Hart’s growing rental housing market sparks need for inspections

April 23, 2014

By Allison Scarbrough.

OCP Editor.

HART – Approximately 25 percent of housing in the city is rental property, and officials are aiming to regulate it.

City council discussed Tuesday night the need for inspections of rental property, and it is getting closer to making those inspections mandatory.

Last November, Mayor Fred LaPorte appointed five members to a housing board of review consisting of himself, councilmen Chuck Collard and Fred Rybarz and local landlords Bill Burd and Paul Hodges. Local contractor Randy Miller was appointed rental dwelling inspector.

The board had its kick-off meeting last Tuesday and is set to meet next Tuesday, April 29 at 7 p.m. in city hall. The meetings are open to the public.

“After the (April 29) meeting, we will try to have something for the board of review to recommend that council act on,” City Manager Stan Rickard told the city council. “We have the potential to do something good for the city.”

The inspections are aimed at making rental housing better for city residents. “It’s to make things safe for tenants,” said Councilman Fred Rybarz.

The city currently has an ordinance that deals with “dangerous and neglected properties,” Rickard said. “And the police department can react to things such as junk cars and noise complaints.” Currently the city has no ordinance that deals with substandard living conditions, such as exterior appearance, plumbing standards, electrical wiring, lighting in public halls, locking devices on exterior doors, smoke detectors, parking, space and occupancy requirements and other common rental issues.

The city plans to eventually inspect all rental property and to address complaints when they are received. The landlords will be responsible for the inspection fee.

Hart has a high amount of rental property in the city limits, but it is not uncommon, Rickard said. “How did we get here? Foreclosures have created more rentals,” he told the council.