On February 4th, 2009, a bill that would alter different pieces of the Michigan Housing Code was introduced. House Bill 4142 would establish a variety a standards for determining whether or not a building was dangerous and needed to be repaired or demolished. It also established various safety and occupancy requirements that structures and buildings would be subject to, as well as ways in which the state, and more specifically, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority would be able to enforce the proposed legislation..
Some of the core amendments to certain areas of the Michigan Housing Code will pertain to requiring the state to remediate dangerous "urban core cities" buildings. First of these would be for the MSHDA to keep a record of abandoned and vacant properties. Second, the MSHDA would now be able to accept information from citizens calling in to a toll-free hotline that would be specifically designated to deal with dangerous buildings in "urban core cities" that represent a safety hazard. Third, the proposed amendments would call for strict maintenance and remediation requirements on owners of property whose property violates this new law; if the city building authority does not act, MSHDA has the option of enforcing the requirements by making the owner repair the structure, or even repairing the structure with money from the state.
House Bill 4142 concerns dangerous structures that by definition under previous Michigan statutes are buildings that are unoccupied for 180 days or more and are not available for sale, lease or rent. There are some buildings that are not subject to this rule, such as secondary residencies (hunting cabin, summer or vacation homes). The amendments in the bill also pertain to structures that are rundown, unoccupied, or otherwise poorly maintained. If the dangerous building is located in an "urban core city" MSHDA is required to create a separate "registry for abandoned and vacant premises." Buildings that have remained unoccupied for longer than 30 days have to be registered by their owners with MSHDA, and they must also pay a "vacant housing registry fee" of $100 for each building that they register. If an owner does not register their dangerous building, they will be subject to a $1,000 fine and a civil infraction.
If information is obtained from the toll-free hotline, MSHDA will determine if the property has been inspected and subject to a hearing. If the property has not been inspected MSHDA can inspect the property itself in order to determine whether it is vacant or poorly maintained, or has been unoccupied for 180 or more days without being available for sale, lease or rent. If any of these circumstances holds true, MSHDA could allow local authorities issue a violation to the property owner and conduct their own hearing. If they do not do this within 30 days of MSHDA's assessment of the structure, then MSHDA can proceed with enforcing the law and conducting their own hearing. Finally, if the owner of the structure fails to correct the deficiencies with their building in accordance with the law, MHSDA can secure and either fix or demolish the structure itself.
This proposal would give broad powers to the MSHDA in determining whether or not a building is "dangerous" enough to be in violation with Michigan law. Many property owners can now be held responsible for dilapidated or decrepit structures and forced to improve them in accordance with the standards set forth in this proposal. If they do not comply and remediate their buildings appropriately, MSHDA can even take these properties (provided they reimburse the owner with an amount deemed fair by the state) and either improve them or demolish them. The bill would certainly help to clean up many "urban core areas," but it does infringe somewhat on the rights of property owners.