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Property management company asks Grand Rapids to stop issuing certain citations

"We want healthy homes and we want our houses to be code compliant. But right now, it's a state of disaster in Michigan,” said an owner of United Property Management
Posted at 3:28 PM, Apr 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-03 17:21:59-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.  — A West Michigan property management company is asking the city to stop issuing certain exterior property violations during the Governor's stay-at-home order.

Like the rest of the country, Tim VandenToorn and his staff at United Property Management have changed the way they operate in the face of COVID-19.

"When the shelter in place orders came out several weeks ago, we noticed an uptick in our exterior violations from the city. So I went down to the city and asked them if we're going to expect to receive less of these violations now that we're laying off staff and we're not allowed to be out and about," VandenToorn told FOX 17 Friday.

He says the city told him at the time that code compliance is considered an essential service and they would still be issuing citations during the shutdown.

“We share the same vision. We want healthy homes and we want our houses to be code compliant. But right now, it's a state of disaster in Michigan,” VandenToorn said.

They received a complaint on March 23 regarding trash on one of their properties on Page St NE.

“We were given seven days to pick it up. Well, all of our contractors are only responding to emergency work orders right now, so we disregarded the the litter violation, we sent it to the tenants as we normally do, asking them to pick it up, but it didn't get done," he said.

Come April 2, he says they received an $80 fine in the mail for not clearing the trash.

But VandenToorn says contractors are only responding to emergency service calls right now and he is not comfortable having his staff out and about.

“Most of our contractors have young families and they're providing for them too. We don't want them to be exposed to this and bring that home to their families. That will just hurt us for longer,” he said.

He says he completely understands the need for regular code compliance, but hopes the city will reconsider it's current approach.

Telling FOX 17, “I just want to ask the city, send your code compliance inspectors home. Let them be safe, let them be healthy. Let let us all get through this together. And let's not have our contractors out running around picking up trash. It's going to be there in six weeks. Right? And so we can pick it up in six weeks.”

We reached out to the City of Grand Rapids to hear their side of things. Steve Guitar, a spokesperson for the city, reiterated that code compliance is in fact operating as an essential service.

Guitar said in part, "Under Gov. Whitmer’s 'Stay Home, Stay Safe' executive order, enforcement of nuisances – trash, rubbish, garbage and debris – is considered an essential service. We continue to enforce these hazards to protect the health, safety and welfare of community members."

He said that city inspectors felt there was a legitimate health concern present at the property on Page St NE.

Those wishing to appeal property citations are able to do so on the city's website.