July 19, 2024

Rental inspection ordinance passes 6-1

After months of discussion, the Creston City Council on Tuesday passed the final reading of the proposed rental inspection ordinance 6-1.

Through this ordinance, landlords will be required to register with the city and undergo inspections every three years through an inspector authorized by the city. The previous ordinance had a city administrator enacting the inspections. No formal agreement for an outside inspector has been made.

Landlords continued to speak to the subject during the council’s open forum, held before the vote. Carey Lynam and Jesse Harris encouraged the council to seek a local rental inspector rather than an outside inspector.

“I’m very familiar with this inspection ordinance with rental inspections,” Harris said. “I’ve dealt with inspectors for a lot of those years as we had rental properties up in Saint Paul, Minnesota.”

Harris explained that most of his experience dealt with inspections done by city employees rather than outside inspectors.

“The big difference, though, is all of them were employed by the city. I also have dealt with city inspectors and outside enterprises,” Harris said. “The issue that we ran into for [outside enterprises] is, and why the city stopped doing them, is the interest in money. It wasn’t the actual inspection, but the reinspections and what the standard was, so they switched back to having a city employee do the inspections.”

Loretta Harvey asked the council explain why previous ordinance was unenforcable.

“Is a new ordinance necessary? What elements of enforceability are missing? I noticed that your city attorney is not present at these public city council meetings. Why don’t you ask him to attend the meetings and explain why the current ordinance is not enforceable,” Harvey said. “Maybe he can explain why the new ordinance will be enforceable, and also explain how the inspections will not infringe on our constitutional rights.”

Ruth Bolinger continued to encourage the council to vote no on the ordinance. She also stated she had issued a formal complaint regarding the city council’s rental housing committee.

“I am very concerned about open meetings,” Bolinger said. “It says informal, but you clearly have a committee that was created, that took action, had meetings. We had no notice of that, there’s no minutes, on and on and on, so I did report this into a formal complaint.”

Pat Butcher shared her concerns regarding a possible uptick in homelessness.

“We’re going to have to raise rent. We’re not going to have any choice,” Butcher said. “Are we going to have homeless people because of it? I think we will.”

When it came time for council discussion, Councilmember Steve Wintermute quickly addressed cost concerns.

“I did a little figuring, and I’ll just read one,” Wintermute said. “If you have a four-unit complex and it passes the first time, your price per unit is $2.19 a month. That’s not even counting the extra year if it passes the first time.”

Councilmember Matt Levine agreed with this, adding the cost for a single unit.

“It’s only $3.16,” Levine said. “Every four years, you’re paying $175. A lot of people talk about raising rents, so I suppose if you raise it more than $3.16 a month, that’s in your pocket.”

Councilmember Jocelyn Blazek shared her appreciation for those that had given feedback.

“I‘ve gotten a lot of really good feedback from you guys and a lot of some very valid points have been made,” Blazek said. “I want to acknowledge that and I appreciate that. I have been listening.”

She explained she still wanted to go forward with the new ordinance, but will take this feedback into consideration as the council continues the process.

“There’s three parts of this. There’s the ordinance, there’s the policy, which is the details of it and then there’s who are we going to have run inspections? Even if we pass the ordinance, that doesn’t mean that we’re committing to a policy or a person doing our inspections,” Blazek said. “Personally, I am happy with the ordinance piece, which is just the base, the framework to get us started.”

Voting against the final reading was Brenda Lyell-Keate. Wintermute, Levine, Blazek, Josh Thompson, Kiki Scarberry and Rich Madison voted in favor.

Erin Henze

Originally from Wisconsin, Erin is a recent graduate from UW-Stevens Point. Outside of writing, she loves to read and travel.