By JB Clark
SALTILLO – Two Lee County cities have passed rental codes that will require renters to have properties registered and inspected before they can be leased out in an effort to ensure rental property is safe and well-maintained.
The registration programs in Saltillo and Guntown are designed to help cities keep track of rental property and make sure all renters are living in safe environments. The programs protect renters by making sure properties are up to code, and they also help landlords by protecting them from bad tenants.
Saltillo will require an annual registration fee of $50 for all homes and trailer homes and $25 for each duplex or apartment unit being rented. Once registered, the city will inspect the properties to make sure they are in good condition.
“We get a lot of complaints from renters and the people around them about the condition of the property,” said Brian Grissom, building and zoning administrator for Saltillo. “Quite a few of these people can’t get the landlords to do anything.”
Saltillo Mayor Rex Smith said a lot of the areas where they see negligent maintenance are also where they see crime.
“We’re not out to make money off of this – the purpose is to get everything fixed,” Grissom said. “We want to see this stuff either done away with or brought up to a living standard.”
Smith said he hopes no landlord uses the new registration system as an excuse to raise rent prices, since the registration fees have only increased by $4 a month for a 12-month lease.
Landlords and rental property owners in Saltillo who fail to register will be stuck with a $350 fine per property. Landlords who are late will be charged $10 per property per month.
Letters will be mailed to rental property owners beginning July 1 and the registration deadline will be July 15.
“We’ll send out letters July 1 and they’ll have a choice then,” Smith said. “If they know their property won’t pass inspection they can do something with it then.”
In Guntown, rental property owners will be required to fill out a similar registration with a registration fee of $20 per house. The houses also will be inspected annually.
“We’ve had complaints from people renting property who are asking landlords to repair things that should be repaired and aren’t,” said Guntown Mayor Bud Herring. “It’s to protect our renters as well as our landlords. Before a rental we go in and inspect so there is a note if the renter does damage something.”
Guntown rental property owners who fail to register will be fined up to $300 and also face a $10 per month, per property late fee.
Representatives from each municipality also said they don’t intend the new ordinance to be a hurdle, just a system to ensure all rental property is properly and safely maintained, and officials plan to work closely with rental property owners to make the new process a smooth one.
Property owners can go to their city hall to register in either city.