Panel: Scrap rental licensesSuperior’s License and Fees committee is recommending the city scrap its rental license and inspection program.
By: Shelley Nelson, The Daily Telegram
Superior’s License and Fees committee is recommending the city scrap its rental license and inspection program.
The ordinance, adopted last year, would be eliminated because the city has made exemptions for some inspected properties but not others. To put all property inspected by the state or federal government on the list of exemptions would create a giant hole in the program, said Mayor Dave Ross, and leave it underfunded.
When Superior created its rental license program, the Superior Housing Authority was exempt from the program because it undergoes federal inspections and is required to inspect its property annually by Housing and Urban Development for subsidized housing.
“Those that have Section 8 housing and other subsidized housing are in the same position,” Ross said. “We’re just adding another layer of inspection, another whole layer of bureaucracy, onto our landlords who manage or run HUD housing.”
While the Superior Housing Authority’s property — about 464 units — were exempt under the rental license, the organization also has 169 vouchers for Section 8 housing and 92 units in buildings the authority manages but does not own that were not exempt under the city’s rental license program, said Authority director Deb Waterman.
Ross said Bachand Estates LLP, which operates 430 units of HUD subsidized senior housing, brought the problem to his attention. Because the property, like the Superior Housing Authority, is subject to federal inspection, Ross said it only makes sense to exempt it.
Exempting those properties — Ross estimates those and others to make up 25 to 30 percent of licensed property in the city — would make the $165,000 annual cost prohibitive for the city and an unfair burden for landlords, he said.
Ross addressed the committee this morning to ask members to look at the rental license program.
“In moving to exempt that housing, it would put a huge hole in the whole program,” Ross said. “It wouldn’t be financially viable. My concern is if we were challenged in court over assessing a fee, but exempting a similar class of properties, we would lose.” He said exempting one class of HUD housing but not another would be viewed as discriminatory.
Committee members Tom Bridge and Bob Finsland agreed.
Bridge moved for the committee to recommend the council scrap the entire rental license program and any landlords who have already applied for their rental licenses to receive a refund. Councilors are expected to consider that recommendation March 18.
Finsland said the city will look at other options, such as stepped-up enforcement of substandard housing as an alternative to an inspection program.
But one of the casualties of defeating the license proposal could mean that landlords would no longer be required to carry liability insurance on their properties.
Ross, a strong proponent of the insurance requirement, suggested the city should review that as a separate issue.
“I don’t like passing ordinances that don’t have an enforcement mechanism,” he said.
Contact Shelley Nelson at (715) 395-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org.