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Milton could OK ordinance fines for run-down rental properties

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
July 19, 2011
— An ordinance under review tonight by the Milton City Council would allow the city to issue landlords ordinance tickets of at least $300 for failing to maintain safe, livable conditions in residential rental properties.

In June, the city’s public safety committee introduced a draft ordinance that would allow city code enforcers to hand out citations for failing to make timely, adequate repairs to residential rental properties.


Rather than going through circuit court, the ordinance would allow the citations to be handled locally, in city court.


City officials say the ordinance would force landlords to maintain amenities spelled out in lease agreements and would give renters a way to handle maintenance problems faster than filing a complaint in circuit court. It also would help landlords to force repairs when tenants damage rental properties.


The ordinance has been under review since June, when the council approved a first read on it. In a city memo, Municipal Judge Kris Koeffler is asking the city council to approve the following fines for noncompliance, which would be tied to the ordinance:


-- $300 plus fees for a first offense.


-- $600 plus fees for a second offense.


-- $1,000 plus fees for a third offense.


Mayor Tom Chesmore, who supports the measure, Monday said the council could waive a third reading and adopt the ordinance as early as tonight, although he expects some local landlords could turn out give the council feedback.


Chesmore pointed out that the ordinance mirrors state statutes on rental property maintenance.


“I’d like to hear what they (landlords) want on this,” Chesmore said. “I’m not asking them to jump through a hoop of fire. This is no different than what’s required of them already at the state level.”


Chesmore said he believes Koeffler’s suggested fines for noncompliance are “sufficient.” Meanwhile, he said local renters have thanked him and some city council members for their work on the ordinance.


“They’ve said they’re so glad the city’s finally trying to do something,” Chesmore said.


Alderwoman Nancy Lader, who owns eight rental properties in Milton, in June voted against approving a first draft of the ordinance.


At the time, Lader said she had no problem with renters getting help with problems at rental properties, but she said she believed the ordinance could put undue pressure on landlords.


Lader asked the city’s legal staff to analyze the ordinance to ensure it went no further than rental property maintenance requirements spelled out in state statutes.


She argued it’s not always possible to do work such as furnace repairs as quickly as renters would like. For instance, sometimes a repairman can’t get to a job right away, she said, even though the landlord makes an order for parts and repairs.


Lader also argued that private homeowners with run-down properties in Milton should have to meet the same property maintenance standards as landlords.



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