District court to launch first Eviction Diversion Program in Macomb

 The first Eviction Diversion Program in Macomb County will begin operation at the 37th District Court in February 2014. The program was developed through collaborative efforts of the 37th District Court, State Department of Human Services (DHS), Macomb County Community Services Agency (MCCSA), Legal Aid and Defender Association, The Macomb Homeless Coalition, Mount Calvary Lutheran Church of Warren, and many other church and charitable groups based in Macomb County. 

The Eviction Diversion Program is a voluntary program designed to assist landlords and tenants in resolving back rent situations without a credit-damaging court judgment. Currently there are similar programs operating successfully in Lansing, Kalamazoo and other jurisdictions.  37th District Judge Matthew Sabaugh believes the program will prevent homelessness in Macomb County. “Macomb County has a significant homelessness problem. Solutions must be found to find the homeless population shelter and also to keep low income families who are at-risk in their homes. Warren and Center Line have a substantial number of rental homes which are occupied by low-income families and senior citizens,” said Sabaugh.  

“Across Macomb County, there are 2900 persons who are homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless. The program is designed to prevent evictions by intervening before persons lose their home for non-payment of rent,” said Elaine McGigor, Housing Resource Specialist of the Macomb Homeless Coalition. The program will be funded through a diverse pool of resources, including federal funds, Michigan’s State Emergency Relief (SER) Program and charitable funding from community organizations and churches.  “Many cases end up in court when they could have been settled beforehand,” said Maura Corrigan, DHS Director. “This wonderful program shows how collaboration between the state, the courts and our many community partners can assist both landlord and tenant, as we work to keep families in their homes and off the street.”  

 While the program is sure to help prevent tenants from being evicted from their homes, Sabaugh said the Eviction Diversion program should be well-received by area landlords. “So many times in court I meet a landlord who doesn’t want to lose a good tenant who has fallen on hard times.  This program allows them to recover the unpaid rent and keep a good tenant. It’s a win-win,” said Sabaugh. Eviction Diversion only accepts rental properties located in Warren or Center Line that have been determined to be in compliance with all local ordinances and safe, decent and sanitary. They also must be rented at a fair-market value. “We’re not rewarding any bad landlords. If the living conditions in the home are deplorable, the case would absolutely not qualify,” according to Sabaugh. 

Legal representation for qualified tenants will be provided free of charge by attorneys from Legal Aid and Defender Association. Landlords interested in preventing an eviction who file a summons for non-payment of rent in the 37th District Court will be provided with a referral form to Eviction Diversion, which they will then serve upon their tenant. There cannot be more than 3 months of unpaid rent and both parties must agree on the amount outstanding. Qualified tenants will then meet with Eviction Diversion specialists to determine eligibility and pool the funding.  Once all the details are arranged, the case will be referred to the special Eviction Diversion Docket before Sabaugh where they will sign an agreement to prevent entry of judgment and time to resolve final issues of payment.