At Tuesday night’s city council meeting, the discussion of rental inspections drew in interested landlords. They thought a proposed rental license fee was too high. You can read about it in the front page article. The council took their views into consideration and likely will come back with a lower fee. But it really isn’t that simple — and it shouldn’t be.
I don’t expect the council will adopt a lower fee just because those who will have to pay it think it is too high. And, they shouldn’t change it for only that reason.
The council made it clear that the rental license fee should cover the cost of the inspection of the rental unit. The city will have to pay a person to do everything involved with the inspection process. That includes time spent making contact, setting the appointment, completing the site inspection and doing all the paperwork.
If the license fee does not cover the cost of inspection, then how will the inspector be paid? Well, the city would pay, which means the taxpayers who do not own rental properties would be paying. That is what the council intends to avoid.
So, did the council listen to the concerns of these rental property owners? Yes, they did. My observance was that the council does not want to burden landlords with excess expense, but want to arrive at a reasonable fee that will cover the city’s expense.
The entire issue of rental licenses and inspections comes down to providing safe living conditions. The landlords at the meeting certainly did not have any objection to providing safe rental units. Based on their conversation, that is what they do now. But, are there unsafe rental situations around town? Finding out, and requiring fixes, is the intent of the rental inspection process.
The city adopted the rental inspection process in 2006 and then let it lapse. The work the council is doing now is intended to strengthen enforcement. I hope the process has the best of outcomes — safety for all.