Committee discusses licensing rental properties

Program would help city keep track of owners, renters, building upkeep

overning bodies met last night to discuss adopting a rental licensing system, part of the Neighborhood Enhancement Program, which the committee plans to present to City Council in early May.

Community Development Director Gary Locke said an important part of the proposal will be changing the mindset and “the pride people take or don’t take in our houses and our neighborhoods.”

If adopted, a rental licensing system would help the city keep track of rental properties and who is responsible for the properties’ upkeep.

The city has received numerous complaints about the conditions of rental properties in the city.

“When people don’t take care of business, other people expect the government to take care of it,” Locke said.

The idea may be controversial, Locke said, but it is important to deal with the issue of rental property maintenance. Some residents may find rental property licensing to be invasive.

Historically, the city has taken action against the landlords, but the committee wants to find ways to deal with tenants also.

For example, John Gargan Jr., a member of the joint committee, joked about how tenants in one of the rental properties he owns recently broke a newly replaced bathroom door.

The committee, however, has not yet reached a final proposal to present to council. Instead, the joint committee met to discuss research on how the city can deal with the rental property issue.

“We have a responsibility to bring it to council and have a discussion to see if it is appropriate for the city,” Locke said.

Rental licensing is not uncommon. Locke researched other communities in Minnesota, Michigan and Ohio that have similar programs.

Locke said one benefit of rental licensing would be acquiring updated information about property owners, their tenants and local management to ensure those responsible for damages or code violations are held liable. It would also establish a uniform code for inspection and enforcement and improve the quality of life for tenants.

The committee wants to find out how Kent State can help with enforcement by creating consequences for student renters who don’t abide by the code.

“Getting thrown out of college can be a good deterrent,” Locke said.

Some of the items the committee will need to take into consideration before presenting the proposal to council are the cost of administration and manpower to enforce the program, the scope and frequency of licensing and the degree of inspection.

Locke said the city may need to establish a housing court to deal with violators.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Locke asked committee members to think about several “ultimate questions”:

&bull Can Kent afford to maintain the current approach considering the condition of neighborhoods?

&bull Can the city afford the change?

&bull Can the joint committee convince the community the program will benefit everyone?

The joint committee will meet again April 21 to discuss home occupation.

Contact public affairs reporters Kelsey Henninger at [email protected] and Stacey Carmany at [email protected].