Rental standards

When someone agrees to rent an apartment or a house, he or she should have some expectation that the place will be habitable. For most renters in Cape Girardeau, problems that arise are handled by conscientious landlords. But in other cases, landlords are unresponsive to complaints about running water, broken windows and malfunctioning furnaces or hot-water heaters. To address these issues, Cape Girardeau officials are working on an ordinance providing for licensing of landlords and regular inspections of rental property. Many other towns already have such requirements.

Some landlords worry that new minimum property standards would cost too much to comply with. And some worry that they will become fully responsible for damage caused by renters. City officials say they want to take into account the balance between a landlord's and a renter's responsibilities.

Requiring landlords to meet minimum property standards sounds like a reasonable way to deal with the many complaints renters lodge. Meetings with landlords and renters over the next few weeks should help everyone better understand what the city wants to do. The city council could consider the proposed ordinance by the end of May, with a possible effective date of July 1.