Council Looks to Change Red Tag Policies

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In the 25 years Ralph Baker has been a landlord in Lansing, he's definitely seen his share of city red tags.

"I've seen houses that were red-tagged by the city because people moved in as many as a dozen dogs at a time," said Landlords of Mid-Michigan Board Member Ralph Baker.

But when Baker heard the City Council may revise its housing code, he was skeptical. The policy would require landlords to pay for tenants temporary housing if their apartment gets red-tagged.

"I think that the city is trying to wave a magic wand and solve all the problems, and it's not going to happen."

Talk of policy changes began after tenants of a south Lansing building were evicted a couple of weeks ago after their landlord turned off utilities. But city official Bob Johnson said uproar over the concept is for naught.

"It's essentially a safety net for tenants, to assist the tenant that has been unfairly harmed by a landlord," Johnson said.

According to a City Code Compliance official, there have been 458 red tags in Lansing since January, most stemming from maintenance issues. Johnson says the new policy would work on curbing those. But Baker worries the revision would lead to an abuse of the system.

"If the tenant is irresponsible already and sees this opportunity, if it's a function of the law, the tenant will feed on that."

Johnson says the Council has not yet thought of a way to prevent tenant-invoked red tags; he reminds that plans for this revision are still hazy. But as fall turns into winter, the city hopes to guarantee every resident a roof over their heads.