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Proposed rental home inspection ordinance draws mixed reactions

Posted at 6:32 PM, Jun 12, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-12 18:32:24-04

Eastlake city leaders are mulling over a proposed ordinance that could create a licensing program for single-family rental homes. The current form of the ordinance, however, is drawing a mixed reaction from landlords and some on the city council.

The Eastlake City Council will be hosting a public informational session Tuesday night on the proposed ordinance in hopes of soliciting feedback from landlords and the public at large. Council members will not be taking any action on the proposed ordinance at the informational session. Instead, the council will take the public’s input and send the ordinance back to committee for possible changes.

Concern about the ordinance has been steadily brewing since it was introduced, city officials said. There are at least 700 rental homes in the city of Eastlake.

“Between my office and city council’s office, we’ve been getting a ton of calls about the ordinance,” said Eastlake Mayor Dennis Morley. “If we’re going to put an ordinance out there, [we need to] make sure it’s going to be a good ordinance. We don’t want to put an ordinance out there and say it’s on the books but we can’t enforce it.”

The ordinance, if passed in its current form, would make interior inspections of rental homes mandatory in order for a landlord to receive the necessary license. Right now, the city has no laws on the books regarding interior inspections of rental homes. The current form of the ordinance states city building inspectors can enter and examine a rental home at all reasonable times if they show the proper identification. Failure to allow a city building inspector inside a rental home can lead to significant fines.

Mayor Morley said the city’s law department has assured him that city building inspectors would first need to secure a court order to enter a rental home. Many landlords and some on the city council are concerned about privacy, tenant’s rights and the Fourth Amendment.

“I wouldn’t vote for it in its present form,” said City Councilman Jason Kasunick (Ward 3). “For one thing, I have privacy concerns for the tenants that would be subjected to these. They’re going to have to be there to let people in, and somebody is going to be in their home. That’s certainly a concern. Plus, the cost to the landlord.”

The ordinance requires a landlord to pay $300 for the license, which would need to be renewed every two years. City officials insist the ordinance is not a revenue-generating venture. Councilman Kasunick worries tenants will be the ones footing the bill.

The ordinance also spells out specific dimensions for bedrooms in rental homes in order for a license to be issued. According to the ordinance, bedrooms in rental homes must be at least 120 square feet. Additionally, one side of the bedroom cannot be smaller than 8 feet wide.

Mayor Morley said the ordinance was modeled after similar laws passed by other neighboring municipalities. However, Morley has concerns about the part of the ordinance that specifies room dimensions and prohibits bedrooms in a rental home’s basement.

“Say my family did rentals and I just wanted to get into the basement and get away from my brothers, this ordinance doesn’t allow that,” Morley said.

Morley and other city officials stressed the ordinance’s future is still very fluid, and the exact language in the legislation is subject to change. After Tuesday night’s meeting, the ordinance will be sent back to committees where it can be dissected and amended. The earliest it could go for first reading is June 26th.

While the initial reaction to the ordinance has been mixed, many city leaders remain optimistic that a palatable compromise can be met.

“I want to come to a resolution that everybody can live with. Not everybody is going to be thrilled no matter the outcome. There are people on both sides that make good points,” Kasunick said. “What we have to decide is one way or other. Hopefully we can come up with some compromises that will make it livable for everybody.”

Mayor Morley agreed.

“The goal in the end for the city would be that we are all on the same page,” Morley said. “We’re never going to make everybody happy, but if you can make the majority happy and what you think you’re doing is right, that’s what you have to do.”