Detroiters protest substandard rental housing as evictions rise

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Dozens of Detroiters walked out Friday, protesting Munoz Realty on Michigan Avenue. One of those protesting was Derek Grigsby.

“Is it too much to ask for decent housing? So go. I mean capitalism has gone too far,” Grigsby said.

Grigsby is with Moratorium Now! Coalition to stop foreclosures, evictions and utility cuts. He said he knows people who have been evicted and reacted to new evictions overall are on the rise in the city.

“I think it’s awful. I think any kind of country that can allow this to happen to people when it comes to housing is just ridiculous,” Grigsby said.

7 Action News contacted the owner of Munoz Reality. His attorney offered an interview at a later date saying they were unable to speak on Friday due to illness.

Tonya Myers Phillips is a lawyer. She is Director of Partnerships and Community Development at the Sugar Law Center in Detroit and project manager for the Detroit Right to Counsel Coalition which fights for low-income tenants to have the right to legal representation in eviction proceedings. She explained why this is so important.

“It’s a legal process. You must know the law. You have to know the jargon. You have to know what to do and do it quickly when you go to court. So in practice you need a lawyer,” Myers Phillips explained.

She said Detroit landlords traditionally had the upper hand because they were represented more than 90% of the time, compared to renters who, before the pandemic, were only represented 4% of the time.

However, this number has improved. Detroit passed a right to representation ordinance in May.

“Now that we in Detroit are taking a pioneering step by passing such a law, we need our administration to fund it and put it into motion to protect Detroiters, especially now,” Myers Phillips said.

Ted Phillips is the executive director of the nonprofit Community Housing Coalition. Among the many services they provide to tenants, they have become one of the leading providers of legal services. Phillips knows how underfunded the program is.

“They did a study on Detroit and they concluded it would cost $17 million a year. The city is funding it for two,” Phillips explained.

Additionally, the Detroit Eviction Defense office, which was scheduled to open in October, has yet to open. Advocates are calling on Mayor Duggan to fully fund the ordinance with American Rescue Plan Act dollars.

Phillips provided advice to tenants with maintenance or landlord issues. He said tenants should be sure to document as much as they can and report issues to the city.

“Call the building and security. Report to the city. Withhold your rent. Doing this sort of thing triggers the law of retaliation as protection. If you complained to the city like in this example, and within 90 days of that complaint the landlord gives you an eviction notice, well, you’re protected,” Phillips said.

Myers Phillips said, show yourself. 25% of cases are defects because no one shows up.

“Go to court. You know, don’t count yourself out of the fight. Go to court. is not presented to you, then you ask. You have the right to at least seek legal representation. And in the city of Detroit, as we said, you now have the right to receive legal representation at no cost,” said Myers Phillips.

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