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New eviction proceedings rules to take effect in November

Allan Vega
/
Unsplash

New Michigan court rules aimed at increasing fairness within the eviction process were finalized this month. They’re set to take effect in November.

The updated rules build on COVID-19-era changes like those laid out in Administrative Order 2020-17.

That order required all parties involved in an eviction proceeding to be verbally notified of their rights, like a defendant’s ability to seek counsel, at an initial hearing.

It also helped give tenants access to remote hearings for a second and subsequent hearings.

The new version of the state’s procedures for landlord-tenant cases sets the expectation for that first proceeding to happen remotely as well. It also adds the right to a jury trial and the proper venue for a case to the rights parties must be notified of.

Deputy State Court Administrator Elizabeth Rios-Jones said these are small but important changes.

“These are improvements based on what we learned over the last few years and that we didn’t want to lose. And so the court felt it important to put them into court rule,” Rios-Jones said Monday.

She said the new policies increase access to the court system.

“They ensure that cases will be heard, defenses will be heard, and cases will be decided on the merit, which is, I think, something that everybody wins at. Landlords and plaintiffs and defendants, and all parties to a case,” Rios-Jones said.

The new changes also give tenants more protections against a default judgment and help solidify a more uniform timeline for the process to play out, taking some of that leeway out of the hands of trial courts.

In a dissent to the new rules, State Supreme Court Justice Brian Zahra argued the changes would hurt trial courts’ ability to handle their business.

“For example, stripping the district courts of the ability to implement a local rule requiring a written answer within five days or face default needlessly obstructs the functioning of courts that have such rules in place,” Zahra wrote.

He also critiqued the requirement presuming the initial hearing would occur remotely.

“We should trust that the same trial courts who managed to operate through a pandemic will likewise effectuate the sound and efficient administration of justice when determining whether videoconferencing is appropriate,” Zahra said.

Some of the new changes also go beyond what was included in Administrative Order 2020-17 -- the court order that laid out the pandemic-era changes to how landlord-tenant cases are handled. For example, landlords will soon have to verify that their properties are “in compliance with applicable state and local health and safety laws,” when making a complaint.

Zahra argued that would put undue burdens on landlords. He was joined by Justice David Viviano in his dissent.

Colin Jackson | MPRN