October 24, 2014

Landlords say no to proposed rental code

By Tim Barnum
Staff writer
Posted

ARENAC COUNTY — Discussion at a Nov. 18 Board of Commissioners Committee of a Whole meeting regarding a proposed rental code for the county didn’t go over well with seven landlords in attendance during the conversation.

The proposed code, according to Arenac County Housing Commission Director Ruth Harrison, is based on a similar code used in Oscoda County, which calls for minimum rental unit inspections every three years, at a cost of $50 per unit to landlords, for a permit of occupancy. If the code was passed and made into ordinance, Harrison says 75/25 percent grants would also be available from the state of Michigan for landlords to do repairs on their rental units (75 percent would be covered by the state). After a grant is received, a repaired unit would be available for occupancy to low-income individuals.

“Really, what it’s for is to protect the people who are most vulnerable,” said Arenac County District I Commissioner Jane Danjin, adding some landlords are hesitant to rent to low-income individuals because they think of them as “vandals” who would abuse the rental unit.

Harrison says the inspections for units to pass the code would be up to minimal health and safety standards.

“Are the floors rotten? Are the windows broken? Is there a hole in the wall big enough to stick your head in?” Harrison said, referencing these as questions that would have to be answered in the code inspection.

“You don’t have to have a perfect house to rent it out,” Danjin added.

However, the landlords see the proposed code differently than its supporters.

“I really don’t see any need for this rental code,” said Sterling native and landlord of six rental units, Sandra Bowen in an interview Nov. 21. “I don’t see how this ordinance is going to basically help anybody except the inspectors (commission on the $50 per inspection fee).”

Bowen says even the opportunity of earning grants for landlords is misleading in making the case for the rental code.

“The landlord that takes care of his units doesn’t need these grants. … If you don’t take care of your source of income, you’ll lose it,” she said. Bowen added that proper landlords usually make repairs in a unit in the early stages of a problem, saving themselves money, and that under this ordinance, landlords would be “used as a pawn to get money for the county.”

She also says that if a grant is received, the landlord loses control of whom they can rent to since renters would have to be selected from a list of low-income individuals.

Bowen also says tenants who may suffer under a neglectful landlord already have a safety net.

“It’s not as though the tenants don’t have any protection, they do. The law protects them,” she said. “Any lease can be broken.”

Fortunately, for the landlords at least, the rental code doesn’t seem to be gaining much momentum.

“I’ve seen a very minimal amount of support (for the code),” said Board Chairman Raymond Daniels.

But Danjin says she feels it’s prudent that the code passes even though there isn’t much support right now.

“It’s important for the Board to pass policies that would preserve Arenac County,” she said, adding this code was would ensure quality rental units and help preserve the infrastructure of the county.

As of press time, no motion had been passed to set a date for a public hearing on the issue, which would be the next step for the code to become an ordinance.

This story was reported on arenacindependent.com on Nov. 21.

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