Council explores ordinances from other Iowa cities
The Washington City Council began working on an ordinance dealing with inspection of rental properties during a special session Wednesday evening.
Washington City Administrator Brent Hinson provided the council with information gathered from other communities in Iowa with similar ordinances. He recommended the council focus their attention on Creston’s and Fort Madison’s codes, because they provided some of the best options.
“Right now the question is, now that I have looked into this and shown all the approaches from cities our size in our area, is to try to narrow down the research,” Hinson said. “I don’t think the council really wants to pore through 250 pages of codes. If you narrow the focus a little bit and if everyone is in agreement, we can go forward from this meeting with a recommendation to bring back next time.”
He said that he doesn’t expect the code to be completed for at least a month and probably several months. He told the council there would be many choices to make.
Inspection of rental properties to ensure that tenants are provided with basic services was a recommendation from the Housing Task Force based on the International Property Maintenance Code. Hinson said most communities using the code as a base have added and struck out portions of the code to fit their needs.
Council member Bob Shepherd asked about Fairfield’s inspection code. Hinson said that Fairfield is in the process of changing its code. He explained the city administrator came from Denison, and feels the Denison code is better.
Council member Merle Hagie, who attended the meeting via phone, asked why the council would target only rental properties. He said that was a point for later discussion. Council member Bob Shellmyer confirmed that the council was talking about rental properties.
“My concern is with rental,” he said. “I don’t want you coming into my house and inspecting my house and telling me this and that. If I’m going to rent something, you have a right to come in and tell me that there is a standard I have to meet.”
Hinson said that Fort Madison had a code that included a tenant responsibility form with a lease. The form tells tenants what their responsibilities are before they rent a property.
Shepherd asked for information on Fort Madison and said that he wanted to see the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) housing quality standards.
“When we first started this the idea was that because a renter has to take on faith what the landlord says, that is why we decided we should step in,” Shepherd said. “It is not to be big brother or anything like that. It is to make sure because they are at a disadvantage. If someone buys a place, it is up to them to decide what to do. A renter is at a disadvantage because they are taking whatever from the landlord.”
Hinson said he would get the council members copies of the requested information early next week to further discuss at the Nov. 6 meeting. Mayor Sandra Johnson said that she wanted to see the council have public hearings before the code is approved, rather than just the required three readings.