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East Lansing considers ordinance that would give renters more time to decide whether to renew leases

Posted at 9:14 PM, May 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-08 06:42:50-04

EAST LANSING, Mich. — The East Lansing City Council is considering an ordinance that could prohibit landlords from showing or renting a unit for at least 150 days after a leasing period begins.

Students like it. Landlords don't.

Ordinance could extend student rental timeline
A new ordinance could extend the student rental timeline to 150 days.

The ASMSU legal team proposed a leasing ordinance to the City Council after seeing an influx of students wanting to get out of their leases for the next year.

“I think COVID-19 has really showed us that a lot can change within someone's circumstances,” said Michigan State University Junior Matt Apostle.

Apostle said the typical lease renewal date for the next year is around October first.

If you don’t re-sign on October first for the following year, it’s open season

“If you don’t re-sign on October first for the following year, it’s open season," Apostle said. "You could get moved from your apartment. We might just move you down the hall and do whatever, your space is no longer a lock.”

Mayor Aaron Stephens said he thinks that's too soon after move in.

“You have to figure that out while you are learning how to be a student,” Stephens said.

MSU sophomore Ellie Bennett said the changing life and finances of a college student makes it hard to sign a lease so quickly.

“We don’t find out about our financial aid even sometimes past that first semester,” Bennett said.

Ordinance could extend student rental timeline
Bennett said another factor that makes signing a lease early difficult is the changing social life of a college student.

Not to mention changing social situations.

“Maybe you’re in a group of friends, you live together and you realize maybe this wasn’t the best decision for us to live together,” said Bennett.

Landlords like Mark Fisk don't like the idea of the 150-day waiting period.

What it’s going to do is compress what normally happens over a five or six-month period into a two or three month period

“What it’s going to do is compress what normally happens over a five or six-month period into a two or three month period," Fisk said. "I think it’s going to make the stress far worse.”

Ordinance could extend student rental timeline
Fisk said extending the timeline to 150 days would put stress and pressure on landlords.

Fisk said with MSU requiring sophomores to live on campus next fall, the rental market will already be losing customers.

The unintended consequences could be severe for neighborhoods

“The unintended consequences could be severe for neighborhoods," said Fisk. "You could have under-rented houses. You could have vacant houses. You could have neighborhood decay and blight. No one wants these things.”

Pushing back when landlords can start offering leases for the coming year will only add to their stress, he said.

“I strongly believe Ordinance 1500 has the potential to increase market pressure in East Lansing and add to market disruption,” Fisk said.

Stephens thinks it would be good for students.

“All it’s doing is saying you just have to give them a sec to figure out whether, one, this is the place they want to live at, two, whether their roommates are people they want to live with the next year,” Stephens said.

He said the goal is to get surrounding cities that also have student housing to jump on board.

The effort is here is actually hopefully going to be a joint effort

“The effort is here is actually hopefully going to be a joint effort between the city of East Lansing, the city of Lansing, and Meridian Township,” Stephens said.

Ann Arbor has a similar ordinance
Ann Arbor's current ordinance is set for 70 days. The city is currently discussing extending that to 240.

Ann Arbor passed a similar ordinance more than a decade ago with a 70-day time period. They're now looking at extending that to 240 days. Bennett said they thought that was too long for MSU.

“We thought that maybe the 240 was pushing it a little close to like the finals season for MSU students,” Bennett said.

Fisk said he wants more research to be done before the council passes this ordinance.

I think we need to hit the pause button

“I think we need to hit the pause button, make sure we have the data and the facts before we move forward with any housing decisions like Ordinance 1500,” said Fisk.

Apostle said he hopes landlords look at it from a student's perspective.

I would urge landlords to feel out their perspective and get in the mindset of, say, a college student

“I would urge landlords to feel out their perspective and get in the mindset of, say, a college student,” said Apostle.

No official decision has been made, yet. Stephens said it will be brought up for discussion again at the council's May 25 meeting.

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Mikayla Temple

Mikayla Temple

1:39 PM, Jan 05, 2021

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Mikayla Temple

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