Archive for Thursday, May 10, 2007

Rental proposal tabled

Landlords invited to May 24 workshop on rental inspection program

May 10, 2007

In the face of landlord dissatisfaction, the De Soto City Council agreed last Thursday a proposed rental inspection and landlord licensing program needed more work.

Drafted by a committee that included Councilwoman Mitra Templin, former Councilwoman Linda Zindler, City Administrator Pat Guilfoyle, city building inspector Steve Chick, De Soto Multi-Service Center coordinator Jodi Hitchcock, and landlords Candace Asbell and Steve Rhodes, the proposal would require the city's landlords to purchase an annual license of $25 and would establish a schedule to inspect rental units once every three years.

De Soto apartment complex owner Randy Johnson was the first to ask the proposal be tabled. Although there was a problem in the city with neglected rental properties, Johnson said his properties were not among them.

Inspections would take time and that would cost him money, Johnson said.

"I will not settle for someone telling me how to run my business," he said. "I will fight this strongly."

Landlord Belva Thrasher said the proposal singled out landlords as the only businesses the city forced to get a license. And while it would force landlords to get inspections for their homes, run-down private homes would not be inspected, she said.

Finally, Thrasher said she was concerned the proposal would force her to reveal confidential information about tenants in violation to state law.

Council members agreed to table the proposal and scheduled a workshop for 5:30 p.m. May 24 to discuss options. But council members told landlords a rental inspection program was coming.

"I have no problem tabling this, but we're going to have to do something like this. I know it's not what you want to hear, but we're going to have to do something," Councilman Ted Morse told Johnson.

Although Templin defended the proposal she helped develop, the consensus on the council was to table the proposal so that an inspection program could be crafted to target problem landlords. What was needed, Councilman Tim Maniez said, was a plan that would address health and safety concerns on a case-by-case basis.

Templin said the committee rejected such a limited inspection plan because it would ask a city employee to make a subjective judgment on who was or wasn't a good landlord.

Nonetheless, Mayor Dave Anderson, Maniez and Morse suggested inspections be scheduled by tenant complaints or by problems observed from the outside.

Templin said Hitchcock made the point during committee discussions that many tenants would file complaints because many of those living in substandard housing were doing so because rent was cheap and didn't want to lose their residences by filing a complaint.

Hitchcock was a good advocate, Anderson said, and could convince tenants to file complaints.

The rental inspection proposal stemmed from a community survey a year ago that found many residents dissatisfied with the city's appearance. A follow up survey sent to 2,000 city residents and returned by 450 found 56 percent wanted the city to enact a "much stronger" rental inspection program and another 25 percent favored a "somewhat stronger" program.

There was far less support among the 33 city landlords who responded to the survey. The majority of them, 66 percent, wanted no inspection program.

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