Landlords vent on proposed rental ordinance

Published 9:16 am Friday, June 20, 2014

The Bogalusa City Council meeting Tuesday was packed with landlords looking to express their dissatisfaction with a proposed ordinance related to inspection of rental properties.

The ordinance was introduced at the June 3 meeting by Councilman Michael Oree, who made a motion to table it during the June 17 meeting.

After the council approved tabling the measure, Council President Doug Ritchie explained that there is still work to be done on it. He said the council understands the ordinance is not in a good form and changes will need to be made.

The ordinance would have provided for inspection of rental houses in Bogalusa before occupancy by a tenant can begin.

Its provisions included that the city must be notified by landlords before a new occupant can move into a property and that the city’s Public Works Department will inspect the property and issue an occupancy permit if the property passes inspection. The home would need to comply with specified inspection points.

An item that drew much discussion from landlords, the tabled ordinance also stated that failure to comply with the provisions would be a misdemeanor punishable by Section 1-13 of the Bogalusa Municipal Code.

One Bogalusa rental property owner, Jenny Anthony, said she understands the reasoning behind the ordinance, in wanting to make sure people have a safe place to live, but also pointed out several issues with the ordinance.

Additionally, she and several others alerted the council to the fact that landlords often have to spend a great deal of money after tenants vacate a property, repairing damage those occupants have done.

She said she and her fellow landlords would like to work with the city during the process of revising the ordinance.

“If you want our input on the wording, we’re happy to help,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be an adversarial thing.”

Among other questions, Barbara Hicks-Collins of Bogalusa asked when the tabled ordinance would come before the council again.

Vice President Wendy O’Quinn Perrette responded that it could possibly ready for further consideration by the next meeting, and that City Council agendas are posted the Friday before meeting days.

Malinda White, also a landlord in Bogalusa, said that people in the housing business should provide good, safe homes, and she thanked the council for working to ensure all will follow that practice.

She said, however, that much of the confusion and many of the problems with the ordinance could have been avoided if it had been reviewed properly prior to introduction.

“You’re tweaking it now. It wouldn’t have to be tweaked had we done our homework to begin with,” she said.

During his administrative remarks, Mayor Charles Mizell, who owns rental property in the city, provided some thoughts on the ordinance.

He said he has had renters who have destroyed things or failed to clean up, too. All landlords know the risk they are taking in that business, he said.

Continuing, he said the ordinance came about after a number of complaints were received by the city from renters in regard to issues with their water bills, as some tenants were unaware of problems with their water pipes.

“I think most of you here today would agree with me that it is our responsibility as landlords to deliver a house free of defects in gas, water and electrical,” he said, in a statement met by approval from many in the room.

“If we have a consensus on that, I’m happy, because that’s where I wanted to go with this whole thing,” he added.

Council members will continue with their discussion of the ordinance, Mizell said.

“Please do work with them. I want this to be your ordinance,” he said.