Attorney general halts eviction of 80 tenants from landmark Detroit tower

Citing Covid-19 emergency orders, Michigan’s attorney general yesterday intervened to stop the owner of an iconic Detroit apartment high-rise – which got a multi-million-dollar makeover last year – from evicting nearly 80 tenants, including seniors, for rent arrears.

Attorney General Dana Nessel said the eviction threat aimed at residents of the 30-storey Jeffersonian Apartments building (pictured), at 9000 East Jefferson Avenue, was illegal in that it violated state governor Gretchen Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-19, which prohibits removing a tenant for falling behind on rent.

"People cannot be evicted from their homes during this public emergency except under extreme circumstances as outlined in the Governor’s executive orders," Nessel said.

"The fact that a landlord would threaten to kick out tenants – especially senior citizens – during this situation shows not only a disregard for the laws governing this state during the COVID-19 crisis, but a lack of compassion for our fellow Michiganders. We must remain committed to working together through this pandemic, and that starts by having empathy and respect for our neighbours."

Nessel said the building’s management company hand-delivered demand-for-possession notices to tenants, saying they had seven days to pay their rent or vacate.

That prompted a cease and desist letter from the attorney general’s office yesterday.

The governor’s order prohibits a landlord from evicting tenants except when the person "poses a substantial risk to another person or an imminent and severe risk to the property".

"In other words, any demand for rent cannot also include demand for possession," the letter said.

Violations can result in a $1,000 fine and/or 90 days in jail for each offence, plus licensing penalties.

Built originally in 1965 of concrete, glass and steel, the Jeffersonian building is one of Detroit’s tallest residential buildings, containing 412 units.

The current owner is Barbat Holdings, which completed an extensive interior and exterior renovation in August last year.

Rebranding it "Jeffersonian Houze", Barbat Holdings added a co-working space, dog spa, Olympic-sized swimming pool, volleyball courts, fitness centre and yoga room, 24/7 concierge, and new apartment configurations.

The renovation was done, the company said, "with a small portion of 412 units remaining as ‘legacy units'".

Image: Detroit’s landmark Jeffersonian apartment block, now named "Jeffersonian Houze" (PRNewsfoto/Barbat Holdings, LLC)

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