Westminster's Mayor and Common Council gave the Landlord Licensing and Rental Inspection Task Force some new direction at Monday night's meeting after discussing feedback from the recent landlord licensing public hearing.
"We need a sense of direction ... a clear sense of where we're going so I don't waste your time or my committee's time going down roads we don't want to go down," said Dan Hoff, chairman of the Rental Licensing & Inspection Program Task Force.
Common Council members put together the Rental Licensing & Inspection Program Task Force last spring. Made up of five local citizens who are in real estate and/or own rental properties, the Task Force created a rental licensing and inspection program for the city to consider.
The Task Force presented a series of recommendations to the Council in early October and held a public hearing in early November. To view the Task Force Report click here and for their PowerPoint presentation click here.
The public response to the proposed rental licensing and inspection program at the public hearing was largely negative with many landlords suggesting that the city should focus more in enforcing current codes as opposed to building a new program.
At Monday evening's regularly scheduled meeting, Council members agreed that the program would work better with a complaint-driven process as opposed to requiring every rental unit in the city to be inspected at annual intervals.
"We’re all in agreement that a complaint driven process is the direction we want to go in, to move away from mandatory inspections," Council member Tony Chiavacci said at Monday's meeting.
Council also agreed that landlord registration should be mandatory. According to city officials at the public hearing, there is currently an optional landlord registration program but Council members commented that in order for city government to have a real grasp on the rental situation, the registrations would have to be mandatory, and carry some fee.
Hoff said that a modest fee in the ballpark of $20 would allow for the program to cover its costs while remaining affordable for landlords.
Council President Damian Halstad said that he did not hear much opposition to the idea of mandatory landlord registration at the public hearing.
Those who spoke at the public hearing repeated often that the city should work harder to enforce existing codes rather than creating a new program to deal with a few problem landlords in the city.
City Council agreed and directed the city attorney to get involved with the Task Force to review and potentially "beef up" current codes.
Council spent some time pondering fines and punishments for landlords who fail to register or who habitually violate codes and laws.
"It might be time to look at existing laws to see if we need to go deeper rather than wider," Halstad said. "For problem properties and landlords do we need to have a stronger enforcement mechanism or stronger penalties?"
"I still maintain that 80 percent of the problems here are caused by 20 percent of offenders, we should focus on those areas," Halstad said.
Common Council had originally planned to have a landlord licensing program in place by Jan. 1 but Hoff said his committee will need time to do its work. Council agreed, saying that now the goal would be to have something concrete in time for spring budget discussions.
Hoff said he believes the Task Force can have a revised report available to present to the Council by Feb. 1.
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