Council passes rental housing ordinance; Scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2019

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Austin City Council voted unanimously to adopt a proposed rental housing ordinance during its regular meeting Monday evening.

According to Mayor Tom Stiehm and several council members, the ordinance has been in development for 7 ½ years. It is based largely on a similar ordinance in effect in Faribault.

The mayor and council agreed the ordinance would help with Austin’s housing stock.

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The ordinance, which will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2019, was drafted to “maintain decent, safe, and sanitary rental units that do not contribute to blight or nuisance in neighborhoods.” University housing, rest homes, convalescent care, licensed group home, hotels and owner occupied units are not under the scope of the ordinance.

Several provisions regarding rental property will be introduced next year:

• Licensing – every rental dwelling will have to be licensed at a fee of $100 per building and $20 per unit. Based on the current number of rental buildings (1,144) and rental units (2,757) in Austin, Planning and Zoning Director Holly Wallace estimates that the city stands to collect $169,540 in licensing fees. In order to get a one-year license, applications must be current and accurate, fees must be paid, the property must be registered with the utility company, any claims on the premises (taxes, assessment, etc.) must be paid and the dwelling must be compliant with federal, state and local laws. Public housing is subject to a break on the fees.

• Inspections – rental properties will be subject to inspection by a city compliance officer every two years. The compliance officer will issue written notification of any failures to meet city codes or other laws. Licensees that fail to comply with the notifications could face a hearing. Properties subject to HUD inspections, such as Housing and Redevelopment Authority of Austin units, are exempt from city inspections.

• Prohibition of disorderly conduct – licensees will be notified of any disorderly conduct violations by their tenants and may proceed with eviction should more than three disorderly conduct violations (except emergency calls) occur within a 12-month rolling period. Tenants are responsible for allowing access for inspectors and those doing maintenance or repair work.

• Crime-free housing program – licensees will undergo a one-time mandatory crime-free housing training. They will be required to conduct criminal background checks on tenants and remove tenants who violate crime-free/drug-free lease provisions.

Wallace’s estimated annual budget for implementing and enforcing the ordinance is $154,000, which includes the hiring of one full-time and one part-time city employee.