I wanted to address some misperceptions about a proposed landlord licensing system and rental registry that I see being perpetuated in the rounds of council debates.
First, I should clarify that my position is that everyone in the city deserves housing that meets the basic standards for health and safety. For example, homes should have hot water, heaters, doors that lock and toilets that operate. This applies to all people no matter their income because well, they’re people.
These basic standards are not being met for some people living in our community because we have more than a handful of landlords who do not either have the skills, finances or desire to properly maintain their properties. This dynamic creates unsafe living conditions and decreases surrounding property values.
Second, the Ohio state legislature already mandates licensing/registry programs in larger Ohio cities. Several cities our size and smaller have done the same to protect citizens and stabilize property values. As such the proposal for a landlord licensing and rental registry program is not something unusual or anti-business. Data from those communities that have enacted landlord licensing and rental registry programs show that these programs have been beneficial to citizens, landlords and safety services providers. They are often paired with classes and services to landlords to help them better vet potential tenants and network for reduced fees for services such as background checks and home repair work. Each of these incentives are part of the current landlord licensing registry proposal.
Third, renting homes is a business. One that provides a basic need — housing. Other basic needs met by industry, such as food and clothing production, are always inspected for quality and safety. One of the main functions of government is to provide for the safety its citizens, so this is not a “government trying to over-regulate business” issue.
Fourth, the current environment discourages tenants from advocating for safe housing. Many slumlords have moved to the month-to-month lease option, so the moment a tenant complains to landlords or to Code Enforcement about the condition of their property, they are given eviction notices. A licensing system would help take the need for reporting off of the tenant and allow for inspections before anyone is even in the property. This would also help provide a record of the condition of the property that a landlord turns over to a tenant, in case they need to prove damages done by tenants.
As for the misleading argument that a landlord licensing / registry proposal will cause rental prices to go up: legitimate landlords know that they are running a business and have the costs of doing such business already built into their financial plan. Those landlords would tell you that major and minor repair work is part of the business of renting properties. With the current proposal, only minimal expenses would be incurred by those landlords meeting the basic standards for safety. I honestly hope those that can’t afford to meet those standards will be discouraged from going into a business that they are not suited for.
I welcome any questions about my proposal, and do plan to wait until we have the results of the housing study commissioned by the city to bring forth the legislation for a vote. I believe that the results of the study will show that something like what I am proposing would fit into the larger picture of improving the housing stock in Lima.
Carla Thompson is the 3rd Ward City Councilor in Lima. You can reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 419-860-0478