Landlord discussion Jan. 8City council moves ahead on rental inspection planning process
During a work session Tuesday evening, the Washington City Council discussed a preliminary schedule for passing a rental inspection ordinance and said that the city had to get area landlords involved in the discussions as soon as possible.
Just before the meeting, city administrator Brent Hinson passed out a work schedule outlining the different steps the council would have to do to approve the rental inspection process along with a timeline for the events. A meeting with landlords for input on the proposed ordinance is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 8, 2014. The first reading of the ordinance will tentatively be April 2, 2014, with final approval being May 7, 2014. If the schedule is followed, rental inspections would begin in January 2015.
“What we don’t want to do is rush things and get it wrong,” Hinson said. “This is an area where if we get it right, it will be much better received.”
Hinson stressed a sample ordinance he included with the council agenda for Tuesday’s meeting was not a semifinal version of the ordinance. He said that it showed the general outline the council could use to create an ordinance and that everything in it can be changed. The ordinance was based on ordinances from Creston and Fort Madison.
Council member Bob Shepherd said that he believes the council should follow the Iowa Landlord and Tenant Law as a baseline, which he said he would distribute to the council members. Council member Merle Hagie disagreed, saying that portions of the Iowa law should be added to the draft of the Washington ordinance.
During discussion, Hinson confirmed that with the new ordinance, the city would get more requests from tenants for assistance. The council discussed how to handle such requests. Shepherd said the city would get involved mostly in cases of a dangerous building.
“There will be a process,” Mayor Sandra Johnson said.
Council member Bob Shellmyer said that there had to be someone who could help tenants in disputes with landlords. Hinson said that the phone numbers for legal assistance are available at city hall for items outside of the city’s legal responsibility.
“Our exposure should only be what is necessary and not what someone decides that they want to do,” Shepherd said.
Council member Mark Kendall said that he hoped the new committee formed from the former Neighborhood Task Force could do much of the work on the ordinance. He also said the landlords needed to be brought into the discussion of the issue as quickly as possible.
“In order to make this successful, we will need to build better relationships with the landlords as well as respond to the tenants,” Hinson said.
The council voiced approval of several issues, as well as the draft ordinance. Hinson said that he wanted to be sure landlords could get a copy of the proposed ordinance well before any public meeting. He said that everything is changeable, except for the fact the city is going to do rental inspections.
Hinson said that part of the process would be requiring area landlords to register rental properties. He said without the list, there would be no way to determine which buildings to inspect.
Building and zoning administrator Steve Donnolly said that since discussion of the ordinance came up, all he has heard from landlords was good things.
“The ones that are positive are the ones who take care of their properties to begin with,” Donnolly said.