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Detroit Council approves new rental rules, "pet coke" ordinance

Oct 31, 2017

Detroit has finally updated rules and strengthened penalties for rental properties in the city.

The Detroit City Council officially revised the city code Tuesday. City Council member Andre Spivey, who sponsored the revised rules, says everyone recognized the need for update.

The number of Detroit rental properties has surged in the past decade, but fewer landlords are registered with the city now than 30 years ago. Spivey says they hashed out enforcement details with landlord groups to make sure everyone is treated fairly.

“This is not new. Everyone had to be registered, we’re just putting a little bit more teeth into it,” Spivey said. We lowered some fees, we gave them more time, so they have time to get the property together. We hope they’ll get it done in a reasonable amount of time.”

Spivey says the city will start enforcing the updated rules in June 2018, and will roll out a long-term, neighborhood-by-neighborhood enforcement time schedule in the next month.

The updated ordinance aims to enforce existing laws for rental property registration and inspections. They also increase penalties for violations, allow renters to withhold rent if their landlord is non-compliant, and set requirements for landlords to be current on property taxes.

The Council also passed an ordinance regulating bulk industrial dumping Tuesday. It sets stricter rules for handling, transporting, and storing certain types of industrial waste.

Some city leaders and residents had pushed for an ordinance for years, after concerns over uncovered 

A more recent view of Detroit's industrial riverfront from Windsor, Ont.
Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

petroleum coke piles along the Detroit riverfront came to light in 2013. “Pet coke” is a byproduct of oil refining.

“It was a compromise. Industry was able to get some things that they wanted in this,” said Simone Segovac with the Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition.

There are also rules requiring bulk solid materials to be set back a certain distance from the waterfront, and required air monitoring for some suspected violations.

Council member Raquel Castañeda-Lopez spearheaded the ordinance on Council.

“I would say this is a first step. It took us four years to get this far,” she said. “Is there more work to be done? Of course.”

The ordinance also makes clear that violating the new rules amounts to illegal dumping, and sets up a citywide Public Health Fund to “leverage to address other impacts we may not have been able to address in this legislation,” Castañeda-Lopez said.