Council likely to OK rental fees

By Emily Le Coz | NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The City Council is expected to adopt a new rental housing ordinance today that will impose an annual $25-per-unit registration fee on landlords and generate $125,000 annually for the city.
It will replace the current ordinance, which has been criticized by city planning officials as too time consuming and cost prohibitive. That ordinance, adopted about five years ago, had required landlords to pay between $10 to $100 annually depending on how many rental units they own and allowed them unlimited housing inspections.
It had generated about $15,000 annually and increased Development Services Department staff workload by more than 1,000 percent.
The new ordinance will charge a flat, per-unit fee and allow two free housing inspections every two years or whenever a unit changes tenants. Owners who fail to pass inspections after the first two times would have to pay for subsequent visits by the city inspectors: $100 for the third time; $200 the fourth time; $400 the fifth.
If problems persisted after that, officials would write a citation and let the court system handle it.
Inspections cover a variety of areas, including sanitary facilities, food preparation facilities, electrical service and lighting, heating and cooling, doors, windows, ventilation and more.
Most council members said Monday they support the plan.
Tupelo has more than 5,100 rental units, and while some are sources of blight, city leaders acknowledge not all landlords are bad. That’s why they wanted a program that penalized slumlords without dinging good owners. The ones who keep their properties up to code won’t get hit with large fees for multiple reinspections. Those who do will end up paying more or decide the costs aren’t worth it and abandon the business.
The fees will generate an estimated $125,000 annually for the city and will offset the costs of an additional code enforcement officer. Any additional revenues will go into Tupelo’s general fund budget.
If it passes, the new fees would take effect in January. The city would spend the rest of the year notifying rental property owners of the changes. Those who fail to register would face a $350 penalty.
emily.lecoz@journalinc.com