Landlords to bring neighbor guide to council

Published 7:55 am Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Austin landlords have drafted an outline of renter and landlord responsibilities, a document they believe could serve as part of a rental ordinance if the city decides to enact one.

The Austin Area Landlords Association finalized a draft of their Good Neighbor Guidelines Monday night.

“It would standardize tenant behavior across the city … but it also demands that landlords provide a supporting role so that can happen,” said Peter Grover, an Association board member.

The two-page document outlines a number of ways to maintain a property to keep it and the community aesthetically pleasing. The document addresses things like properly disposing of garbage — including furniture and appliances — so clutter doesn’t gather in yards. The document states that snow should be removed from sidewalks and steps within 24 hours of a snowfall. It also addresses parking in driveways and taking steps to prevent fires. There’s also a small section on requirements for landlords and tenants.

The Good Neighbor Guidelines could potentially be something all landlords include as part of their lease with tenants. There’s even a space on the document for tenants to sign.

The guidelines aren’t a draft of a potential renter’s ordinance; however, Grover said the draft could potentially be a big part of an eventual city ordinance.

If nothing else, the guidelines summarize the Association’s views concerning an ordinance. Grover said landlords, tenants, city leaders and everyone involved need to cooperate to make an ordinance that doesn’t add a strain or costs. “We have the same goals, so we should work together,” Grover said.

Landlord ordinances typically address problems like overcrowded properties, neglected repairs and landlords who don’t live near their properties. Mayor Tom Stiehm has previously said he wanted the potential ordinance to have few — if any — added costs.

The landlord association has been crafting the Good Neighbor Guidelines for about a year. Grover said the process started after Albert Lea and other cities passed landlord ordinances that appeared to be “heavy” on landlords.

Cost is a key concern, and Grover said an ordinance shouldn’t contain extra fees for landlords who already maintain their properties to a high standard.

“We really feel that all landlords should not be treated the same,” Grover said. “We should focus on repeat offenders. We don’t want to all be painted with the same brush.”

Grover said the issue isn’t limited to rental properties, and he hopes the guidelines will apply to all homes, too.

“We want include all property, because we feel there are some blighted homes. They’re not all rentals,” Grover said.

The Landlord Association formed a committee of about five people that will meet with a working session of the Austin City Council before taking the guidelines to the full council.