As proposed on July 6, the ordinance would require periodic inspections of rental properties, apply the city's building code to residential rental properties and require inspection at least every two years.
Alderman-at-Large Scott Dunnam, the bill's sponsor, said the focus is on safety.
"It would require smoke detectors, ground-fault circuit interrupters, other safety equipment," he said. "Certain things would be grandfathered in if they're working well."
Dunnam said he has seen several unsafe rentals and gotten reports of many others. Among the failures was plywood simply laid over rotted floors and unconnected sewer pipes that simply dumped sewage on the ground.
"A social worker friend of mine noticed one where the back door and the windows had been nailed shut," he said. "That's really dangerous in a fire situation."
The building inspector would have the authority of a law officer to enforce the ordinance and to enter properties if he has reasonable cause to believe the building is dangerous for occupation.
Broker and rental owner Harry Vinson said media accounts had portrayed opponents of the ordinance unfairly.
"It almost makes it seem like the people who were against the proposed ordinance were against having electricity, running water and other basics," he said. "Any sensible, reasonable person that owns property expects the basics to be provided."
Vinson said one of his biggest beefs is that building officials can take their time making inspections and approving permits.
"They can absolutely cost you two to three months' rent every time you change renters," he said. "They're going to come in on their time frame.
"I'm not against regulation," Vinson said. "I'm just against over-regulation."
Bookstore owners Jack and Bethany Dalton, who own two rental properties, said the city probably needs some of the provisions in Dunnam's proposal, but only if city officials actually mean it.
"If they would just enforce current ordinances, a lot of our problems would be solved - junked cars, litter, unkempt houses, condemned houses," Jack Dalton said.
"Some houses have a 'condemned' sign on them that have been like that for two or three or four years," Bethany Dalton said. "There are some properties where multiple cars are there all the time, and you know there are multiple families living there. Standards are going to be set; the question is who is going to set the standards?"
Both Dunnam and Vinson agree.
"We don't enforce some of the ones we have," Dunnam said. "That falls directly back to the building inspector, and we plan to have a meeting with him on it."
Vinson said, "We've got ordinances in effect that cover all the basic problems that people are concerned with.
"Uninformed people are saying we need more laws," he said. "It's that the ordinances we have are not being enforced."