On June 9, 2020, the Michigan Supreme Court issued Administrative Order No. 2020‑17 (“AO 2020‑17”). AO 2020‑17 gives Michigan landlords and tenants guidance on how courts will handle the expected influx of lease dispute filings after the moratorium on residential evictions is lifted. Some estimates project that 75,000 plus eviction cases will be filed once the moratorium is lifted. Under Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order No. 2020‑118, the moratorium on the filing of most new residential eviction proceedings, or even threatening such proceedings, extends until June 30, 2020.
AO 2020‑17 changes certain, long-standing protocols for all Michigan eviction matters, and will impact commercial evictions, even though the moratorium only applies to residential leases. Such changes are aimed at protecting the health of those attending these proceedings and providing the courts with ways to more efficiently decide these cases. That includes, for example, setting a specific date and time for the initial hearing of these cases. This departure from the traditional process of scheduling a large number of cases for initial hearings at the same date and time allows courtrooms to better comply with social distancing requirements. AO 2020‑17 also requires courts to utilize remote participation (consistent with AO 2020-6) and a phased return to full capacity (as outlined in AO 2020‑14) when handling these cases.
But the primary purpose of AO 2020‑17 is to prioritize the order in which the courts schedule the different types of eviction cases once the moratorium ends. It prioritizes post-moratorium evictions as follows:
First priority: Complaints alleging illegal drug activity on-site or tenants causing extensive and continuing damage to the rental unit.
Second priority: Complaints alleging non-payment of rent for 120 days or more.
Third priority: Complaints alleging non-payment of rent for 90 to 119 days.
Fourth priority: Complaints alleging non-payment of rent for 60 to 89 days.
Fifth priority: Complaints alleging non-payment of rent for 30 to 59 days.
Lowest priority: Complaints requesting to terminate the tenancy based on grounds other than illegal drug activity on-site, tenants causing extensive and continuing damage to the rental premises and/or the non-payment of rent. Courts can schedule this final category of evictions along with or after the fifth priority cases or after any required notice from the landlord expires, whichever comes later.
AO 2020‑17 requires that the courts schedule all cases in a higher priority level before scheduling any cases falling into the next, lower priority. What priority level a case falls into post-moratorium will therefore significantly affect how long it will take for an eviction to get to a final eviction hearing. It will also be important to draft pleadings and set expectations with AO 2020‑17 in mind.
If you have any questions regarding AO 2020‑17 and how it affects your particular eviction action (including steps to take now to affect what priority level your eviction falls into), please contact Tom Amon, Lance Zoerhof or your personal Warner attorney.