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Monday, October 08, 2007

Suburbs get tough with single-family rentals

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Blogger Bob said...

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Suburbs get tough with single-family rentals
Complaints from neighbors prompt stricter license rules and landlord education efforts
BY MARICELLA MIRANDA
Pioneer Press
Article Launched: 10/08/2007 12:01:00 AM CDT


The 'burbs - once known for owner-occupied neighborhoods - are changing.

Police in many locales say they get an earful from neighbors about the "one house" on their block. It's the place known for the junkers in the driveway, the blaring noise and the revolving door of new occupants.

Renters are moving into more houses next door.

A slow housing market is turning many single-family suburban houses into rentals, creating a new group of inexperienced landlords managing properties for the first time.

Complaints about mismanaged rentals are leading cities to establish new or stricter licensing and registration requirements to monitor properties and educate landlords.

"A lot of the cities are just trying to keep up," said Louis Jambois, executive director of the Association of Metropolitan Municipalities. "Cities are taking a proactive role to try to get information out to landlords about city standards."

Even relatively new neighborhoods are seeing more single-family rentals.

The city of Apple Valley in August began to discuss establishing a free registration requirement for all rentals. The police department introduced the idea after fielding repeated complaints about the poor conditions of specific houses. Police have investigated the complaints and determined many of the properties are rentals.

"It appears there's more rental housing - especially single-family - embedding into neighborhoods," Apple Valley Police Chief Scott Johnson said. "We're being proactive. Most of it is well maintained. We just want to get ahead of the curve here."

The city last year began the Neighborhood Collaboration Officer Program, an umbrella for crime-free multihousing and neighborhood watch programs. The effort tracks code violations and encourages crime-free rentals, which can lead to fewer police calls.

But many single-family rentals don't participate in the program.

By requiring those rentals to register with the city, police will have a more complete list of Apple Valley rental properties and landlord contact information.

"Right now, what we have is just anecdotal information," Johnson said.

Unlike most city rental licenses, the proposed rental registration in Apple Valley would not require property inspections. City staff are drafting the ordinance and expect the City Council to review the proposed changes later this year.

"The goal certainly is not to reduce the amount of rental housing. The goal we have is to make sure the rental housing we have is crime-free," Johnson said. "Apple Valley is not alone here. It's an issue on the forefront of city councils throughout the state."

The stagnant housing market has left many real estate investors with properties they planned to sell or renovate for a profit, Jambois said. Homeowners struggling with high mortgages - and with limited hope of selling - also are turning their properties into rentals.

Anoka created a rental-license requirement last year to ensure safe and clean housing, Anoka City Manager Tim Cruikshank said. But while city officials initially thought many single-family homes were turning into rentals, they discovered once properties became licensed that their predictions were wrong.

Anoka has 425 licensed rentals, of which 126 are single-family homes.

In South St. Paul, however, officials are noticing a rise in single-family rental homes.

In an older city like South St. Paul, adult children who inherited their parents' homes are converting them into rentals, City Administrator Stephen King said.

"There's just a sense that you're not seeing a cohesive neighborhood," he said.

All rental units in South St. Paul must be inspected by the fire department and pay $80 for a four-year license. South St. Paul officials are reviewing the Safer Tenants and Rentals program, adopted last year in Burnsville and implemented in cities throughout the metro area.

The program rewards landlords by reducing code-violation fees and reinstating revoked property licenses when they attend housing meetings and cooperate with evictions and background-check reports on tenants and employees.

Woodbury also uses the STAR program and requires a rental license for complexes with four or more rental units. The city does not regulate single-family rentals.

Before this year, St. Paul also limited tracking of rental buildings to those with three or more units. St. Paul changed its rental registration program in January.

The city revamped the program - a change proposed 10 years ago - after discovering many single-family rentals were violating city code.

Today, the city requires all rentals to be licensed and undergo an interior inspection by the fire marshal, said Bob Kessler, director of the Department of Safety and Inspections. That added 10,500 single-family and duplex rentals to the city's code inspections program. Kessler expects the city will complete first inspections of all rentals in 20 months.

"It's been a huge increase and responsibility for us," he said.

Maricella Miranda can be reached at mmiranda@pioneer press.com or 651-228-5421.

8:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Same old dirty deal, they have trouble with people so they go after a house. In 5 years they'll be wondering why it didn't work! School kids could do a btter job.

9:41 PM  

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