GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — For the past six years, Samantha Andrade has lived in the same house on Grand Rapids southeast side. Rent stayed at a consistent $950, until they got a letter in August saying rent would increase to $1050 beginning in December. Another letter came on January 17 saying rent would jump up to $1,250 at the start of June.
Samantha had been laid off twice during the pandemic, and despite falling behind on rent managed to catch back up in August of 2021. Now, they're behind again as the rent increased and their landlord has taken steps toward eviction through court filings.
We reached out to the landlord for comment but have not heard back. We did get a response from Compass Property Management, and during a phone conversation, a representative said rent increases are only enacted at the request of the landlord.
The statement from Compass Property Management is below:
"Compass Property Management has proudly served the Grand Rapids area and its residents for the better part of two decades. We know that housing opportunities are in short supply and high demand in Grand Rapids. The cost of housing has also increased, often based on rising property expenses resulting from inflation, material supply, and labor shortages. When rent increases occur, it is at the request of the property owner at scheduled lease renewal points.
Our team attempts to work with tenants to help them make informed decisions about lease renewals, as some factors like month-to-month tenancy or short-term leases can leave renters vulnerable to more frequent increases. We are especially proud of the work we have done since the onset of the pandemic keeping the overwhelming majority of residents in their homes. Compass piloted the Eviction Prevention Program with the Michigan Department of Human Services years before the onset of the pandemic, and are well experienced in rent delinquency. Certain programs, such as CERA (COVID Emergency Rental Assistance) have now required court paperwork be filed in order to be approved for emergency funding.
This “Demand for Payment” court document doubles as a tool to residents to receive assistance faster than it would otherwise become available to them. It is an extremely rare circumstance that a resident is not able to meet the criteria if they are deserving of these assistance programs. Unfortunately, that standard delinquency procedure can be jarring to the recipient. However, the document they receive also includes lots of information on where to seek assistance in the event that the resident is not able to pay the amount due.
This is the beginning of a process that can take many paths including working with assistance programs (either separately or in conjunction with the residents), developing payment plans, and/or extending deadlines depending on the circumstances, amongst others. We are willing to accommodate the schedule of most programs the tenant is trying to work with as our goal is to keep the residents housed in their current home."
"This 'Demand for Payment' court document doubles as a tool to residents to receive assistance faster than it would otherwise become available to them." A representative for Compass said in a statement. "It is an extremely rare circumstance that a resident is not able to meet the criteria if they are deserving of these assistance programs."
That assistance has seemed to evade Samantha. They applied for a CERA loan, but were denied because their claim showed arrears from 2022, not 2021. Another ask for help on the basis of mental health disability assistance was denied by MDHHS.
"Oh you don’t qualify or oh sorry you need income," Samantha said, recounting the frustration of repeated denials. "I have these things. I am trying so hard to get help from any agency right now and it’s just jumping through hoops."
She worries that this struggle will impact their chance of finding a new place to live that's more affordable. Samantha says the landlord/owner and the property management company lack transparency, and often are inconsistent in communication. When she filed an emergency maintenance request for a problem with their water heater, it took three days to resolve, rather than the 24 hours limit for emergency maintenance required by Michigan's Landlord-Tenant Act.
"I’m just trying to get to the bottom of all of this to know how I am supposed to proceed with the least amount of added fees," Samantha said, "and am I going to have a home after this to go to."
For housing resources in Grand Rapids, Follow this link.
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