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City Council passes change to lease law

Waiting period shortened from 90 to 70 days, waiver loophole closed

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The Ann Arbor City Council last night unanimously passed a proposal to change the leasing ordinance - a move that will affect both students and landlords. (RODRIGO GAYA/Daily)
The Ann Arbor City Council last night unanimously passed a proposal to change the leasing ordinance - a move that will affect both students and landlords. (RODRIGO GAYA/Daily)

In a compromise between students and landlords, the Ann Arbor City Council unanimously approved revisions to the city's lease-signing ordinance last night.

The revisions shortened the period landlords must wait before showing properties to prospective renters and closed a loophole that allowed landlords to show a property before the wait period had expired with the tenant's permission.

The revised ordinance will first affect students next fall.

The revisions reduce the period into the current lease landlords must wait to show a property from 90 days to 70 days.

This means that if a lease starts in September, landlords can begin showing the property to other prospective renters in early November.

The initial purpose of the waiting period was to alleviate pressure on students, who usually decide where they want to live for the next school year by the fall of the year before. But both students and landlords have criticized of the waiting period saying it complicates the rental process and worsens the housing rush immediately after the period ends.

Michigan Student Assembly President Mohammad Dar, who also serves on the City Council's Student Relations Committee, said that shortening the waiting period would benefit students.

The original ordinance positioned the housing rush during finals in December but the new shorter period will move the housing rush to before finals, Dar said.

Dar spoke before City Council about the waiver loophole before the vote took place last night, saying it was "taken far beyond its original purpose." The waiver was originally intended for students who knew they would not be returning next year, like graduating seniors, but both students and landlords have offered tenants incentives to sign the waiver, like money or free apartment cleanings.

"It turned into an item that was abused from both sides of the table," Dar said.

Dar also voiced his support for this simpler and "mutually beneficial" version of original ordinance.

"It keeps its spirit intact, while hoping to improve its longevity," he said.

The revisions were part of a scheduled review, which was specified when the ordinance was first passed in March 2006. The council's Student Relations Committee, which includes Dar and four other students, proposed the revisions earlier this fall, Dar said.

No one spoke during a public hearing reserved to discuss the ordinance during last night's meeting.

City Council member Leigh Greden (D-Ward 3), who chairs the Student Relations Committee, said the changes have broad support.

"There is no active opposition to this in the community," he said.

The ordinance is not scheduled to undergo any further reviews.

- Daily Staff Reporter Sara Lynne Thelen contributed to this report.