Rental ordinance amendments approved in St. Clair Shores

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published November 10, 2020

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — While the city has had a rental inspection ordinance in place, there wasn’t an easy way for a certificate to be revoked if a property fell into disrepair in between certifications — until now.

City Council voted 5-1 to amend the rental inspection ordinance to allow the city to revoke certificates of compliance for rental properties that violate the city code of ordinances.

The amendment, explained City Attorney Robert Ihrie, answers the question of what happens to rental properties if they fall into violation with the city’s ordinances after passing inspection. With the approved amendment, properties that receive three charged violations of overgrown grass or removal of snow or ice within a 24-month period, or are convicted of a building code violation in the 40th District Court would have their rental certificate revoked.

Councilman Chris Vitale explained that, while the city requires rental certification every three years, if “at 18 months, the property falls apart, what good is your certification process?

“That’s kind of what brought this on.”

Ihrie said any current tenant of a property found to be in violation could continue to live out their lease or for 90 days if it was a month-to-month agreement, but the landlord couldn’t rent the property out again after that without fixing the problems and “be within the law.”

Councilwoman Candice Rusie said she was uncomfortable with the fact that the city was holding landlords to a higher level of responsibility than they did residents who lived in their home by revoking their certificate if they receive three notices of yard violations within two years. Residents, she said, get the notice and have a chance to cut the grass or shovel the snow before the city comes and does it for them and issues a violation; landlords aren’t getting that chance before it is counted against them.

“For the other one, the building code violation resulting in conviction, (the landlord receives) a ruling against you. You have the due process built in. It’s not just a contractor (that) sticks a notice on your door three times,” she said.

“I will treat a landlord differently because they’re here to make money,” Vitale said. “Your tenant should not be falling out of compliance to the point where we have to go take action. I guess that’s why I don’t have a problem with it.”

But Rusie pointed out that businesses don’t lose their certificate of occupancy if the city has to shovel their sidewalk or mow their lawn, “so it is a little bit different.”

The homeowner has the responsibility to maintain the quality of the property, Ihrie said, which is why the tenant is protected with the amendments.

“This will just give us a little bit more of a bite to reduce blights and so forth in the neighborhood,” said Councilman Dave Rubello, who made the motion to approve the changes.

Councilman John Caron said it is typically neighbors who complain about grass longer than 8 inches and residents who don’t shovel snow.

“Considering it’s us having to send staff out to do it and it’s a nuisance for the neighbors that live around them ... I’m fine with the notification,” he said. “It’s giving staff that ability to make sure we get compliance from the landlords.”

Rusie was the lone dissenting vote on the motion. Councilman Peter Accica was absent and excused.