Rental registry back before council

November 29, 2018

La PORTE — Local landlords have voiced their opposition to the creation of a rental dwelling registry in the city of La Porte.

The ordinance, having been introduced by the La Porte City Council in July, returned to the council on Nov. 19. The council, again, voted to table the matter.

The ordinance is set to be back before the council at their Dec. 3 meeting.

Fearing the additional regulations could lead to penalties, local landlords have stood against the ordinance.

Public comment during the Nov. 19 meeting called into question the utility of the ordinance and speculated on potential penalties that could be imposed on rental properties.

Although the council was not able to fully explain how the ordinance would be carried out, they were operating under the assumption that landowners who did not submit proper rental unit registration forms would be fined for non-compliance within the ordinance.

Kevin Mayes, owner of a property management company in La Porte, said he saw this ordinance as unnecessary.

“All of our objections to this are stating that this is just a redundant list,” Mayes said. “It’s the same list that they have at all of the municipalities and organizations here, in town. The water department, the fire department, the police department, they have all of the names of all of the people in all of the properties that I own.”

Some area landlords saw the ordinance as discriminatory against rental properties.

“Not all blight properties are rental properties. Let’s get that clear,” said La Porte landlord Amy Feikes. “There are homeowners out there that don’t take care of their properties and don’t keep them up to code. You’re singling out landlords and making us be held accountable to a higher standard than the rest of the community.”

Another local proprietor, Dennis Nelson, revealed his skepticism of the ordinance’s effectiveness in locating unlisted landowners and tenants in La Porte.

“You have to ask yourselves, ‘how are you going to find these people that won’t be found out?’” he said. “Before you pass this ordinance, I want to be able to be told how the council intends to make the people who aren’t telling you now, tell you once the ordinance is in place.”

Not all council members were on board with the ordinance. Councilman Miles Fettinger was unconvinced the ordinance would produce results.

“How does this legislation chase (uncooperative landlords) down and find out who they are?” Fettinger asked. “How does it find the people who are the absentee owners and just leave their land to rot? That is the mechanism I was hoping this ordinance would be, but I’m not sure what it will do other than slap on a little fee if they don’t comply.”

Councilwoman Renee Scherer argued that the ordinance could be an instrument for better regulation of area rentals.

“Corporations are regulated. This is a business. Rentals are businesses. Why should they not have the same laws as corporations? Some (local rental businesses) are incorporated. Should we hold them to a different standard?” Scherer asked.

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