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Cape officials looking at revised rental inspection program

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Cape Girardeau officials are again looking at implementing a citywide rental inspection program, although this version would require landlords to obtain annual licenses and dictate that they maintain their properties -- inside and out -- in order to keep them.

But those officials were insistent Tuesday that the rough draft of an ordinance that spells out the program is simply a starting point and they intend to seek input from landlords next week that could lead to some changes.

"There's still going to be some edits to it, so it's not done by any means," said assistant city manager Kelly Green, who also heads the city's development services department.

While city officials have worked with some landlords in preparing the draft, Green plans to meet with the Cape Area Landlord Association next Tuesday night to go over the draft ordinance that would prohibit anyone from renting out apartments, single-family homes, duplexes or even a spare bedroom without a municipal license. How much such a license would cost has yet to be determined, Green said, though she noted that would be a major topic at next week's landlord association meeting.

Some of the 24 general requirements of the draft mandate that landlords keep their rental units free of pests, have exterior lighting, functioning toilets, have temperature control, locks, have hot and cold running water, appropriate ventilation and a safe structure. Foundations must be sound, electrical wiring must be safely concealed and walls and roofs must not have holes in them.

Every unit must have a space in which food may be prepared and cooked, a kitchen sink in good working order, a working smoke detector and a working bathtub and shower. Some of the requirements are geared toward tenants -- renters, for example, must keep fixtures and their living areas in a "clean and sanitary condition."

Green said the goal is not to create extra burdens on landlords, but instead to make sure that renters have adequate living facilities.

"There are tenants out there living in conditions that they shouldn't have to live in," Green said.

If the Cape Girardeau City Council eventually adopts such a program, landlords would have six months to apply for a license. The program would be complaint-based, which isn't expected to put an undue drain on city staff, she said. This ordinance would also be the first time inspectors would have ready access to the inside of rental units. Now, city inspectors generally deal with a property's exterior.

No firm figure

Previous versions of the program, which has been debated for several years, called for each unit to be licensed, but Green said careful study showed such a plan made little sense. While numbers have been bandied about -- one former city official estimated the number of rental units at about 5,000 -- Green said the city really has no firm figure on what that number truly is.

"Whichever way you looked at it, it was going to take a lot of staff time to look at every rental unit," Green said. "We know we have a problem in Cape, but we know it's not the majority of landlords. So after looking at it and talking to other landlords, it just felt like the right direction to go. This seems like just a good place to start."

Three or more confirmed complaints or violations could lead to a suspension of the license, which would mean that the landlord could not rent any new units until repairs are made. Penalties also include a possible fine of $50 to $500 a day -- to be decided by a municipal judge -- and possibly up to three months in the city jail.

If the repairs aren't made and a landlord habitually refuses to cooperate with the city, a license could be revoked, which would mean the landlord could not rent any of his or her units and the tenants would have to move out. Green said of all of the provisions, these are the least set in stone. Green said the city is still considering how to get tenants to vacate in such situations, considering the state's strong renter's rights provisions.

Stressing her point again, Green said: "It might look quite a bit different by the time it comes to council."

Green presented the plan to the council at its Monday night work session. Jason Coalter, a member of the association, is one of the landlords who has worked with Green to help draft the ordinance. Coalter told the council the ordinance needs to be strict in order to help weed out some of the landlords who don't keep up their property.

"They make us all look bad," Coalter said. "This ordinance needs to have some teeth."

But other members of the association said Tuesday that, while not necessarily opposed, they do have some questions about the draft. David Soto, an association member and also the president of the Cape Girardeau Board of Realtors, worries that it may be too strict. The ordinance specifies, for example, how many electrical outlets needs to be in each room, Soto said.

"I'm not sure what that has to do with a good inspection program," he said. "That's not a quality or a safety issue. I don't know the reason for that."

He also wondered how city officials would determine who was keeping the property clean and sanitary. The ordinance calls for both landlord and tenant to provide upkeep. If a property is dirty, Soto wondered, would the city automatically cite the landlord without knowing who caused the problem?

"There may be too much oversight," Soto said.

Still, Mayor Harry Rediger said he was pleased with the plan as a first step and he hopes some version of it can be finalized and in place within the next 60 days.

"It's time," Rediger said. "It's time to get something done."



Pertinent address:

401 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, MO

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What a can of worms. The city seems that they want to do something, but no idea of what. Or how. Or the cost. Or who pays it. Or who enforces or how. Or when. Or anything else other than they just want more **** government.

