ELYRIA — An impromptu proposal from City Council President Mike Lotko finally got Council to make some headway on establishing a rental registration program in the city.
His pitch nixes the idea of interior and exterior inspections of rental dwellings in the city, and instead calls for property owners to tell city officials who they are and how to find them. Several department leaders have said that has been an issue when an emergency arises at a home and they have no idea who owns the property.
Lotko, D-at large, who also is a landlord, brought the proposal to fellow Council members Tuesday night during a joint Finance and Community Development Committee meeting. He said his biennial program would start Jan. 1 and it will give property owners 90 days to register rental homes with the city.
“We need the name, address and phone number of the owner,” Lotko said. “We need that for the safety and health of the community so the police, health or fire departments know who to contact in the event of an emergency.”
A property owner would pay a flat fee based on the number of properties he or she owns — one to four properties would be $25, five to 49 is $50 and 50 or more is $100. Lotko said per-unit fees would not be needed because the information is basic data entry. Registration would go through the Building Department and cross-checked with the Utilities Department to identify landlords who do not comply.
Councilman Vic Stewart, D-at large, also head of the Finance Committee, said the proposal, which will go to full Council for a vote Monday, is a start. By separating the registration and inspection of properties, the issue can move forward while Council continues to discuss if more should be done.
“We are starting here,” he said. “We know at the end of the day not everyone is going to be happy, but it’s a start.”
Lotko said he came up with the proposal after speaking with landlords, real estate agents and property owners in town.
“No matter what option they had, we weren’t going to get the bad landlords that are causing the problems,” Lotko said. “They are not coming to the meetings because they are not going to comply with any program we put together.”
A $100 fine is being proposed for not registering.
Mayor Holly Brinda said she heard Lotko’s proposal for the first time Tuesday.
“We would have liked some kind of heads-up because we will be the ones who have to implement any proposed program,” she said.
“But we embrace any movement forward. This is a first step and hopefully we can move rapidly toward a more aggressive program that includes interior and exterior inspections.”
Brinda is steadfast in her belief a more aggressive rental registration program is needed if the city wants to see its housing stock rebound. That sentiment is shared by Councilman Mark Jessie, D-3rd Ward.
In recent weeks, Jessie has been the lone Council member championing extensive property inspections. He said visiting homes in Elyria as well as other comparable cities with well-established programs — Lakewood, Cleveland Heights and South Euclid — led him to believe those who rent in the city need more support to ensure homes are up to code.
Lotko said that can be achieved with stricter code enforcement citywide.
“The Building Department should be more aggressive with all property owners regardless if they own rental units or live in their homes,” he said. “It can be complaint driven, but also they can get out there and do their jobs and see what is going on.”