An ill-maintained neighborhood can lower property values and drive away new residents, hurting homeowners and landlords alike. Because of this, the city of Chisholm, Minn. is considering the possibility of developing a rental property ordinance that would set new standards for these properties. However, city authorities seem unable to agree on the right course of action for this ordinance: on Monday, March 16, the Chisholm held a working session to discuss the matter, almost a year after residents initially announced their concerns about blighted properties in the area.
In 2014, city councilors Tracy Campbell, Todd Scaia, and former Councilor Collen Drow formed a subcomittee to bring the matter before the Planning and Zoning Commission. On Monday, they finally presented a potential ordinance to the council they had modeled after a similar program in Fergus Falls, Minn. However, Scaia appeared frustrated with this slow progress and suggested that the council either adopt the ordinance or move on.
Unfortunately, Chisholm doesn’t seem to be ready to move forward, as many new ideas were introduced during the meeting. For example, officials discussed creating a rental property registry, which would require landlords to have their properties inspected every two years to be eligible for a renting permit. The registry would also help law enforcement and other agencies contact landlords during other incidents, including blight. Currently, the city building official’s office and the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) have few resources to track down these landlords, a problem which contributed to a recent animal hoarding case in the area.
The councilors also agreed that the ordinance must be easy for local landlords to understand, especially because the current inspection requirements are fairly lax: while Section 8 and other government-funded housing already require regular checks, other properties are only examined by the City Building and Zoning official, Steve Erickson, during construction. This means there is nothing to ensure that these buildings continue to meet basic safety requirements. This likely contributes to a number of problems in the local housing industry: many properties have a high turnover rate, and property owners often aren’t from the Chisholm area.
This situation isn’t uncommon. Many landlords throughout the United States own rental property in other municipalities and even different states, and the temporary nature of renting can lead to a steady stream of different residents. However, unlike Chisholm, other areas have successfully established ordinances to ensure that rental properties are taken care of. Likewise, rental management services are often used to ensure that properties are well-maintained even if the owner is busy or lives far away.
“Management Companies are key to keeping a property from becoming blighted,” says Joe Ord, President, Amoso Properties. “A Management Company will perform inspections for an owner without being required to do so by a municipality.”
Despite their earlier haste, Councilors Kevin Scaia and Mary Jo Rahja eventually admitted that many questions remained as the meeting drew to a close, including several concerns that needed to be discussed with City Attorney Lou Cianni, who was absent. As a result, the working session was recessed until Wednesday, March 18. For the moment, it appears that Chisholm’s potential rental property ordinance and the value of its housing will continue to wait.