Initial Rental Licenses

On average the initial license process takes about 2 to 5 months. The process includes a(n):
  • completed initial rental license application with all required documents & fees.
  • administrative review by the Housing office. 
  • all-trades inspection followed by a letter indicating what code violations need to be brought into compliance
  • Commission hearing with recommendation forwarded to City Council.
  • Council Hearing where the final decision is made. 
Step 1 – Verifying property restrictions

Confirm there are no zoning or deed restrictions on the property. Neighborhoods that have petitioned to only allow for owner occupied residences are referred to as overlay districts. Similarly restrictive, there are deed restricted parcels that do not allow for the home to be rented for a specified time period; often 20 to 30 years. 

Step 2 – Application and supporting documents

Complete the 
Initial Application Form
Complete the Initial Rental License Application (PDF) and provide all supporting documents. Download the Initial Rental License Checklist (PDF) to use as a guide. The form shall be signed by the owner, the owner's legal agent if applicable and notarized. If an owner does not reside within a reasonable proximity of the rental unit, a legal agent is required. 
    • The name, driver's license or state identification number (or in the case of a corporation, the corporate ID number), permanent home address, and business and home telephone number of a) the owner, b) the legal agent designated by the owner, if any; and c) the resident agent, individual partner, or managing member of any business entity.
    • The number of rental units and the number and size of habitable sleeping rooms contained within each rental unit. 
    • A declaration of whether subletting by any tenant(s) is permitted.
    • An agreement by the owner to permit the inspections required by this article in the manner permitted by this article. 
    • The street address of the rental unit.
    • The occupancy sought.
    • The class of license sought.
    • The applicant certifies that insurance coverage for structural loss or damage and premises liability for personal injury exists and shall be maintained on the licensed property. 
    • For a rental unit located in an historic district or a heritage neighborhood and undergoing or requiring exterior changes, a certificate of appropriateness issued by the historic district commission or an acknowledgment that one is not necessary. 
Floor Plan and Site Plan
For properties that have not been reviewed through submission and approval of a plan of development, an application for a rental unit license shall include a floor plan and a site plan (often referred to as a mortgage survey) with dimensions drawn accurately to scale 

Floor Plans
For class I, II, III, IV, and VI licenses, the floor plan (PDF) shall show the number, size, and location of habitable and occupiable rooms in the rental unit, and the number, size, and location of non-habitable and non-occupiable rooms in the rental unit, as well as all exits, basement and attic egress windows, and entryways to the rental unit. For class V licenses, the floor plan submitted must represent the same information as required for the other license classifications, provided, however, class V licenses may satisfy the requirements by submission of a floor plan for each general type of rental unit (for example, efficiency, studio, one-bedroom unit, etc.); and either a site plan or mortgage survey.

Site Plans
The site plan (or mortgage survey) (PDF) shall show the boundaries of the property, the location of all structures, the location, number and size of parking spaces in conformance with the City Code, the location and size of driveways, curb cuts, the location, type, and dimension of construction materials used for parking spaces and driveways, the type of materials covering area abutting or adjacent to parking spaces, and the location of fences and significant plantings. The code enforcement department may require submission of a legal survey to establish the boundaries of the rental unit. 

For class, I, II, III, IV, & VI licenses, the photographs of the property (PDF) shall provide images containing the front, back, sides and the drive approach. For class V, the main building image is acceptable. 

Additional Requirements for Condos
Policy resolution 2002.8 establishes additional regulations for applications for rental unit licenses in residential condominium developments which require applicants to provide the following:
  • A copy of all relevant provisions of the condominium master deed and condominium association bylaws which contain restrictions on the rental of residential units, including but not limited to restrictions on density, occupancy, term, subletting or assignment of leases, and requirements for prior notice and approval of leases by the condominium owners’ association.
  • A copy of the proposed lease evidencing that all restrictions and requirements of the condominium development association have been complied with.
  • Evidence that all required prior notices have been given to the condominium homeowners association.
  • A copy of the approval of the condominium homeowners association signed by an appropriate officer.
Appropriate Fees
The current fee for an initial rental license is $1550. This can be paid via check, cash or credit card (Visa, Mastercard, or Discover) at City Hall located at 410 Abbot Rd, East Lansing, MI 48823. This fee covers the entire cost of the initial rental license process including application review, inspections with up to 1 reinspection, and hearing costs. 

