City, landlords agree on rental registrations

Published 10:34 am Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Austin landlords likely will be required to register their rental properties with the city come 2012.

City Council members voted 6-1 at a Monday night work session to direct city staff to draft an ordinance requiring landlords to register their properties.

While the details of the potential ordinance have yet to be worked out, council members are hoping the new law will improve public safety and protect landlords.

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“This is an initial step to improve rental housing in the community,” said Community Development Director Craig Hoium. “If it doesn’t work, there will be another step.”

Discussion at the work session centered around deciding how many specific topics the ordinance should address. Council members Marian Clennon and Judy Enright, both representing the Third Ward, said they wanted the ordinance to require inspections ensuring the properties are up to code. However, other council members wanted to hold off on requiring anything but registration.

“We don’t have the financial ability … for us to add a significant amount of money to the budget to say we’re going to pay for an inspector,” council member-at-large Janet Anderson said.

Funding for administrative work associated with property registrations would like be funded by a small fee to the landlords, according to Mayor Tom Stiehm.

“We’re not taking it out of tax dollars,” he said.

Hoium said the registered properties would be entered into a database available to the police and fire departments. If there is a public safety incident at the house, the police will have the information available to notify the landlord.

Several area landlords voiced their opinions about the ordinance. Lori Wieseler, apartment owner, said many public safety problems in rental housing could be solved by enforcing existing laws, like the public nuisance ordinance.

“The problems already have solutions on the books,” Wieseler said. “I can’t police my tenants 24/7.”

Wieseler said she is also concerned the fees will be a burden on local rental business. City Council has not determined the cost of a registration fee.

Hoium and other city staff will present a more specific draft of the ordinance to City Council before its next meeting. Council members will vote on the ordinance at a Nov. 7 meeting.