Sunbury City Council has passed an ordinance that adds varying degrees of accountability for a lawful, code-compliant and neighborly occupation of rental properties.
Landlords must provide the city with the name of a designated rental manager who is the point of contact for code officials. City inspectors will visit rentals at least once every three years and if they find problems, they will charge the landlord $25 for every repeat visit.
The city's ordinance allows the code office to revoke the rental license for an individual residence if the landlord violates a portion of the new law. If a landlord has more than one property, there is nothing in the law that would arm the city with the tools to revoke the landlord's license to rent all properties within the city. As a result, the city's approach leans more toward policing the activities of the customers of the rental housing industry rather than regulating those who have the greatest financial stake in being good commercial residential neighbors.
All tenants must be identified on paperwork filed with the city and anyone convicted of drug-dealing will barred from living in city rentals for seven years.
It is the city's tough luck, broken mirror strategy for passing the trash.
It ought to work somewhat but the ordinance would be more effective if it more directly addressed landlords who are lax about ensuring that they are renting to law-abiding citizens.
Still, it is a start.
Sunbury City Council for years was dominated by leadership from those with personal stakes in the property rental industry. Discussions about landlord licensing went nowhere.
Mayor David Persing deserves credit for reviving the issue and providing the leadership to see that the ordinance survived months of debate and review. Persing was joined by council members Todd Snyder and Jim Eister on the vote to approve the ordinance.
The city's two code inspectors have 2,300 rental units, housing 4,900 people, to police. The long-term success of the ordinance will depend on the mechanics involved in the city's implementation of the new rules. With so many rentals to address and limited resources, the city's strategy for following through will be worth consideration. The code office can help the public appreciate its efforts and remain comfortable with them through regular and transparent updates explaining the progress and areas targeted under the law.