Rental Registration Committee discusses fees and penalties

By Charlotte Caldwell - [email protected]

SIDNEY – The Rental Registration Ad Hoc Committee – started in response to a rental registration program ordinance introduced to City Council on Nov. 28 – discussed fees and penalties and heard a presentation from Downing Community Advisors at a meeting on Jan. 24.

The staff presented to the committee a fee table and an estimated staffing cost per unit inspected, which was $181. The cost included a paragraph stating, “The estimate above is based on current experience with other programs. Units that choose to complete the inspection and become a certified rental unit are able to mitigate life-safety risks that may be present in the rental unit including fire, structural, egress and various other risks that may be identified during the inspection (e.g. non-working smoke alarms, incorrectly wired outlets, open junction boxes, bedroom windows painted shut). Non-certified units, without receiving an inspection, will require more staff time from departments within the city, and thus more taxpayer money. Non-certified units will have a higher probability of risk compared to a certified rental unit. Without the inspection, we cannot mitigate those risks. Occupants in non-certified rental units are placed at a higher probability for life-safety risks and dangerous conditions to be present.”

The fee table stated there would be a flat fee of $200 per unit inspected and the number of units inspected would decrease with more units on one property. Four to eight units would have 25% inspected, nine to 16 units would have 20% inspected, 17 to 30 units would have 15% inspected, 31 to 60 units would have 10% inspected, and 61 units and above would have 5% inspected. For example, if a property has 40 units, then the property owner would pay $800 because the inspector would inspect 10%, or four, units.

The landlords on the committee questioned why the ordinance no longer includes the option for landlords to find their own inspector, and Vacant Property Inspector Kyle Havenar said it was eliminated after certifying rentals became an option and, “If we’re gonna say that’s certified and that’s safe to live in, we want to make sure our guys are in there.”

In response, committee member Tim Gleason said, “I think competition makes us all better and keeps prices better. If the city is the only option, then there’s nothing to keep that in check. That’s $181 today; it could be $300 next year.”

In regard to the enforcement section of the ordinance including fines and jail time for offenses, Chairman David Busick said most of those could be included in the appeals process, making them civil offenses rather than criminal, but intentionally lying and submitting false information should still have consequences. Changes to the enforcement section will be made for the next meeting.

Phil and Chad Downing from Downing Community Advisors — a company that has been involved in Sidney’s Housing Initiative — talked to the committee about their experiences working with other cities and the move that many cities are taking toward rental registration.

Committee member Tom Potts mentioned some people might be displaced as a result of this legislation because they won’t be able to afford the rent after changes are required to be made, and Chad mentioned some non-profits could help, like United Way and Homeownership Center of Greater Dayton, and said, “Sidney — uniquely to many of the communities we’re working in — has the infrastructure in place to respond to those challenges that would come from policy changes. The CIC, some of these other partners could come together and put together a framework and program to help anyone who may be impacted by increasing rents as a result of this.”

Chad mentioned the benefits of the part of the ordinance requiring a property contact within 75 miles, and the committee members questioned how big of an issue out of town property owners are in Sidney. In response, Chad said,”What we need to also be planning for is what’s coming. I heard you say this maybe is not an issue right now, maybe there’s not a lot of out of state people. I can tell you that is going to change pretty significantly with the advent of over 2,000 new jobs coming right next door outside of the city. So, part of this is a proactive measure on the city’s behalf to look at what’s gonna happen.”

The next Rental Registration Ad Hoc Committee meeting will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 31, at 4 p.m. in the council chambers.

By Charlotte Caldwell

[email protected]

Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.