SIDNEY — Information on a potential rental registry program in the city of Sidney was presented to Sidney City Council during its Monday evening meeting.
Kyle Havenar, the Sidney vacant property inspector, said city staff researched information on a program to require non-owner occupied housing units to be registered and inspected. He noted the city’s comprehensive plan recommends “to require additional oversight to the city’s rental stock, with all rental properties receiving interior/exterior inspections. In addition, rental owners could be required to annually obtain a certificate of occupancy” as a major step to protect neighborhoods.
His report included statistics on the all housing units in Sidney and also on landlord statistics. His report showed that 80% of the housing complaints the health department receive come from rental units.
Rental registries, Havenar said, are often created to ensure safety and welfare of tenants and to gather up-to-date and accurate contact information for all rental properties in the area.
“Rental registration is commonly used as a blight mitigation tactic,” he noted.
Registries typically involve asking for current and accurate contact information from property owners, including names, phone numbers, and a physical address where they can be reached in the event of necessary violation or code inspection. Registries typically have exemptions including: hotels, motels, bed and breakfast establishments, college or university dormitories, nursing homes, jails, etc.
The reason to maintain a registry, Havenar explained, is to require inspections help ensure the safety and welfare of tenants living in the community. Out of state property owners also must provide a geographically local contact city staff can reach in case of emergencies or violations. Contact information allows city departments to better respond to nuisance complaints and keep landlords accountable for property maintenance.
Fees to register rentals are typically a requirement of municipal rental registration, but not in every instance, Havenar said he learned. The purpose of the fee is to fund the administration, maintenance and inspections, if required. Cost of registrations should not be so great as to discourage an owner from registering, he noted. Cities can also charge fines for failing to register a rental property, providing inaccurate contact information, or failing to renew registration.
Havenar’s report also included a break down of the study that city staff conducted of Ohio communities with rental registration regulations. He said although the program would be a valuable tool for the city, City Council should be aware of the following issues before proceeding:
• Public reception — While the public generally accepts and desires regulations for maintenance of rentals, “there will most assuredly be loud and vigorous opposition” to the proposed regulations from some sectors.
• Staff capacity — Rental registration and inspections will require considerable amount of staff time. A registry will not accomplish the desired goals unless it is pursued diligently by dedicated staff. Vacant property inspector time will have to be reallocated between the vacant property registration ordinance and a rental registration ordinance.
• Time — A rental registry is not a cureall or instant solution to poor landlord stewardship and it will take a couple of years to begin to see change.
Havenar said the next steps, if council wants to proceed, includes the following: drafting regulations similar to what has been adopted by many communities in Ohio; complete a comprehensive database of rental properties, their conditions, and ownership; and speak to various community organizations to obtain public buy-in.
Council members were receptive to the program and recommended moving forward.
At the end of the meeting during the following comments were made:
• Council member Mike Barhorst invited all to attend the Johnston Farm and Indian Agency 50th Anniversary celebration on Aug. 28 and the General Isaac Shelby statue unveiling ceremony on Sept. 10, which was initially planned during Sidney’s bicentennial celebration but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He also questioned the removal of tree wells in front of the Ohio Building. Bowsher said a contractor is installing sidewalk there.
• Mayor Mardie Milligan canceled the Oct. 3, workshop meeting.
• Bowsher reminded all the deadline for nominations for the Neighborhood Beautification Award is quickly approaching; the deadline is Sept. 2. He also said eligible residents and small commercial entities will begin seeing notices from Constellation, the city’s new natural gas aggregation supplier, sometime this week. He also reminded that due to the upcoming Labor Day holiday trash will not be collected on Monday, Sept. 5, and it would be delayed one day for the rest of the week.