Cape City Council OKs rental inspection ordinance

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Months of back and forth over the language in an ordinance to establish a rental inspection program in Cape Girardeau came to a close Monday night.

The city council voted unanimously to approve the ordinance, which will require landlords to purchase annual licenses to rent property and mandate maintenance of properties. Maintenance will be up to property managers or owners, depending on who is designated as a responsible party at the time a license is issued. Some responsibilities for upkeep will also fall to tenants.

City staff will inspect properties if a complaint is received and issue notices for violations if any of the 24 requirements are found to be violated. Three or more violations of the ordinance could lead to a suspension of the landlord's license, which would mean they could not rent any new units until repairs were made. Penalties could also include a fine of $500 a day and up to three months in the city jail.

City staff proposed the ordinance to the council after working with the Cape Area Landlord Association to include requirements meant to keep renters safe and increase the quality of rental housing in the city.

Another group, the Cape Girardeau County Board of Realtors, found several issues with the proposed program, citing concerns over free access to private property for inspectors, too many parties potentially being held responsible for a violation and too much chance of liability being placed on real estate agents who act as property managers or are selling rental property.

The final reading and passage of the ordinance was postponed in September, which allowed Councilman Trent Summers to revise a final draft of the ordinance at the request of the board's governmental affairs committee and its attorneys.

Most of Summers' revisions were included in the final version, save one from Councilman Mark Lanzotti, who proposed an amendment Monday that he said would provide some clarity and should keep real estate agents out of complications from the ordinance. Lanzotti had included in the language that "agent" be defined as "whose involvement is limited solely to the sale of rental property."

"That was one of the things we were after," said the board's governmental affairs chairman, Ken Kiefer, following the vote.

Board of Realtors president David Soto said many revisions in the final ordinance made it hard to be completely certain that all the board's concerns were addressed, but that he felt that ultimately the board was successful in getting the changes it asked for.

"Maybe it's not 100 percent. But I think it was a huge improvement," he said.

Assistant city manager Kelly Green has said that a large part of the ordinance's effect will be first seen with the city becoming able to collect information on all rental property in the city. City staff and officials have said they anticipate properties will become more well-kept with enforcement of the ordinance.

"We don't really have that information right now. We don't really have that good data. We will be able to see how we can work this once we know what is out there," she said.

Landlords have six months to register with the city or they will be deemed in violation of the ordinance.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

401 Independence St., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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