SIDNEY – The Rental Registration Ad Hoc Committee – started in response to a rental registration program ordinance introduced to City Council on Nov. 28 – discussed concerns about the ordinance and reviewed the city’s response to landlord questions at a meeting on Dec. 6.
Those present at the meeting were Law Director David Busick, Community Development Director Barbara Dulworth, Vacant Property Inspector Kyle Havenar, councilmembers Jenny VanMatre, Scott Roddy and Steve Klingler, and landlords Andrew Spayde, Tom Potts and Devan Shade. Shade attended the meeting in place of Tom Martin, and Tim Gleason was unable to attend.
The committee reviewed 17 answers to questions that landlords asked the City Council on Nov. 28 including the purpose and benefits of the program, how much of a problem bad rentals are in the city, how Sidney’s proposed program compares to other cities, and how much money the city will make from the program.
The city’s staff said the purpose and benefits of the program are “to ensure the health and safety of the unit and protect neighborhoods from deterioration.” They also want to create a proactive program that ensures units meet a minimum health and safety standard for tenants.
The staff cited health department and city complaints in the last few years in response to the problem they are trying to solve. Over the last two years, out of 84 complaints the health department has received, 67 of them stemmed from rentals. The city received six complaints in 2018, three in 2019, nine in 2020, seven in 2021, and seven in 2022. They also said there is little data collected on the conditions of rentals in the city and the program would allow more data to be collected.
A chart was provided with nine cities listed that have similar programs. At the Nov. 28 council meeting, Havenar said Sidney’s program was based on Bowling Green’s, which was included in the chart. While both cities would require an annual registration renewal and allow for self-certification or a third-party inspection, Bowling Green’s program has a one-time fee.
In response to the landlord’s comments that the city is trying to make money off the program, they said, “The money being charged is based on the administrative cost associated with the program. Revenue will not be brought into the general fund for any purpose other than this program.” Estimated revenue totaled $84,575 for years with inspections and $38,225 for years without inspections.
Additionally, the staff quoted the comprehensive plan that was adopted by City Council in 2017 which recommended, “a major step to protect neighborhoods is 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.” The council has been discussing similar programs since 1989, with multiple discussions over the years leading up to the present.
The committee’s landlords expressed concern about the timing of the inspections, and they wanted some flexibility in the schedule because a rental could meet the requirements when it is vacant but not meet them later depending on the renter. Potts suggested inspections occur before a renter moves in.
Spayde asked who landlords would appeal to for inspection discrepancies, and Dulworth said the proposed ordinance does not include that information, but the Board of Building Code Appeals or the Zoning Board of Appeals could handle it. The landlords would in general have 30 days to fix any issues.
Yearly registration fees were also discussed, which were proposed to be $75 for one to three units, $100 for four to 10 units, $150 for 11 to 50 units, and $250 for over 50 units with an inspection fee of $50 per unit. Shade mentioned that he and Martin share ownership of some properties, so he questioned how the fees would be split. He was also concerned about how this program would affect property values as he thought people would move to communities without a program if it were implemented.
Gleason responded to the staff’s answers to the questions via email and said he understood the need for rental registration but did not support the fees. He also did not agree with the staff’s comment that the city must be fair and include every rental in the program. He suggested only inspecting landlords with tenant complaints and called the current system “classic government overreach.”
The next Rental Registration Ad Hoc Committee meeting will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 13, at 4 p.m. in the council chambers.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.