DUBOIS – A proposed ordinance regarding rental properties led to a beyond standing room only crowd filling the DuBois City Council’s chambers on Monday night.
The crowd, which consisted of mostly landlords and property managers, spilled into the waiting area. Some wanted answers, some wanted to give their thoughts and some wanted to give support.
Council Bill No. 1908 was first read at last Thursday’s work session meeting, according to the minutes. The proposed ordinance would require the registration of residential rental units and of non-dwelling, vacant buildings.
According to some of the landlords and property managers who spoke at the council meeting, the proposed ordinance included provisions for inspecting the properties.
Council has proposed the ordinance in an attempt to promote health and safety for the city’s tenant population due to calls from tenants and lawyers regarding abusive landlords and recent methamphetamine labs.
Council stated methamphetamine labs were recently located on city properties. Council also stated that in addition to tenant complaints, landlords have called to turn off a tenant’s water as a negotiation tactic.
Some landlords believed that they were being discriminated against by city officials. They argued that there is not much difference between a rental property and a private property.
“[It is] because of the problems we have with safety and health are coming out of rental properties,” said City Solicitor Toni Cherry. Some countered her response, noting the courts have ruled against similar laws singling out rental owners.
“This is a definable class. There are reasons it is being singled out. It will hold up constitutionally,” said Cherry. Still, landlords did not see the point of the proposed ordinance.
Landlords said if there were incidents of abuse or other issues, these would be best handled under existing ordinances.
A landlord stated if a tenant missed their rent payment, he would begin to pressure the city to turn off the water. He pointed out that the city has put more pressure on property owners to make sure they pay their water bills.
Landlords stated they did not want to pay for a non-paying tenant’s water. They stated the city would turn the water off after enough non-payments anyway.
A DuBois resident, Gregg Gillaugh, who lives near rental properties, stated that he wasn’t saying anyone was a bad landlord. However, he didn’t want any good landlords negatively impacted by the proposed ordinance.
“Landlords need to be held accountable for their properties,” he stated. Gillaugh also indicated that he would not be opposed to private homes being subject to similar restrictions.
Councilmembers Jim Aughenbaugh and Randy Schmidt were not present at the work session for the reading of the proposed ordinance. Toward the end of the meeting, Schmidt said he still hasn’t read it yet himself.