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Rental Licensing programs
June 4, 2010 at 3:55 pm #102236
Hey everyone –
I was wondering if your city has instituted a licensing program for rental properties. The issue pertains to code enforcement, but the ramifications of having an unregulated rental housing market can be far-reaching through such problems as overcrowding, landlord upkeep and basic sanitation in entire sections of a town.
Does your muni have any experience with rental licensing programs? And if so were the land owners or property investment associations resistent? How were they handled?
We’re trying to navigate through some of the complexities now and it would be good to know how its been handled before.
June 4, 2010 at 5:53 pm #102240
In about 2003, I set up a licensing program for rentals and proposed it to our city council (in last city where I worked). They approved it, but it immediately hit a lot of opposition – mainly from realtors and bad landlords. Responsible property owners of rentals and owner-occupied units fully supported it. We tried for years to educate realty companies and realtor associations and found this helped a lot.
I have to say it had an immediate and welcome impact. Bad landlords either stopped buying in our community or sold what they had. We only had one person out of about 1500 properties who took us to court and we won the decision.
The other challenges we had and that the community still has are:
First one of the aldermen bought a large apt building right after we passed this even though I had inspected it and he had a full report that it in no way met the code required to be licensed. It was severely deficient. Not long after he bought it he took official action against me on the council floor to discredit my professional reputation and embarrass and harass me. Was it retaliation for not looking the other way? Who knows, but it seemed like it to me. So the lesson here is watch the politics of the elected officials and be ready for anything.
The other challenge was that while I strictly enforced the inspections, I could not adequately administer this program while doing the city engineering and public works management. So we hired a building inspector who had experience and who we thought would also strictly administer the program. He ended up not doing anything with it and in the end refused to require people to follow the code because he felt sorry for them. So the next lesson is if your community is serious about enforcement, make sure you have the right people to manage and administer it.
The lawsuit was not necessarily a huge problem but no one likes to have to go to court. But the one take away I got from this was at the time we passed the ordinance we were not home rule. We did win the decision, but if we had been home rule it would probably not even had to be taken to that level to get a decision. So the bottom line here is it is so very much easier if you are home rule.
Done right, the program is awesome and can make a huge impact, but it can be a challenge to get going and maintain. I am willing to talk to you offline about it if you have questions – just message me with your number. As you said, it is fairly complex. And I might be able to point you to some other resources that helped me in its development.
June 4, 2010 at 6:13 pm #102238
Thanks for the respons Pam! And I agree about the need for education and open communication between government and those groups affected. I know the pitfalls are many and I appreciate you validating several key points made from other officials who I’ve spoken with about implementation and being serious about enforcement.
I’ll be in contact as things progress. Thanks again!
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