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Cape rental inspection program gets mixed reviews from landlords

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A revised Cape Girardeau rental inspection program received mixed reviews from landlords Tuesday night, with some saying it offers much needed accountability to those who rent property and others saying it doesn't hold tenants accountable enough.

During a 90-minute meeting of the Cape Area Landlords Association, assistant city manager Kelly Green and association president Jason Coalter spoke to about 50 area landlords reviewing a proposed ordinance and fielding questions.

"This is the first cooperation between landlords and the city," Coalter told the group. "We weren't on the same mode or level. But we're realizing we have a housing stock issue."

This version, after a failed attempt a year ago, would require landlords to obtain annual licenses and mandate that they maintain their properties or face losing them. The draft ordinance would prohibit anyone from renting out apartments, single-family homes or duplexes without a municipal license.

Following the meeting, some of the landlords favored such a program and others did not. Other landlords said they feel like the 24 general requirements of the draft put too much of the responsibility on landlords and not enough on those they rent to.

Jon Kasten, who rents out homes and apartments in Cape Girardeau, said he saw no need for such a program.

"I think it's a waste of money," Kasten said. "There are laws already on the books that take care of these things. It's a waste of city money."

Landlord Joe Uzoaru, however, didn't see it that way. Uzoaru said he's excited about the program that was drafted with city staff and the landlord association.

"I appreciate that the city has made an effort to gather input from the industry," he said.

When asked about some complaints that not enough of the burden falls to tenants, Uzoaru said: "I don't agree. I think you're hearing that from amateur landlords."

The ordinance would only require all landlords to do what good ones are already doing -- maintaining their property, he said.

The requirements of the draft, which has yet to be voted on by the Cape Girardeau City Council, call for landlords keeping their rental units free of pests, maintaining exterior lighting, functioning toilets, have temperature control, locks, 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 be free of holes.

One provision that pertains to renters requires them to keep fixtures and their living areas in a clean and sanitary condition.

Cape Girardeau Mayor Harry Rediger, who attended the meeting, said the biggest question he heard was how to hold tenants accountable enough. Rediger said that is an area the city must work through, perhaps through encouraging police reports when property is damaged.

But Rediger said the ordinance isn't solely about bad landlords.

"It's as much about getting rid of bad tenants as it is getting rid of bad landlords," Rediger said.

The program would be complaint-based, and three or more 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 $500 a day and possibly up to three months in the city jail.

Association president Jason Coalter said, while he realized some landlords have concerns, they have to be held accountable. But he didn't see a need for much change to the proposed ordinance, which is expected to be before the council in August.

"Is there a need for this? Absolutely," Coalter said. "Is it perfect? No. Is anything?"



Pertinent address:

711 N. Clark Ave., Cape Girardeau, MO

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Please read this proposal. Get a copy, as I did. Missourian, get a copy and put it on your website, at least as a link to a PDF file.

Every day in violation of this new "law" is a new "Crime" and it is a misdemeanor. 30 days out of compliance for one thing in a six unit building nets a landlord a $90,000 fine and 45 years in prison. Yes, that is right. 45 years in prison for a violation that takes a month to fix in one six unit building. I quess in a 12 unit building you get 90 years in the city jail for letting something go for 30 days. And a $120,000 fine. Be better to just kill your tenants and get out of jail a lot sooner.

It makes new laws where old ones already cover areas. Re-writes existing electric codes below the standards already in place. Over all is just more government that actually lowers and conflicts with existing Electrical codes. Whoever wrote this for the city just has their head in the sand. Go get a copy and read it yourself, as I have done and then comment. Another example of your tax dollars at work and shows the inability of the City of Cape to write a simple code.

And there is not one line on this to protect the landlord against anything from a tenant. Believe me it is a two way street on anything from marriage to a bar fight.

As I have said before. Read the existing ordinances. Understand them. Enforce them and then look to see if it is laws you need or a city that can read, understand and enforce the CURRENT ordinances

-- Posted by nocomment on Tue, Jun 26, 2012, at 9:32 PM

I am suprised that given the city of cape track record on being a landlord at the airport that they would want to tell others how to run their private business. Next the city will be asking landlords to not collect rent for 5 years. Kinda hypocritical. Jmho

-- Posted by gman on Tue, Jun 26, 2012, at 10:58 PM

I have read the proposed ordinance and it's actually a very good effort. Ms Kelly Green has done a great job writing it. The meeting was ran well by Jason Coalter and Ms Kelly Green and it went smoothly. The draft was explained well enough that I found no need to ask questions during the meeting. On another note, I feel bad for the landlords who did ask questions and who are being called amateurs, especially when you consider that they were probably in business while the accuser was still in diapers. A little disrespectful I think.

-- Posted by Make no mistake about it on Wed, Jun 27, 2012, at 5:01 AM

I still think the city is pushing this to generate revenue. Anyone that doesn't think this is true just take a look at the penalty section. Also don't forget the charge that will be implemented for the license itself. Even if the charge is $5/unit x 5000 units (the estimated number of units here in Cape) is $25,000 generated just in license fee alone. I still have trouble understanding why licensure is needed other than to just generate revenue. Why can't the city improve the ordinance without requiring a license? If a complaint is made against the landlord/unit of a building then various citations can be issued if the unit doesn't meet city code/ordinances.

-- Posted by jrob on Wed, Jun 27, 2012, at 6:31 AM

I understand Jackson will not touch this topic...more common sense approach.

-- Posted by CB1 on Wed, Jun 27, 2012, at 9:05 AM

Also, What about the 4th. Amendment rights of property owners ???? The way this is written, it says all property owners...not just rental property units...its a foot in the door for all inspections on all privatly owned homes...

-- Posted by CB1 on Wed, Jun 27, 2012, at 9:13 AM

You have to remember that the city originally wanted yearly inspections of rental property and an occupancy inspection before people moved in. These things may sound simple now, but what will the city add next year. Also, do not forget, the city wanted to include personal residences also. So, they may start with rentals, but within a couple years your home maybe included...cracked or uneven sidewalks, electric up grades, etc...

-- Posted by JMK on Wed, Jun 27, 2012, at 6:12 PM

The City may call themselves conservatives and Private property proponents....and look like a Duck...but they have taken on some very liberal ideas...and really do not walk like a Duck !

-- Posted by CB1 on Thu, Jun 28, 2012, at 2:11 PM

The City loves selling licenses. It's just another tax. They've got licenses for everything and the only thing that they're good for is generating revenue for more government. Look at your water bill! This is from a government that told us that after they took over the water system, they'd hold down our rates. Yeah right. If a person can't rent his house out to someone without buying a license from the City of Cape, then it's time to get the hell out.

-- Posted by thewonder on Sun, Jul 1, 2012, at 8:40 AM

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