Step 3 –Administrative Review

There items to be reviewed by the Housing office of Planning Building, & Development once an application is submitted. These include confirming:
  • There are no property restrictions.
  • The owner information.
  • There are no outstanding balances with the City.
  • The application and supporting documents are present and meet the requirements.
The Housing office, within 30 days of receipt, shall notify the applicant of any deficiencies of the application which prevents its acceptance. Once the application is in good order, the Housing office will contact the owner/legal agent and schedules the inspection of the premises.

Step 4 –All trades Inspection

Within 60 days following the acceptance of an application for an initial rental unit license, the proposed rental unit shall have an "all trades" inspection for compliance with the requirements of the property maintenance code. The Building, Electrical, and Plumbing & Mechanical inspectors will be perform the all trades inspection. An owner can review the rental inspections guidelines to prepare for the inspection. 

Within 30 days after an initial or renewal inspection has been conducted, Housing office shall notify the owner or the owner's legal agent of the results of the inspection. The notice shall be sent to the address on file and shall include a description of any deficiencies required to be corrected, the nature and extent of any violations of city ordinances found, and a reasonable time limit within which the violations must be corrected. 

Once the violations have been corrected and the property is in compliance, the owner or legal agent is contacted for the hearing process. 

Step 5 –Hearing Process

Rental license authorization is vested with the City Council subsequent to review and recommendation by the Housing Commission. Thus, there are 2 meetings to take place. 

Housing Commission Hearing
A Housing Commission review shall take place within 40 working days from the date the Planning Building and Development department certifies that all inspections required by this Code and other appropriate provisions of the City Code have been completed. 

At least ten working days prior to the review, the secretary of the housing commission shall have notices of the date, time, and place of the review sent to: 
  • The owner/applicant and legal agent, along with copies of all documents provided to the commission; 
  • All owners of record of real property within a 300-foot radius of the proposed rental unit.
  • The neighborhood association whose boundaries encompass the real property of the owner(s) of record.
  • Any person who has submitted written comment concerning issuance of the license.
The owner's presence is required unless a majority of the commission members present permit a legal agent to substitute for the owner. This request should be made in writing by the owner to the Housing Commission. Where the owner is a corporation, partnership, limited liability company, or trust, an individual with operational responsibilities of the rental unit is considered to be the owner. Failure of an owner to appear shall result in the hearing being adjourned. 
At the conclusion of the review hearing, the housing commission shall, by majority vote present, make their recommendation to city council. The commission would recommend authorizing a change in classification or a conditional license for an initial rental unit with any applicable conditions and/or stipulations or, recommend that city council deny the license application. The commission shall specify the legal and factual basis for its recommendation. 

City Council Hearing
The city council may, by majority vote of the council members present and voting, accept or reject, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the housing commission and either authorize or deny the issuance of a conditional license. The council, if authorizing issuance of a conditional license, may impose conditions on the license in addition to or in lieu of any recommended by the housing commission. The council shall state the reasons for its decision on the record. The decision shall be reduced to writing by the city clerk and forwarded to the applicant within 14 days of the hearing. The applicant is not required to attend this meeting.

Step 5 –Initial Rental License

A license is effective on the date of approval by the City Council and expires 1 year from the date of issuance or upon sale of the property. During the first year of licensure:
  • The owner or legal agent shall not lease the property for occupancy prior to compliance with any conditions imposed by city council which require compliance prior to occupancy. No right to continue licensure, beyond the first year, accrues or vests in the owner, the owner's agent, or the property itself.
  • The property shall have reinspections as established by city council upon recommendation of the housing commission.
  • One hundred twenty days prior to the conclusion of the first year of licensure, the owner shall apply for a regular rental unit license. (Click here for Renewing a Rental License.)
  • Upon expiration of the conditional license, the licensee shall demonstrate that the property has not deteriorated and has remained in compliance with all code provisions.
  • Failure to demonstrate compliance with the conditions placed on the license shall disqualify the property for licensure for a period of one year from the date of denial of a regular license and any application after the one-year period shall be processed as an initial license application. 
Two license certificates are generated and sent to the owner or legal agent within 30 days of the approval. For class I, II, class III, class IV, or class VI rental unit, a copy of the current rental unit license for the rental unit must be displayed in an 8 1/2-inch by 11-inch frame securely affixed to the interior wall adjacent to the primary entrance door to the rental unit. A class V rental unit shall display the license in the same manner at the primary entrance to each building.