(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Tuesday's Administrative Review Board meeting turned into just the latest battle between St. Joseph landlords and City Hall.
Landlords thought they had negotiated a compromise with the city to make a new rental inspection program voluntary for property owners. However, at Monday night's city council meeting, a motion was approved to make it mandatory.
"(It happened) at the last minute with almost no notice," said lanlord Dennis Burnett, who was at both the city council meeting and Administrative Review Board meeting Tuesday.
But Burnett and others were not getting a sympathetic ear from board members. The chair of the board, Mike Grimm, says his members have been pushing the city for a mandatory inspection program for the past four years.
"The number one thing that rental inspections do is create a safe environment for the renters," Grimm said.
Grimm added that a voluntary program wasn't getting enough support from landlords, saying there would not have been adequate participation
"At some point it would have to become mandatory to take care of the, I don't want to say slumlords, but we had to find a way to take care of the substandard property," he said.
Burnett and other landlords against the mandate say they support safe housing but stress the age of many St. Joseph rental properties might make it difficult to pass a stringent inspection.
"Every house in St. Joseph, there's a lot of 80 year old houses, they're all not going to pass a new house inspection," Brunett said.
He says that the cost of getting many of these properties up to proper code would be an expense directly passed on, perhaps making it cost-prohibitive to many low-income renters.
"It will end up that some houses will not pass and the people living in them will not be able to afford an increase of $200 per month in rent to bring them up to code," he said.
However, on a 5-3 vote Monday night, city council members said they want to push ahead.
"I'm proud to say that as a council, we're finally willing to attack something even as controversial as it might be with some people in this community," said council member Brian Myers.
Grimm said St. Joseph is one of the only cities of its size in Missouri that does not have any kind of rental inspection program, mandatory or otherwise.
City staff are now charged with coming up with the language for any kind of proposed new ordinance.
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