Landlords under new rules

By Emily Le Coz | NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – When City Hall reopens today, all landlords should be registered under a new rental program requiring annual permits and routine inspections.
The ordinance officially took effect Jan. 1, but the city was closed for the holidays until today.
Tupelo has some 5,100 rental units owned by an estimated 750 landlords. Each one in the city’s database received a letter in November about the new program. But the city knows some owners aren’t in their files; they’ve been trying to spread the word that those who don’t sign up face $350 fines.
Landlords already in the city’s database but who fail to register also face that fine. However, those who paid Fiscal Year 2012 fees under the old rental program will be exempt from the new schedule until Oct. 1.
The ordinance, adopted late last year by the City Council, requires rental property owners to pay an annual $25-per-unit registration fee and submit to housing inspections every two years. Landlords who keep utilities in their own name will get inspected every six months.
Each of the first two inspections is free, but owners who repeatedly fail them must pay $100 to $400 for subsequent visits. After the fifth consecutive failure, landlords will be brought to court.
Inspections also will be required anytime a unit changes tenants.
The program aims to clean up blighted rental property and improve the general health of all neighborhoods. Proponents also hope it will decrease the overall percentage of rental units and encourage more home ownership, which stabilizes a community.
It’s the second version of the original program launched in January 2007. That version charged landlords $10 a year if they owned one to three units, $30 annually for four to 10 units, and $100 annually if they owned more than 10.
The new ordinance will generate roughly $125,000 annually through registration fees. The funds will help offset the cost of an additional code enforcement officer, bringing Tupelo’s total to three. That officer already has been hired.
The rest of the money will go into the city’s general fund.
emily.lecoz@journalinc.com