FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DETROIT, Mich. — The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Michigan (ACLU) sent a letter to Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack, urging them to take needed next steps to prevent mass evictions and utility shut offs amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The ACLU specifically is asking that Governor Whitmer and the Michigan Supreme Court expand the statewide moratoriums issued at the start of this crisis to stop evictions and utility shutoffs and commit to preventing mass evictions and foreclosures after the moratoriums expire.
Currently, the Governor’s executive orders on evictions, foreclosures and water shutoffs only go part of the way. While the Governor’s order prevents landlords from evicting people at this time, it does not prevent them from threatening eviction or pursuing already-filed eviction cases during the state of emergency. The Governor’s executive order also covers tax foreclosures, but must be expanded to include mortgage foreclosures and land contract forfeitures and added protections for tenants and homeowners after the state of emergency ends. And while the Supreme Court’s order stops landlords from filing new cases or taking immediate possession of properties, it has not prohibited all district courts across the state to pause all stages of eviction proceedings, which it must do.
“The Governor and Supreme Court must finish the job, and expand the existing moratoriums to protect renters and homeowners so that countless Michigan families will not be displaced through evictions and foreclosures,” said Bonsitu Kitaba, ACLU of Michigan deputy legal director. “The state must take every step possible to protect people from the harrowing consequences this pandemic will continue to wreak upon our nation and our neighbors. The time to act is now to avoid further economic hardship so many are already facing across the state.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has already resulted in widespread and devastating economic consequences, as unemployment claims continue to climb with more than 1.2 million filed in Michigan. In the face of staggering unemployment numbers and climbing medical costs, 29% of households who rent in Michigan face the imminent threat of losing their homes or access to utility service. These consequences risk further spread of COVID-19 throughout Michigan and undermine efforts to protect public health and well-being. Moreover, the nearly guaranteed wave of evictions and utility shut-offs would inflict far-reaching and significant economic and social harm on millions of Michigan residents—particularly on women, people of color, low-income residents, and other vulnerable communities.
In the letter, the ACLU is calling on the Governor and the Supreme Court to create comprehensive moratoriums that extend beyond the state of emergency and will:
- Halt every stage of the eviction process;
- Continue to prevent mass evictions during and after the pandemic;
- Apply to all types of tenants and lease violations;
- Prohibit the collection of late fees and retaliation against tenants who assert their rights under the moratorium;
- Prohibit utility shut-offs and require restoration of previously disconnected services; and
- Halt mortgage, property tax, and land contract foreclosures.
Today’s letters are part of a nationwide effort with 19 ACLU affiliates across the country calling on state officials to issue or expand moratoriums on evictions, foreclosures and utility shutoffs.
“As millions of people lose their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, renters are faced with the added threat of being put out of their homes or cut off from access to utilities during a global crisis,” said Sandra Park, senior staff attorney at the ACLU. “Evictions and utility shut-offs will disproportionately harm communities of color, and particularly, women of color. All residents — regardless of their circumstances or background — should have access to safe and stable housing throughout the course of this ongoing public health crisis.”