Proposed rental ordinance changes put ball in tenants' courtTwo Harbors' rental ordinance, which has been on the books but unenforced for at least four years, is being revised to leave the first step in complaints up to the tenants.
By: Monica Isley, Lake County News Chronicle
Two Harbors' rental ordinance, which has been on the books but unenforced for at least four years, is being revised to leave the first step in complaints up to the tenants.
The new version is scheduled for a first reading at the council meeting on Monday, and Mayor Robin Glaser said this week that they hope to have comments from building inspector Jim Rich by then.
The old ordinance, which was approved by voters in a referendum, required landlords to obtain licenses after their units were inspected, in order to insure that the properties met minimum standards for habitation.
Under that system, the onus for guaranteeing livable housing stock rested with the city itself, and did not wait for complaints from tenants before properties were inspected.
The problem, according to Glaser, is that with over 500 rental units in Two Harbors, the cost to the city was too great, and the time involved was too much for the building inspector, who works here only one day a week.
At an earlier council meeting, Glaser said that if the city wasn't going to enforce the ordinance, it should either be revised or eliminated altogether. The council chose revision, since it had been approved by voters.
Glaser said this week that city attorney Steve Overom was asked to come up with new language that would protect tenants, without incurring great cost to the taxpayers.
"He wrote it to follow the Uniform Housing code as a base line," Glaser said. That code is available at city hall for the asking.
According to the proposed new version of the rental ordinance, properties won't be inspected until a tenant comes forward with a complaint. After that the building inspector has 90 days to look at the unit in question and decide what needs to be done. The landlord will be given 60 days to make improvements. Within ten days after that deadline, the property will be reinspected and if it doesn't meet code, the landlord will not be allowed to rent it.
At the same time, the ordinance stipulates that tenants cannot be evicted or otherwise penalized for complaining about substandard property.
"This puts a mechanism in place for tenants to get help," Glaser said.
The proposed revision of the ordinance will be discussed Monday, and changes could be suggested. After the second reading, no changes can be made to the language. Three readings are required before the ordinance can go into effect.