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Best Practices Sought to Improve City’s Rental Property Stock

In an attempt to improve the quality of life related to city’s rental properties, the Neighborhood Stabilization and Quality of Life group came up with a few recommendations. They include establishing an accrediation program for the rental property owners (landlords), start an annual orientation program, and require them to live close to College Park. Please see below for details.

(1) Create an accreditation program for rental house property owners/managers. Accreditation would indicate that property meets specific standards and that the property owner commits to certain actions that will address core quality of life issues in the neighborhood.

City could inform property owners about Accreditation program during the rental license renewal process.

Some suggested incentivizing participation by reducing frequency of inspections to every other year for accredited rental property owners and stated that other municipalities do inspections at 2-3 year intervals. A reduction in hours needed for inspections may free up time for other duties (i.e. more hours on Noise Enforcement). Public Services staff responded that an annual compliance inspection seems minimal to insure renter safety, health, and welfare and that inspections can help compliant property owners prove due diligence if sued by tenants for alleged deficiencies. One member commented that such a program should avoid providing City benefits that are not directly administered by the City, and should not require rental property owners to join, support, participate in, or seek approval from any private association as a condition for their entitlement to full benefits under the program.

Public Services staff suggested a tiered approach (Gold, Silver, Bronze) to reflect life safety standards. PGPOA representatives thought that a tiered system would be too complicated for them to administer in the initial implementation phase but would be good to consider for the future.

(2) Require property owners (or their agents) to participate in annual orientation, in order to receive rental license/permit, that has the follow elements:
• Enrollment in electronic notification system with name of person with relevant contact information.
• Explanation by code enforcement with a focus on new and enhanced expectations.
• Mandated viewing of a video to highlight the challenges the community faces renting to the student population and outline best practices.

(3) Require property owners or agent/manager to be within 75-mile radius of College Park.
Streamline the rental licensing process, including the following:
• Automate rental license renewal process.
• Provide one rental registration deadline for ALL rental properties (early in the year) when the permit fee is paid and all paperwork is completed. Inspection occurs throughout the year (as it is done now).
• Offer orientation program on three different dates around the registration deadline. All stakeholders (University, Policy, Fire, Resident, IFC, SGA, PGPOA, etc.) could be invited to participate.
Create a clearinghouse for complaints against rental property owners and attempt to solve problems that are reported.

Please note, current permitting process only requires a local agent, not manager, to receive notices; the local agent does not have to address any problems that may arise at the property. PGPOA will provide a sample statute for the City to consider.

(4) Streamline the rental licensing process, including the following:
• Automate rental license renewal process.
• Provide one rental registration deadline for ALL rental properties (early in the year) when the permit fee is paid and all paperwork is completed. Inspection occurs throughout the year (as it is done now).
• Offer orientation program on three different dates around the registration deadline. All stakeholders (University, Policy, Fire, Resident, IFC, SGA, PGPOA, etc.) could be invited to participate.

Streamlining the licensing process could free up City staff to focus more time on issue reduction. Public Services staff commented that City Finance and IT staff would need to develop new protocols and software. Such a program should include enhancements to property owner contact information (e.g., adding email addresses, identifying type of phone (cell or landline), and indicating if phone number can receive text messages. Penalties could be imposed if the information provided is not accurate.

(5) Create a clearinghouse for complaints against rental property owners and attempt to solve problems that are reported.

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2 Comments to “Best Practices Sought to Improve City’s Rental Property Stock”

  1. By Pat, August 29, 2013 @ 10:43 am

    It sounds like most of these “improvements” will hit property owners hard. I would like the City to make a distinction between people who own only one property and the slum lords that own several. The City should also carve out exceptions for former residents who have lived in their houses for years but have to re-locate. With the housing market crash, many of them have to choose between selling their house at a huge loss (and short sales look terrible for a community) or renting their property out. There should be a distinction between slum lords buying property to turn a profit, and those that have been good City residents for years but have to re-locate. Perhaps for properties that have been owner-occupied for at least 5 years previous to rental conversion, that remain owned by the same owner, reduce the inspections to every 3 years, and eliminate the other bureaucracy.

    To further tighten the screws on the slum lords with multiple properties, here are some ideas:
    – require owners to complete turn-over processes each time the tenant changes, such as fresh paint, HVAC system tune-up, and cleaning services. Good landlords already do this.
    – Require that any exterior wood siding/trim be freshly painted every 5 years, and remain free of rot or cracks.
    – Require the removal of any chain-link fencing, and any fencing surrounding the front yard.
    – Require that basements are dry and free of mold with functional sump pumps.
    – Require at least one off-street parking spot for each rental unit.
    – Require up-to-date electrical systems with grounded, three-prong, child-safe outlets
    – Require hard-wired, interconnected, battery-backed-up smoke detectors on each floor, in each bedroom, and in adjoining hallways.

    And again I must re-iterate my previous comment regarding holding tenants accountable where it makes sense, meaning for lawn, garbage can, and noise violations. These are not the fault of the landlord and fines for these should be directed to the tenants, not the property owners. Ensure that property owners keep attractive rental properties, and they will attract higher-class tenants who will enrich our neighborhoods with their presence.

  2. By Robert Catlin, August 31, 2013 @ 1:59 pm

    The proposal that the City can treat people differently based upon how many rental properties they own would not survive a court challenge. Code enforcement is based upon health and safety concerns. At best, it can only in a modest way to make properties look attractive. About the only difference between owner-occupied properties and rental properties is the City’s annual interior inspection. While many cities license rental properties, almost no one else does interior inspections annually.