After studying the proposed changes over several weeks, the Tupelo City Council approved adding an annual due date and clarifying a timeline for the imposition of penalties when landlords don’t comply.
Now all rental registrations will expire on Sept. 30, and a new year will be due Oct. 1. If annual registration is not paid within six months of Oct. 1, a citation will be issued requiring a mandatory court appearance requesting revocation of the certificate of occupancy for each unit and payment of all due rental fees. The planning department will send out annual reminders ahead of the deadline.
If a unit is rented without a current registration, there is a penalty of $350 on top of the $25 per rental unit fee. New rental properties established after Oct. 1 will have annual fees prorated for the actual months of rental use.
The city’s landlords have largely been cooperative with the new rental code over the past year, said BJ Teal, director of development services for the city during the deliberations over the rental code. They have been working with rental property owners in the city’s newly annexed areas since September to bring them into compliance.
Christopher Rakestraw, who is in the process of renovating three rental properties at the corner of North Green Street, said he supports the city’s efforts to raise the standards for rental housing in the city.
“I’ve created higher standards for myself,” said Rakestraw, who owns Christopher Ryan Designs, and he believes other rental property owners should maintain their property to a set of community standards. “If they don’t, there needs to be some corrections by the city.”
In January 2012, the city launched the rental program requiring annual permits and routine inspections. The program aimed to clean up blighted rental property and improve the general health of all neighborhoods.
In 2012, the city received more than $100,000 in rental code fees, which help offset the cost for a third code enforcement officer. The remainder of the money goes into the city’s general fund.