LIMA — Councilor Carla Thompson introduced the first draft of a landlord registry program during a Thursday night meeting of the Lima City Council Economic and Community Development Committee.
The controversial topic had been up set before City Council last year, but after much discussion and debate, the registry in its prior form had been voted down. Thompson, however, has campaigned on the issue and made multiple statements over the last year about her initiative.
After researching the issue throughout 2018, she put her cards on the table Thursday with the latest proposal — a $50 annual fee system meant to incentivize good behavior rather than punish landlords who fail to allow a rental inspection and receive a rental license. Registration inspection fees would be $20 per residence.
“The goal is to not make money,” Thompson said. “The fees have to remain low and the focus has to be on weeding out indigent negative landlords.”
West Ohio Community Action Partnership CEO Jackie Fox and Lima-Allen County Neighborhoods in Partnership President Jessie Roark both spoke in favor of the some form of landlord registry in order to improve some of the problems plaguing low-income rental housing. In many cases, Fox said tenants are living in squalor with little option to ask for improvements from landlords due to a lack of legal protections afforded by leases.
“It’s happening more than we’re comfortable with,” Fox said.
But Thompson may have an uphill battle trying to convince the rest of those in the room during Thursday night’s meeting. Many in the audience, most of them landlords, grumbled at the proposal under the breaths during the meeting and a few threatened to sell their properties if a landlord registry was put in place.
“Restaurants are not fans of being inspected,” Thompson said. “But (inspections) are there to keep us safe. Both food and housing are a necessity.”
Other councilors on the committee and in the room were also vocally opposed to the proposal.
Councilor Derry Glenn, who is a landlord, voiced concerns about not looking at other options, such as adding “teeth” to code enforcement, before creating an entirely new program. Glenn did agree that something needed to be done to hold bad landlords accountable.
Councilor Rebecca Kreher said she’s been the victim of bad landlords in the past and understands some of the problems associated with Lima’s rental housing stock, but she was “not convinced this is the best way to go.”
“There are some landlords who are thinking this could be a problem, and I don’t want that for them,” Kreher said.
Landlord registries are common throughout Ohio’s larger cities, according to Attorney Patrick Maloney, who works on housing issues for the firm Legal Aid of Western Ohio. The state requires a landlord registry if a county has a population higher than 200,000 people, and more than 50 Ohio cities have enacted some form of registry.
The proposal handed out by Thompson, however, isn’t the final draft. Thompson said she wanted to reintroduce the conversation of a registry because it could be a potential tool to solve some of the more pressing housing issues affecting the community.
“I’m not looking to pass anything tonight. What I want is to introduce and get questions out there and concerns out there,” Thompson said. “This city has to start being creative about how it’s going to address declining property values.”
A second committee meeting has been tentatively set in January.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.