Just read. Study and enforce the laws that you have on the books. Obviously the city has not the skills, money or sense to do that so let's just go out and make up some more laws that we have no money to enforce and charge the landlords as they are obviously just getting filthy rich off poor tenants. The city is as usual over their heads and dumb as dirt.

Hey kill the deer. Narrow Broadway. Take out the parking. Build some more roundabouts with with stupid designs. Make some more curbs sticking out in the street like in front of Paglias. Tax us to death with waterparks that most of us do not use in the name of "flood Control".

Yes just finish off the few of us trying to make a hard earned living working our butts off night and day in the rental business with our ***** hanging out at the bank and dealing with state laws and lousy tenants. Go ahead put that nail in out coffins to duplicate existing laws. But please pass the expenses on to the other tax payers in town not just us.

Does not the city have some real problems to spend time and your tax money on.? Heck quit digging up Lexington 10 foot at a time and fix it.

-- Posted by nocomment on Tue, Jun 19, 2012, at 8:38 PM

These moves will hurt renters further. Fewer people will become landlords and rent costs will rise. They don't do this in many places. Renters can move if they don't like the place they are in. I agree this is a case of more senseless laws. Stop now and find a problem worthy of attention. You are making it bad on the 99% who are not a part of this issue.

-- Posted by Curious_1 on Wed, Jun 20, 2012, at 7:14 AM

Another case of making duplicate laws just so they look like they are doing something. Dumb.

-- Posted by Make no mistake about it on Wed, Jun 20, 2012, at 8:38 AM

So how is that rental deal going for the city of Cape at the airport?

-- Posted by gman on Wed, Jun 20, 2012, at 8:46 AM

I guess they are trying to keep this a secret because it cannot be found on the cities website. You would think the meeting info and proposed guidelines would be easy to find. Top secrect.

-- Posted by Make no mistake about it on Wed, Jun 20, 2012, at 8:47 AM

I have a comment to add a few of the landlords are not good stake holders in the houses they have there is the question of Lead Paint. And then there is the Renters I have called the Police so I could sleep 2AM yes the Police come do they give them a ticket I do not know but the next night or two they have to come back again it would seem that the Kids from the college do not care and the landlords become stake holders in the house and advise the kids no noise or they are out. The Police need the backing of the city to keep the noise down so people will be able to sleep. I would hope the city would add that the Police come to a address time after time for noise who lives there and who takes the rent answers for the noise. The solution is the people renting do they want to live by rules. They do not want to go by rules they need to go back to the college and live.

-- Posted by falcon2412 on Wed, Jun 20, 2012, at 10:43 AM

I own a duplex close by the university for about 15 years now. I typically rent to college students and at one time lived in the building before buying my own home. Though the city and Mr. Coalter suggest it's only a small number of landlords and properties the issue pertains to, whatever happened to dealing with those landlords and properties? If the city implements this revenue producing tactic called "rental inspection and licensure" I won't hesitate to sell all my property! If the city has a problem with the way I maintain and keep my property they should address this on an individual basis. Kelly Green even implemented the city really has no idea the number of units they would have to inspect an over see. So basically you pay the fee and the city would eventually get around to do an inspection of the property! Let's face it the city says they are "concerned about your safety" What a JOKE. In reality Cape Girardeau City is looking for another way to increase revenue. If the money generated by the casino and other means isn't enough, let's keep on thinking of ways to get people to pay. As with anything else the city charges me, I increase my rent; the tenant now has to pay more and gives Cape Girardeau a big fat thank you for making their rent go up. My next question is how is the university is expected to pay? They rent/board students. We could go on to nursing homes that have residents that rent rooms and are boarded. How about our psychiatric facilities here in town that rent out rooms to individuals. Guess all those places won't be included because good chance they are already paying for some type of municipal license fee. How can the city require one entity and not another to pay? In the end those who are provided income from investment property will be forced to pay these ridiculous fees. Bet the city wouldn't consider doing it for free OR would they? After all it is for the safety and well being of those that are renting. However, I'm still trying to figure out how bureaucracy helps tenants, landlords, and the city? Oh, yeah it helps the city by generating more money! It may sound like a crazy idea but if this is such a huge problem why isn't the city dealing with those landlords? Also, who is forcing the tenants to live in such horrible places? Last time I had an apartment available, tenants came to look at it and decided for themselves if the apartment was up to their individual standards. If this is truly not about the city generating revenue there are dozens of other ways the city can deal with property management besides forcing fees for licensure.

-- Posted by jrob on Thu, Jun 21, 2012, at 1:03 PM

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