Latest from Hemet – cash strapped disaster area now shaking down landlords

16 Aug

Landlords wishing to rent out their properties in Hemet will now be required to register with the city.

The City Council voted 4-1 in favor of the registry program Tuesday, Aug. 13. Shellie Milne, who cast the no vote, said she is in favor of the ordinance, but not the idea that property owners will have to pay for both a business license and to register for the program.

“I certainly don’t want to punish the many, many, many good landlords we have,” Milne said.

The ordinance seeks to address substandard housing, maintenance and living conditions at rental properties that affect residents and neighborhoods, and lower property values, according to a report from Community Development Director Deanna Elliano.

It would hold absentee or poor landlords accountable for their properties and tenants, she added.

The idea came out of the Restoring Our Community Strategy citizens’ advisory committee, the 15th ordinance borne from ROCS, which was started to improve the quality of life in Hemet.

“This is what ROCS is about,” committee member Frank Gorman said.

The ordinance is aimed primarily at apartment complexes and single-family homes or duplexes not occupied by the owner. Most senior mobile home parks are not part of the program.

“It’s a shift from a reactive to proactive code-enforcement program,” Elliano said.

Under the ordinance, a property owner seeking to rent out a residence must first complete a registration form and pay registration and inspection fees.

Properties would be inspected each year to identify substandard or unsafe conditions or lack of maintenance.

In addition, property owners or their managers must complete a Crime-Free Housing seminar.

Registration must be renewed annually unless the property has a “Good Landlord” designation, which allows for renewal every three years. That designation would go to properties that are in compliance with city codes and that do not produce a lot of police activity.

“Ideally we’d like to have all the properties in the ‘Good Landlord’ standing,” Elliano said.

The fee will be set at a future council meeting. Elliano said other cities average about $88 for similar programs.

That money would cover the costs of getting the property’s information and for inspections. Additional fees would be charged if inspectors have to return to a property.

The fees are not intended to make a profit, but cover the costs of the program, Elliano said.

Owners of rental properties are supposed to pay $40, plus $1 per unit, for a license to operate in the city. But many don’t Elliano said, and finding those properties, especially single-family homes, could prove difficult.

Elliano said the city could compare names on water bills to tax rolls and also rely on business licenses and title companies.

Refusal to register a property could result in an administrative citation, and continued non-registration could lead to the landlord not being authorized to rent the unit, Elliano said.

The city could potentially place a lien on a property if the owner does not maintain it or correct the sub-standard housing conditions, and the city has to fix the nuisance. Properties that continue to have a history of code violations that go uncorrected could be subject to court action.

The registry will be phased in, with apartment complexes expected to comply by Dec. 31 and single-family homes and duplexes by July 1.

Follow Craig Shultz on Twitter @PE_CraigShultz and online at blog.pe.com/author/cshultz

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