Cape City Council will not postpone first reading on rental regulations

Monday, August 20, 2012

Despite the request of a group that represents a large number of people involved in the local real estate and rental housing industries, the city of Cape Girardeau will not postpone the first reading of a revised ordinance that would establish a rental licensing and inspection program.

Representatives of the Cape Girardeau County Board of Realtors asked city staff last week to postpone the first reading of the ordinance until further discussions could be had over major problems they say they see with the ordinance, even after the city worked together with the Cape Area Landlord Association, or CALA, to determine revisions.

David Soto, president of the board, and Ken Kiefer, chairman of the board's governmental affairs committee, both said they had hoped their concerns could be addressed privately before the ordinance came back up for discussion in council so as to avoid a repeat of last fall's backlash, when the idea of a rental inspection program was first brought up by the city, but will now instead plan to speak at council tonight.

"We really preferred to work on this outside of public forum so not to have another prolonged shouting match," Kiefer said. "But we are feeling blown off by the city."

Cape Area Landlord Association, a group of around 50 local landlords, recently endorsed the proposed program. Members of CALA worked with city staff to make changes that, according to both, would serve and protect the interests of tenants, landlords and investment property owners, but the Board of Realtors believes the language in the ordinance is still too vague.

The ordinance would require landlords to obtain annual licenses with the cost of the license based on how many units they own and mandates maintenance of properties. Some provisions for maintenance and cleanliness would be the responsibility of tenants.

The Board of Realtors representatives met with city staff recently and outlined their concerns, Kiefer said, and also discussed opinions the board obtained on the proposal from the National Association of Realtors, but the city responded that concerns have been adequately addressed and that any needed changes to the proposal could be addressed before the second and third readings of the ordinance.

Kiefer said the board's concerns with the proposal include potential for violations of the Fourth Amendment, which covers personal property rights; a possibility for discrimination of investment property owners over personal residence owners with regard to housing codes; and an unclear definition of a responsible party in the event of violations or notifications of the ordinance. The board also sees several areas where there is a lack of procedures and provisions in the proposed ordinance and no stated fee schedule, Kiefer said.

Kiefer said the board understands the endorsement CALA gave the proposal but that the board's opinion should also be taken into consideration by the city because the realtors organization represents a larger percentage of investment property owners.

Realtors, according to Kiefer, do want to see the value of local properties improve, which he said a new program could help, but said the city isn't enforcing current property maintenance codes well enough to make that happen.

City staff last presented a draft of the proposed ordinance at the Aug. 6 council meeting, and one change has since been made to the ordinance, according to meeting materials, which removed wording that would allow for inspections to be completed on a scheduled basis. The change was requested by CALA. New wording would allow for inspections to be made only when reason exists to believe that a violation of the ordinance has been or is being committed, according to meeting materials. Assistant city manager Kelly Green did not return a call Friday after a message was left at her office requesting information about additional changes made to the ordinance. Staff also presented a draft to the council June 18, and through work with CALA and Cape Leaders Alliance, made other revisions before the Aug. 6 presentation.

The city will also present the results of a recent citizen satisfaction survey during the council's 5 p.m. study session.


Pertinent address:

401 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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