Fee proposal rewards good Tupelo landlords

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Landlords facing costly city permit fees under a proposed revitalization plan would get some relief in an alternative measure pitched to municipal leaders Monday at City Hall.
Tupelo Development Services Director BJ Teal recommended charging rental property owners an annual $50-per-unit registration fee, and $50 for each of their first two municipal housing inspections. Those who failed inspections after that would pay increasingly higher fees for the third, fourth and fifth visits.
If a unit failed to meet code after the fifth inspection, the city would take the owner to court, Teal said.
Under the new plan, code enforcement officers would inspect each unit every two or three years, or whenever it changed tenants.
Landlords with good properties could expect to pay $100-$150 per unit during inspection years and $50 per unit during non-inspection years.
Those requiring numerous follow-up visits could face up to $800 in fees per unit at inspection time.
That’s compared to the current rental-license program, which charges $10 annually for single-family and duplexes, $30 annually for small apartment complexes and $100 annually for large complexes.
The fee structure proposed in the Tupelo Neighborhood Reinvestment Plan, though, sharply increased the amounts: $240 for single-family rental dwellings and duplexes; $120 per unit for all apartment complexes. Money raised from the higher charges would fund additional code-enforcement officers and demolish more dilapidated structures.
But it caused an uproar among landlords who said they were unfairly targeted by the city as a revenue source. Some City Council members agreed with them and have been pushing for a different fee structure.
“We’ve tried to listen and balance and keep the program moving forward,” said Mayor Jack Reed Jr. during the Monday meeting. “What we’ve heard loud and clear, what we’re trying to balance is, how to separate good landlords and bad landlords.”
Council members met for nearly two hours on the rental fee proposal. It’s one of four strategies recommended in the Tupelo Neighborhood Reinvestment Plan, which was unveiled in March and aims to stabilize the city’s loss of families to outlying areas.
They did not vote on the issue and are not expected to for several weeks.
Other strategies in the plan include a city-funded matching grant of up to $10,000 for home improvements; a low-interest, city-funded home loan of up to $70,000 to help Tupelo buyers with down payment costs; and a city-funded college tuition plan to help Tupelo high school graduates pay for public college.
Council members had discussed the first two strategies in depth during a meeting last week. They’re expected to meet again today to debate the college tuition component.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@journalinc.com.