Legal experts give advice as statewide eviction ban ends


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order that temporarily bans evictions ends Wednesday at midnight.

As landlords and tenants work to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic, legal experts say the key right now is communication.

“This certainly is an interesting time for both landlords and tenants,” said Kevin Sutherland, a real estate attorney based in Grand Rapids.

Since March, landlords have not been able to evict tenants who don’t pay their rent, but on Thursday, those rules change.

“It leaves open this problem where tenants become months behind in rent, they struggle to ever make that up, and in the meantime, the apartment communities get crippled by their ability to not being able to collect this rent,” Sutherland said.

Sutherland says the eviction moratorium was a good short-term fix, but will cause issues long-term.

“If landlords don’t hear from their tenants about what they’re dealing with, they fear the worst,” Sutherland said.

Karen Tjapkes is the director of litigation for the Legal Aid of Western Michigan. She represents tenants and agrees it’s important the two sides work together.

“My overwhelming message would be patience because the program is very new, it’s still rolling out and it may not be online in a substantial way before the first of August,” Tjapkes said.

Tjapkes says legally, rent won’t be forgiven from these past few months unless landlords and tenants made a separate agreement. In addition, landlords can formally demand payment starting Thursday and give tenants seven days to pay or potentially go to court.

“Together we can fix this, but if we don’t do anything, if you don’t do anything, if you don’t communicate, only the worst is probably going to happen,” Sutherland said.

More details on legal advice and financial help can be found online.

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