NEW ALBANY — An ordinance to regulate rental properties in New Albany was amended after a contentious city council meeting Monday.

A standing-room-only crowd packed the third-floor assembly room to voice opinions about the ordinance, which required property owners to obtain a rental permit for each property and register their contact information with the city no later than Jan. 31, 2017.

Under the ordinance, a Rental Housing Code would establish minimum maintenance standards; set the responsibilities of owners, operators and occupants of rental buildings and rental units; and provide for administration, enforcement and penalties ranging up to $2,500 for repeated infractions such as failure to obtain a rental permit or violating provisions of the code. The ordinance also called for the inspection of rental housing properties based on a complaint as permitted by ordinance and state statute.

After more than two hours of discussion, Councilman Greg Phipps, who proposed the ordinance, agreed to split the ordinance, and the amended measure, containing only the registration portion, passed unanimously. The deleted provisions will be addressed at a later date. The amended ordinance faces a third reading March 17.

A committee working on the ordinance did not have rental property owners or renters as members, but a news release from New Albany Mayor Jeff Gahan’s office indicated an unidentified real estate agent served as an adviser.

“I’m pleased to hear that the City of New Albany is moving forward by passing legislation to require rental registration for all rental properties within the city limits," said Gahan in a news release following the meeting. "Rental registrations and inspections have been under consideration by previous administrations and city councils for over a decade. This action is a major step toward improving living conditions for all residents and property owners in New Albany. Unfortunately, the rental property inspection component was stripped from ordinance G-15-05.”  

City attorney Shane Gibson addressed a work session on the ordinance immediately before the council meeting.

“Our police and fire departments spend hours trying to track down owners when there’s a problem," he said. "Registration is the biggest aspect.”

City Building Commissioner David Brewer spoke in support of the ordinance during the work session, saying, “We’re a 200-year-old city. We’ve got buildings that deteriorate every time it rains. I deal with them every day. I’ve some of the worst of the worst.”

During the council meeting, the majority of the more than 25 residents signed up to speak expressed support for the registration of owners, but held deep concerns with other aspects, such as fines and penalties and the inspection rules.

Speakers expressed concerns about the city’s ability to handle the number of inspections called for by the ordinance, the perception of many landlords that they are being targeted while problem tenants are not being addressed and the fact that only rental properties are included.

Russell Kruer, a broker/owner with RE/MAX Results, spoke against the ordinance, citing issues he has faced in getting the city to address some concerns at properties he owns.

“I am tired of taking care of the city’s issues when they’re not taking care of mine,” he said. “I can’t get the city to return my calls.”

Sandy Hamish with Hamish Properties said her company manages over 100 properties in New Albany.

“Owners have told me they want no part of this. They will sell. Tenants have told me they’re going to move” because they don’t want their privacy invaded by an inspection.

Check back later for updates to this article.

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