Code Enforcement officer Glenn Harris explained to council the need for an ordinance for rental properties. With 560 rental units within the city, the ordinance was cited as a way for the city to provide minimum standards for the protection of life, health, welfare and property of rental residential owners and tenants, as well as that of the general public.
If passed, the ordinance would be used to enforce building, mechanical, plumbing, residential, electric and property maintenance codes governed by the International Code Council. The ordinance will apply to any real property containing one or more rental units within the city limits and incorporated areas of Cherokee Village. The code mandates building and code enforcement officers to serve as rental housing inspectors.
Property owners will be given 90 days to register their properties. Those violating the codes will be given written notification of any violation, along with remedies to correct the infraction. The notices will give landlords 30 days to correct violations.
Land owners may qualify for extensions if they are making a good faith effort to complete repairs and improvements in a timely fashion. To obtain an extension, there must be evidence of extensive work requirements, delays in materials arriving, or delays in contractors completing work because of weather or other factors.
Cases of imminent danger such as fire hazards, structural failures or interruptions or failures of plumbing, heating, and electrical systems, will allow the inspector to order an immediate repair of the residence, or order the home vacated until the repair is completed.
Landlords who violate the ordinance can be prosecuted in municipal court and fined from $150 to $500, if found guilty. The ordinance was read and discussed by council.
Many council members felt the initial fee of $25 to perform inspections was too low. Harris explained it was just a suggested base, and council could determine the cost of the inspections. With added paperwork and time, others were concerned the city might not be able to keep up with the workload without hiring extra employees. That is something the city cannot do because of a hiring freeze currently in place due to financial constraints.
Alderman Lynn Maxedon proposed a $100 fee, but the full council agreed upon a $50 fee for the inspections.
Mayor Lloyd Hefley said, "I am concerned that we have victims out there who are afraid to report the inadequate housing. They are our citizen's and deserve our protection, which is all this is really about."
With several landlords owning between 60-70 properties, Charles Deloach with Planning and Zoning explained it was the council's duty to protect citizens, not landlords. Deloach also explained many of the rental homes are located on area lakes and contain leaking septic systems that landlords will not repair until they are required to do so by the ordinance.
Council also voted to repeal the recent ordinance which established a franchise fee on residents' water bills. City Attorney Jon Abele referred to a letter from Attorney General Dustin McDaniel regarding t the water department's refusal to collect the fee on the grounds it is not a public utility. McDaniel's opinion agreed with the water company, and council voted unanimously to repeal the ordinance due to inability to collect the fee.
Cherokee Village Fire Chief Mike Taylor spoke to council seeking its approval to allow him to apply for a grant for a repeater for the fire department's communication system. Taylor said he had to have a signed resolution prior to submitting the application for the $6,446 repeater. The grant is a full grant, with no cost to the city.
The Cherokee Village City Council meets the third Thursday of each month at 6:30 p.m. The public is invited to attend these meetings.