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?"

smoyers@semissourian.com

388-3642

Pertinent address:

711 N. Clark Ave., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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