Landlords oppose ordinance
During the first of what promises to be many work sessions, area landlords told the Washington City Council they believe the proposed ordinance to conduct rental inspections is too far-reaching.
The Rachel Nicola Conference Room at the Washington Public Library was packed with about 50 area landlords, tenants, and other concerned parties who attended the special work session to discuss an initial draft of an ordinance governing inspection of rental properties. A total of 19 people, mostly landlords, spoke during the public input section of the meeting. Several discussed the problems landlords have making a profit, problem tenants, and problems such inspections can cause.
“There are good landlords and there are slumlords,” said landlord Don Bayliss. “I don’t think the good landlords should be penalized for the ones who don’t take care of business. This appears to be all the rage to make that happen, to the point it will be so expensive that we cannot afford to keep our investments.”
City administrator Brent Hinson said today that the issue will be on the Jan. 15 city council agenda for further discussion to determine how the council wants to proceed. He said tentatively the city is still considering inspections.
During the meeting, realtor and landlord Tim Elliott suggested the council consider going in a different direction. He suggested landlords register rental properties and have city personnel call tenants with questions about the condition of the property.
Many landlords asked if the city would become involved with such things as tenant eviction if the problem stemmed from the tenant rather than the landlord. They also asked if the city would be willing to fund improvements to rental properties required in the proposed codes. The argument was made that if the city were helping finance a proposed 32-unit housing development that would compete with existing landlords, would the city also be willing to help fund existing rental units. Several of the speakers asked if the inspections were just a moneymaking scheme for the city.
Elliott asked out of all the rental properties in Washington, what percentage were problems. He believes the problem properties make up less than 5 percent of the total properties.
“Everyone is getting thrown into the same pot and is in line for this kind of scrutiny?” he said.
Several of the landlords commented that the landlords who owned the problem rentals in town had not attended the meeting.
Tenant Bob Perry told the council that his apartment did not have heat and his landlord had not fixed the issue. He also said that his landlord was not present at the meeting. Several of the landlords had offered Perry legal advice, and several said they had open apartments.
Members of the former Washington Housing Improvement Task Force also spoke on the reasons why inspections were needed, including the fact that some rental properties in Washington did not have the basic necessities, including heat or working plumbing.
While the landlords were discussing legal aspects of their business, they said that property inspections are required to get insurance. Many objects dealt with items in the draft code that had requirements for such things as paint or space requirements for rentals. Several landlords stated that these went beyond health and safety concerns. They also said that there are already state codes governing the requirements of rental properties.
When Mayor Sandra Johnson ended public comment so the council could discuss the draft, council member Bob Shepherd said that he wanted the audience members to be able to speak to the issues. He said that the meeting was supposed to be the opportunity for landlords to give input.
“This code is not intended to be a detriment to rentals,” Johnson said. ‘If done properly I think we can work together to improve the housing stock. Some of you are going to disagree, but I think we can find a common solution that will increase the property values, uphold the tax base and make everyone’s burden lighter.”