Council tables rental ordinance discussion

Published 10:27am Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Austin City Council is taking a hard look at its policies, though council members didn’t take much action during its public meeting Tuesday.

Council members tabled several ordinance discussions — including a swimming pool fence ordinance, a sandwich board sign ordinance and a long-discussed and somewhat controversial rental ordinance — for further discussion as Council Member Steve King did not attend the council’s work session Tuesday.

It will likely take months to hammer out a residential ordinance, if done at all, as council members argued whether one was necessary to ensure dilapidated or dirty rental structures were cleaned up.

Jeff Austin
Jeff Austin

“We already have ordinances in place to deal with this,” Council Member Jeff Austin said.

Council members Janet Anderson and Judy Enright disagreed, pointing out a high percentage of dilapidated properties reported to the city were rental properties.

“We’ve got slums over a lot of Austin, and a lot of people choose to ignore them,” Enright said.

The council came close to enacting a landlord registration policy in 2011 after months of work, but ultimately voted the idea down despite support from the local landlord association.

“We had landlord support back then,” Mayor Tom Stiehm said.

Several landlords in attendance said they had no issue with a similar registration policy, but urged the council to look elsewhere for a solution to bad landlords and property owners.

Judy Enright
Judy Enright

Local landlord Peter Grover said the problem with properties in disrepair may not lie with landlords, but rather with more people coming to Austin who don’t understand local housing laws.

“People haven’t assimilated here yet,” he said

Anderson pointed out rental landlords technically run businesses and should be held accountable for any property in disrepair.

“This is a business we’re talking about,” she said.

The council will discuss the rental ordinance at its upcoming council retreat, while council members will talk swimming pool and sandwich board sign policies at its next work session.

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