Citizen Feedback Prompts Nevis Council to Rethink Rental Ordinance – Park Rapids Enterprise

Nevis City Council received citizen feedback on March 14 on the Tenancy Ordinance which it approved in July 2021.

The discussion began with council members reviewing their Feb. 14 discussion on postponing rental inspections to accommodate a landlord who planned to be out of town. At that time, the city’s building manager indicated that he would bill the city for mileage, meal costs, and his time for each visit added to his contract.

Mayor Jeanne Thompson said council must now decide whether or not to pass that fee on to the homeowner who requested the additional visit.

Council member Katie Rittgers said she was “torn by this guy as a whole” and wondered if the city could look for a rental inspector who would be more flexible. Thompson pointed out that the official’s contract runs until the 2024 rental inspections.

Council member Teresa Leshovsky pointed out that other building inspectors live in the area.

Thompson suggested that city staff check to see if the official’s contract has a termination clause and start researching alternatives.

Local resident Jeff Stacey admitted he was the owner of the rental whose family vacation plans raised the issue. Due to apparent miscommunication, Stacey objected to being told that he was going to be charged for the rental inspector’s return visit.

“It was very clear that the conversation had to come back to the council to decide what was going to happen to the charges,” Thompson said.

Assistant Clerk Kimberly Wright claimed council decided in February to charge the landlord for the cost of returning the inspector, but Thompson and other council members disputed that.

Meanwhile, Stacey expressed her general disagreement with the rental order. “I think the intention was good,” he said, “but I think it’s an excess, insofar as you give someone permission to come into my house, that I bought and chose to rent to someone.”

He compared it to telling someone you’re going to come in and inspect their house. “I would totally disagree with that,” he said. “The city is imposing this on us, and telling us now that we have to do this, this and this and go through this rent inspection process, and if I violate it, then I can be charged with a misdemeanor and have to pay an additional $250 up to $1,000.

He asked the city to reconsider the ordinance, saying he was told he didn’t need to be present for the inspection, but “this is my house. I make payments on it.

Council member Sue Gray said one of the differences between a rental inspection and entering a private home is that when you rent a property, it becomes a commercial enterprise.

Gray said he was told the inspections went well. “The only issues we had in the 53 rental units in our city right now,” she said, “were a couple of fire alarms that weren’t in place.”

Stacey opposed the order in general and suggested dealing with rental issues based on complaints. Thompson said that would lead to favoritism.

“You have to have a flat result,” she said. “We’re trying to keep our town from going in another direction, much like Akeley did or other communities.”

She said there had been problems, on Nevis and elsewhere, with rental properties taking over, landlords neglecting their property, tenants being poorly taken care of and landlords being contacted by the city saying, “Too bad , I do not care.”

“We had to start somewhere, have some teeth, to be able to solve these problems,” Thompson said. “It’s not only about holding landlords accountable, but it gives you the opportunity as a landlord to come back to your tenant and say, ‘This is what we expect from you as a tenant. ‘”

Gray and Thompson recalled that no rental landlord participated in council’s discussion of the ordinance.

Thompson said they could revisit the issues with the order and asked interested parties to attend and voice their concerns.

Trevor Nicklason, who also owns several rental units in the city, said he didn’t find the rental process that difficult.

Nevertheless, he suggested changing the duration between rental inspections to more than two years.

“My job is rental housing,” Thompson replied, “and if I were to look at any inspector…and say, ‘Yeah, I don’t think you need to come back for five years, we’re good,’ they’ll tell me to fly a kite.

She said the reason for the order, modified from the one used in Park Rapids, is to protect property values ​​and the lives and safety of tenants.

Gray pointed to the town’s high percentage of rental properties and the council’s desire to keep the town at a certain level.

The discussion turned to the “rental agreement for crime-free housing” on the last page of the tenancy ordinance, which Gray said Deputy Josh Oswald asked them to put.

“It protects the landlord and it protects the tenant,” Gray said.

Thompson said the crime-free housing agreement has been embraced by cities across the state, giving landlords “few teeth” to hold problem tenants accountable and giving cities teeth to address the landlord or the tenant.

Council member Blair Reuther said the ordinance allows the city to meddle in private sector affairs. Thompson reiterated that the rental unit is commercial property.

“People who live there still have their privacy and confidentiality, unless there’s something wrong with their behavior,” she said. “Then if it’s illegal, crime-free housing allows us to use it, whether you own the property or own the city.”

Reuther also objected to the Crime-Free contract allowing the city to remove a tenant, which Thompson and Gray denied. Thompson said in her experience, landlords use the document as part of their tenancy agreement, so their tenants understand that if they violate it, their lease can be terminated.

“But it’s a private enterprise,” Reuther said, saying owners should be able to join freely.

“Most cities use the crime-free lease,” Thompson replied.

“Just because you can pass a law doesn’t mean it’s a fair law,” Reuther said.

“So we should just say, go ahead, and anyone can do whatever they want and we have no teeth, the owners have no teeth, and the neighbors who care don’t care about it.” Thompson asked.

“That’s another topic,” Reuther said.

“No, it’s not,” Thompson said. “It’s all part of the same process.”

Back to the drawing board

Gray asked Stacey if he would be willing to sit down with a committee, and he said, “Absolutely.”

Thompson called for a special council workshop to review the tenancy ordinance and make recommendations to the city council for action. She urged all council members to participate and also invited Nicklason.

“It will have to be released, as it will be an open meeting, and others may attend as well,” Thompson said.

Council members agreed to table a discussion on rent inspection fees, and Thompson presented a motion to organize the workshop. After the motion passed, they scheduled it for 6 p.m. Thursday, April 14 at City Hall.

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