Landlords Sued Over Lease Provisions

Two Michigan Landlords Get Sued Over Standard Lease Provisions:  Don’t Make the Same Mistake

Law booksThe ACLU just released information that they have settled a case against a Michigan property management company and the property owner that challenged a provision in their standard lease agreement.

The lease provided the landlord with the right to evict disorderly tenants by requiring that the tenant “supervise her guests”.  After an incident where her boyfriend knocked in the door of her apartment,

  • The property management company served an eviction notice on the victim/tenant, siting that provision in the lease.
  • The victim and her children were forced into a shelter, then found a more expensive apartment farther from work and daycare.
  • The tenant brought a lawsuit charging discrimination.

In a previous case, a federal judge determined that evicting the victim of domestic violence constitutes sex discrimination under the Fair Housing Act. The ACLU acknowledges that while the recent Michigan case was brought under federal laws — Fair Housing Act and the Violence Against Women Act, they would have been able to win against a private owner or manager (not subject to those federal laws) under the state’s discrimination laws, which apply to every landlord in the state.

The property management company in this case has agreed:

  • Not to evict any victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking regardless of whether they live with the abuser.
  • To offer early release and relocation to victims fleeing for their safety.

The ACLU has successfully prosecuted similar cases.  In another recent case, a domestic violence victim was evicted under a standard lease provision.  That lease provision stated “there would be no violence at the apartment.”

According to an ACLU spokesperson, these evictions perpetrate a stereotype that the victims of domestic abuse have control over the violence, but choose not do exert it.

The 2005 Hunger and Homelessness Survey found that domestic violence is a primary cause of homelessness.

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