Landlords, tenants to benefit from new program

Michigan

HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Landlords will be able to evict their tenants who can’t afford to pay their rent starting Thursday. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s ban on evictions ends at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.

The state developed a program to help renters stay home and landlords recover lost revenue due to the pandemic. 

It’s called the Eviction Diversion Program and it’s operated through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority and its network of nonprofit homeless service providers, like the Good Samaritan Ministries in Ottawa County. Each county throughout the state has a similar provider.

The program is designed to keep individuals and families who fell behind and now owe back rent payments in their homes to avoid homelessness and what experts call “toxic stress situations.” The new program uses a court process which aims to get fast results to impacted renters.

It has also made $50 million available for landlords who let their renters stay in their properties, if they forgive any late fees and up to 10% of what their renters had owed. 

Good Samaritan Ministries Executive Director Drew Peirce says the program is a great way for both parties to come together to make the best out of the messy, complicated situation they’ve been presented these last few months.

“Evictions are going to cost the landlords a lot of money. They’re not going to recoup the rent they’ve lost. They need that income,” Peirce said. “If we can come to some mediation around this, if we can cover some of that lump sum payment, then landlords get the money that they’re owed and they need, families stay housed through the program and don’t go through the trauma of that and it avoids flooding the courts with cases. So, it’s really a huge win for everybody.”

If you have questions on how to move forward if you’re a renter or landlord, Good Samaritan Ministries in Holland would love to help you get pointed in the right direction on how to take advantage of this new program as quickly as possible.

“If folks have a seven-day notice or a summons, they need to contact us so that we can begin to integrate people into this program, get them the financial and the personal and relational resources. They need to work their way out of crisis into stability and on the thriving,” Peirce said. “We’re working with about twice as many families right now as in our general programming, financial support, case management, supportive services, budgeting, help all those that go along with it. This is just going to open the floodgates.”

Peirce expects 250 to 300 families will be evicted in the coming weeks in Ottawa County. 

“We know that we’re going to have hundreds of families that are at risk of becoming homeless because of the last four months. We’re here to help them. This award from MSHDA is going to do wonders in terms of our ability to give financial resources at lump sum to help take care of landlords and tenants,” Peirce said. “But we’ve got a long road ahead, we really do. We won’t know fully until Thursday when the moratorium ends. We have a lot of people that are holding off just waiting to see what happens.”

One of the largest upsides to the program is protections it offers to tenants’ credit who would otherwise be evicted. The goal is to settle these “conditional dismissals” quickly, which avoids flooding the court system more than it may be already. 

The MSHDA says $60 million in coronavirus relief funds have been provided for dispersal through grants to each individual Housing Assessment and Resource Agencies, like Good Samaritan, and Peirce says they are ready to help. 

“We’re bringing in about six or seven temporary employees that are going to be located at the courts. Our staff will be out of the courts meeting with legal aid, meeting with the judges, meeting with tenants and landlords to help find resolution in a lump sum payment that keeps it from going on their record and hurting their credit and hurting their ability to rent in the future and make sure landlords get what they need in terms of the income they deserve,” Peirce said. “It’s an emergency program. It’s a triage program if you will. So, the dollars came down from MSHDA, we’ve got six months, it ends Dec. 31. So, it’s an all hands-on deck emergency response.”

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Online: MSHDA — Eviction Diversion Program

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