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Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Neglectful landlords measure pending


Checking back

On May 28, an Enquirer editorial called for the city of Cincinnati to crack down landlords who own neglected properties. So far the administration is still working on the two proposals - one from city Councilman David Pepper, and another from Councilman Pat DeWine. Pepper said he is eager to get the proposals addressed, and anticipates action once the August summer break ends.

Blighted properties can undermine the value and aesthetics of a neighborhood. But it's difficult to deal with problem properties without having basic information about the owners.

The editorial looked at segments of both proposals.

Pepper's plan, introduced in April, called for mandatory registration of all rental property owners listing names and telephone numbers in case enforcement action is needed. The plan called for the city to create a database of problem properties and perform repeat inspections for two years. Costs would be paid from user fees charged to landlords for inspections.

Pepper opposes licensing landlords or charging a fee to register.

DeWine's plan differs, because it would not require mandatory registration. Instead, landlords would be required to post a sign with contact names and telephone numbers on-site, which is favored by the Greater Cincinnati Apartment Association. He would exempt owner-occupied properties from posting signs.

DeWine's plan would also target landlords who own more than two properties in the city; have a history of violating health, building and safety codes; and have caused a high number of police runs. He proposes that the city's Code Enforcement Response Team create a list of Cincinnati's worst rental property owners, and that at least one citywide inspector be assigned to examine those properties twice a year.

Those who fail to bring their properties into compliance would be taken to Housing Court. DeWine's plan is rooted in a similar approach that has worked well in Minneapolis, partly because chronic problem-property owners face the same Housing Court judge and inspector.

There are plenty of options to choose from between the two proposals.

As we said in May, we encourage city officials to make sure the law targets only irresponsible landlords, and does not place an additional financial burden on landowners who are struggling. If done well, the result of any new law will be less blight in neighborhoods and property values that are either stable or rising. And that would contribute to a favorable quality of life for the whole city.

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Periodically, the Enquirer will follow up on an issue that has been discussed on the editorial page. If you know of any issues previously addressed on these pages that you would like an update on, let us know, and we'll check it out. Call Ray Cooklis at (513) 768-8525; or e-mail rcooklis@enquirer.com




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