LIMA — To better understand how code enforcement can be used to improve Lima’s rental housing stock, Lima City Council’s economic and community development committee held a working meeting to review the city’s current laws on the books Tuesday night.
Councilors spent the majority of the meeting moving through the 73 pages of the property maintenance code section by section to better understand the legal language governing the city’s role in ensuring that rental housing is safe for tenants.
“We’re not going to get to all of them tonight, we’re going to try to be efficient about it,” Councilor Carla Thompson said.
After roughly an hour of review, the committee — along with fellow councilors in the audience — were able to make multiple suggestions affecting section 1804 of the city’s charter, which largely lays out how code enforcement assesses fines for property code violations.
Discussions centered around instituting time frames for re-inspections, changing how property owners are informed about violations and understanding how assessments are handled during land transfers. No particular solutions were discussed, but councilors planned to set the date for a future meeting to continue the read-through of the 50-plus pages left to be considered.
But while councilors were able to find issue with some of the property code involved, little discussion concerned the need for a rental registry.
Early in the meeting, Thompson did point out one of the sections concerning interior inspections — an issue that lies at the heart of the original rental registry proposal. Because property code enforcement officials cannot enter a private residence without approval from a resident or without probable cause of a violation, there’s little that can be done to fix interior issues that may affect the health of tenants.
“You can always request, but you can’t compel without probable cause,” Law Director Tony Geiger said. “You need probable cause that there’s some sort of violation.”
Other issues relevant to the liquor code are related to how the county auditor records the address of the property owner. Thompson said officials from both Lima’s fire department and police department often run into issues of finding the property owner during emergency situations when using the county’s property records. While the city has no direct responsibility of how the county or state address records or the legality of transfers, the committee explored if there are communication gaps that needed to be addressed to ensure fines imposed by the city were paid.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.