LANSING — The city has a warning for the owners of two southeast Lansing housing complexes: Comply with Lansing’s rental code by the end of the month.
Residents of the Autumn Ridge apartments and townhomes and the Capitol Village Apartments were greeted Monday with pink tags on their doors. The notices warn residents they may need to leave their homes if the properties, under the same management umbrella, do not schedule inspections and pay fines within 30 days to obtain valid rental certificates.
In the meantime, landlords are not allowed to rent vacant units to new tenants.
Autumn Ridge, located on Long Boulevard, has more than 600 units and the nearby Capitol Village Apartments complex on Edgewood Boulevard has approximately 225 units, according to the city.
The tags are intended to pressure landlords into compliance, but it is unlikely hundreds of tenants will actually be forced to leave their homes, a city official said.
“We do not expect them to vacate,” Lansing spokeswoman Valerie Marchand said. “We certainly hope that (management) comply.”
Lansing Mayor Andy Schor emphasized the city would pursue several avenues, including a lawsuit, to avoid red-tagging a rental building and forcing residents to leave their homes.
The city uses pink tags to mark non-compliant buildings. In more serious cases, Lansing uses red tags to indicate it is unsafe to enter a structure.
Corporate representatives for Autumn Ridge and Capitol Village were not available for comment Monday.
In a letter to tenants Monday, Autumn Ridge managers denied the city’s charge of noncompliance and thanked tenants for their “patience and understanding.”
“Please note that we have taken all necessary steps to ensure that the community remains in compliance and those notices should never have been posted,” the letter said. “Please disregard the notices while we resolve this misunderstanding with the City.”
The complexes could obtain a valid rental certificate by the end of January. If that doesn’t happen, the city will likely sue the company, which would further tie up the process.
Scott Sanford, Lansing’s lead housing inspector, said landlords haven’t fixed numerous problems identified in the city’s last rental inspection. Inspectors found holes in walls, a lack of furnace and water heater permits and issues with smoke detectors, according to the city.
During a committee meeting in December, residents told City Council members about problems at Autumn Ridge, including water leaks and shoddy heat.
“The mayor’s priority is safe and healthy neighborhoods,” Sanford said. “This is just the first step in the process. … Unfortunately, sometimes the only leverage we have on these large complexes is to take them to court.”
Marchand Monday declined to release inspection records. The State Journal is seeking those records under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act.
A Lansing ordinance requires rental dwellings to pass a property inspection every two or three years, certifying that the properties are safe to rent.
Lansing’s rental inspectors check for issues, including fire hazards, rodents and the condition of windows and doors.
A review by the Lansing State Journal in June 2019 found 38% of registered rental buildings in the city lacked a valid certificate of compliance.
The actual percentage of illegal rentals is likely worse, because the 38% figure does not include rentals that are not on the city’s radar because a landlord failed to register with Lansing’s code compliance office.
Lansing lists many rental certificates as “on hold” because a landlord hasn’t proven to to the city that he or she has fixed problems that were flagged during an inspection.
Other properties lack current rental licenses because of the city’s delay in inspecting properties.
In some cases, a certificate might be “on hold” because a landlord has requested a inspection, but city officials have not yet found time to visit the property.
Last year, Lansing pink-tagged several housing complexes, including StoneCrest Townhomes and Willowood Apartments.
The notices placed on doors at Autumn Ridge inform residents they might be able to put their rent in escrow until problems are fixed.
The process can be legally complicated, however. In Michigan, tenants must give landlords advance notice before withholding rent. Additionally, tenants must demonstrate that the landlord’s poor maintenance made the property unlivable and that the tenant would have been financially able to pay rent.
Resources for tenants are available through the website for the Housing Clinic at the Michigan State University College of Law and at michiganlegalhelp.org.
Rent for the smallest one-bedroom apartment available at Autumn Ridge starts at $775 a month, according to the company’s website. A studio at Capitol Village starts at $580 a month.