The Crime Free Lease Addendum: Is This A Good Thing?
Are We Penalizing The Right People, The Right Way?
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,
- 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.
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!
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.
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.