Michigan courts prepare for an influx of landlord-tenant cases before eviction moratorium ends
The Michigan Supreme Court released guidance this week for handing an expected influx of landlord-tenant cases expected as the state lifts its moratorium on evictions.
According to Census data, some 25% of state residents are housing insecure, meaning they either didn’t pay last month’s rent or are concerned about paying for next month’s rent.
The court projects a backlog of roughly 75,000 landlord-tenant cases but officials said that could be an underestimate.
Chief Justice Bridget McCormack said as courts begin working through the backlog they should prioritize cases with illegal activity or damage to premises before handling cases of non-payment.
“It’s fair to assume that this is going to be a high volume docket so we issued some guidance to help courts and litigants proceed through that backlog.”
The guidance also includes requirements that defendants be informed of rental assistance programs. But, McCormack said there isn’t much in additional dollars beyond existing programs.
“We are also hopeful there will be additional resources available at this time, more than the normal amount, from the state and maybe additional funding from the Cares Act.”
And, as much as possible, McCormack said courts will try to connect defendants to assistance programs.
“That’s not to say there will be enough resources for everybody. There might not be. But to the extent that there are the legal aid community will work with state agencies and the courts to be the connector to those resources.”
Luke Forrest is the Executive Director of the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan. He said right now there are a lot of unknowns.
“We know that unemployment payments have been delayed for so many people, what factor does that have? How many people would be in better shape if they are getting unemployment.”
Forrest said there is also a need for clear communication about what resources there are for assistance - whether they are existing programs or something that comes through as part of the CARES Act.
“Otherwise I’m worried we’re going to create some protections and they are not going to be used because people won’t know.”
Governor Gretchen Whitmer extended the eviction moratorium on Thursday. It now lifts on June 30th. Her office did not respond to a request for comment on what additional assistance programs might become available to renters.