhood consistently, even this property, and show everyone you care about where you live. It will take time, but a neighborhood that neighbors actually care about will slowly improve over time.

  2. This is laughable. This does not stop crime. All it does is move crime. Criminals don’t want to put up with the bullshit but punishing owners is complete bullshit. What about the HOA management? Why not punish them? They are onsite and they are more responsible for maintaining the property than a absent owner who lives out of state. This is a good example of the ignorance and stupidity of this country today.

    1. Thank you for your comment.

      While we agree with you that laws like this won’t stop crime and will only move it somewhere else, you haven’t offered a better solution.

      Your anger is also misplaces against HOA management. Most municipalities will fine them instead of, or in addition to, the absentee owners. Even if they don’t, the aim of laws like this is to force landlords/owners to be more accountable for tenant selection and monitoring. So, fines charges under these laws may force an owner to put more pressure on their HOA/property manager or find a new one.

  3. This racist and biased law allows the landlord to evict anyone from the property for any reason without any conviction of any crime. The landlord can say the tenant has too many friends that come over or that the tenant and his wife argue too much. Conduct that jeopardizes the Health, safety, and welfare of others is soooooooo broad that it allows endless loopholes for landlords to evict without just cause of any lease breach. I really do believe that the ACLU or some other law firm should step in and have the last portion which I just stated removed from the addendum. This was originally instituted to fight drug crime and criminal activity. It is being used to evict law abiding and rent paying tenants without just cause. I recently litigated my own case and won. It was absurd that I had to go through this. Most tenants are not able to accomplish such a feat so they allow the landlord to evict unjustly not knowing the law or being able to litigate their own defense.

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