Rising Sun discusses rental property inspection ordinance
RISING SUN — Every rental property as well as any property that changes hands within town limits would be subject to annual inspections under an ordinance introduced Tuesday night.
The ordinance would add Rental and Resale Inspections to the Rising Sun Property Maintenance Code. Commissioner Brian Leishear, who read the legislation into the record at the town meeting, said the town is in the midst of a declining trend in property values, with 50 or more properties being sold annually.
“The way the town looks, and with properties that are safe, is part of economic development,” Leishear said. “Fortunately, we have a lot of businesses and residents who care about their property.”
However, those that don’t are casting a pall on the rest, he said. Robert Foard, a businessman in town with several rental properties, agreed. He’s seen his properties left in shambles, he told the board of town commissioners. That included evidence of drugs, electrical theft and “human feces everywhere.”
“Poorly maintained properties attract poorly-acting tenants,” he said.
If approved, this ordinance would treat rental properties like a business, which must be licensed and inspected, Leishear said.
“Landlords are running a business in town and like any other business, it should not be a detriment to the town. Although we have rental properties that are good and beneficial to the housing market, we clearly have some, if not many, that are negatively impacting the community,” he said Wednesday.
Separate from code enforcement, the town would hire a property maintenance inspector.
“The inspection would be performed by the inspector for compliance to general safety and property maintenance standards, such as establishing minimum property maintenance standards for basic equipment and facilities used for light, ventilation, heating and sanitation for rental units and premises and for safe and sanitary maintenance of rental units and premises; and minimum requirements for rental units and premises for means of egress, fire protection systems and other equipment and devices necessary for safety from fire,” Leishear said.
Perryville adopted similar legislation seven years ago, which requires rental housing to be licensed. At the request of property owners who complained about nuisance tenants, the mayor and commissioners there worked over a year on the measure. It was approved in July 2009 and went into effect in November that same year. Along with registering rental units, the law set livability standards for rental housing while requiring landlords to police their renters under the threat of having their registration revoked after three official warnings.
According to Leishear, Rising Sun’s current system is reactionary and inefficient. Under the proposed ordinance, the town would have an organized and systematic approach that would benefit both landlord and tenant. Included in the measure is the formation of an advisory board comprised of renters and property owners. This board would be the judiciary of the property maintenance code, giving rulings on appeals to charges and violations.
“It is an effective tool used by many communities to protect and promote the public health, safety and welfare of its citizens, to establish rights and obligations of owners and occupants relating to residential and commercial rental units in the town, and to encourage owners and occupants to maintain and improve the quality of rental units within the community,” he said. “We are looking for reasonable solutions to reasonable issues.”