Residents in Forest City turned out for the Rental Inspection Ordinance Community Meeting at the Emergency Services Center in Forest City on Monday night. The general consensus seemed to be to defeat the measure. According to both landlords and tenants, along with some homeowners at the meeting, the measure is extremely unpopular. City officials have taken an ordinance used in Mason City and according to City Administrator Barb Smith, have watered it down substantially.
The proposed Forest City ordinance calls for homeowners and renters alike to be subject to inspections. Renters would be on a 5 year cycle while homeowners could be subject to inspection based off of a complaint filed with the city in which case the inspection would only be limited to the cited complaint. Rentals would be inspected for electrical, construction, and design inspections. General property maintenance would also be investigated such as excessive debris in the yard.
A series of fees would also be implemented for inspections and violations. Depending on the number of times a violation had been cited would determine in some cases, the amount of the fine. Landlords could actually be punished unfairly according Leslie Torkelson who rents homes to students and new families to the area.
The city is looking for a measure that will give them a little more power to provide for safe and clean housing for new residents coming into town. It would also try to provide the same for those living in the city currently. The measure does go after debris in the yard, unsightly conditions, and health hazards. Landlords for the most part are trying to keep these properties up, but tenants are sometimes to blame. As far as homeowners are concerned, they too can be at fault.
The measure provides for a Building Inspector who would go into each rental home every five years, and each homeowner home upon a filed complaint, and inspect the home. If the Inspector is refused entry after a number of attempts, a search warrant is issued forcing the homeowner or tenant to comply.
After the meeting, a large number of attendees signed petitions asking the city to table the measure indefinitely. According to Torkelson, landlords are not in opposition to the city, rather to the measure.
Landlords added that because of the additional fees that may be incurred, rental rates could potentially outpace incomes from area jobs, making housing unaffordable for area workers.
The council has not been presented with a final draft of the ordinance. The Housing Commission, a group of homeowners, and landlords will discuss with three council members on whether to proceed with it and if so, how the final draft will look.