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Council hits pause on rental-inspection plan

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council kasperbauer 20-02-10

Carroll landlord Leo Kasperbauer says a proposed city inspection plan for rental units amounts to a government overreach that will make living in Carroll more expensive for the working class.

Carroll’s City Council Monday night delayed implementation of a sweeping new ordinance requiring inspections and permitting of rental properties as landlords and their allies packed City Hall and ran through a laundry list of concerns about costs and what many of them believe to be unwarranted government intrusion into private matters.

Citing potential fire-safety and health concerns, city officials say they expect to move forward with regular rental inspections, but will allow more time for property owners to air out issues.

“We’re not out to get anybody,” Mayor Eric Jensen said. “We’re out to get the standards up.”

Councilman LaVern Dirkx said the city has a responsibility to make sure living situations are safe for its residents. Renters need a tool for recourse if they spot potential hazards or other problems in their houses and apartments, he said.

“There are some units out there that are in trouble,” Dirkx said. “We have no way of getting in those without this.”

Longtime Carroll landlord Leo Kasperbauer said the city is overreaching and duplicating oversight, as property owners already have to meet standards for insurance companies and in some cases with the federal government. What’s more, he said, it’s not fair to hoist a higher standard on rental properties than owner-occupied houses in Carroll, many of which Kasperbauer contended are in disrepair.

“This is discrimination against landlords,” said Kasperbauer, 68, who noted that he has had rental properties for 40 years.

Landlord Don Kanne said it make more sense for the city to focus on incenting new housing development with tax abatement than installing regulations.

“Put this in the bottom drawer and forget it,” Kanne said.

Landlord Mern Irlbeck said that if the city is going to get into the rental inspection business, it should be fair to property owners and help them recoup money from derelict tenants.

She also wants more communication from police if tenants are being investigated or charged with offenses.

“If we’re going to have this, I think we should be notified of things happening at our homes,” Irlbeck said.

The rental housing ordinance would allow for inspections based on complaints or on an every-three-year schedule. The annual permit fees would be $35 per first unit in a rental complex and $10 for each additional unit, with the inspection costs ranging from $35 to $55.

Kasperbauer said the landlords would assess the costs to tenants.

“We’re going to pass it on,” he said.

Other landlords said the inspection plan will hike rents, making it more difficult for working-class people to live in Carroll.

Fire prevention is a major focus on the rental housing inspection plan, which will require all bedrooms in rental properties to have working smoke alarms.

There are detailed requirements on other living conditions, such as clear access to exits, and plumbing and heating standards.

“This rental housing ordinance is minimum life-safety standards,” said Carroll Fire Greg Schreck in an interview after the council meeting. “That’s all we’re after. I don’t think we’re trying to impose anything that’s overburdensome on landlords and that kind of thing, but it protects the people that are renting their properties.”

Added Councilman Jerry Fleshner, “It’s all about safety. That’s the main issue.”

The City Council will hold a workshop on the proposed Rental Housing Code on Monday, March 9. In order to make effective use of everyone’s time during the workshop, the city is soliciting comments that will be included in the material presented to the council during the workshop. Comments received by 5 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 27 will be included in the material presented to the council. All of the comments, along with discussion by city staff on each of the comments, will be available on the city’s website by 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 5. Comments can be emailed to cityofcarroll@cityofcarroll.com or delivered to Carroll City Hall at 627 N. Adams St. Those with questions can call the city at 712-792-1000.

In other business, the City Council:

— Appointed Mary Bruner to the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Advisory Committee; Jonathan Campbell to the Board of Adjustment; and Brenda Hogue to the Library Board of Trustees.

— Proclaimed Feb. 23 as Rotary Day in Carroll. Rotary, an international service organization, was founded in 1905 in Chicago.

Approved a 30-minute parking space on the 100 block of Clark Street near the Kuemper Catholic School offices.

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