Council tables possible housing ordinance, workshop to be held in the future

WASHINGTON — Concern over a proposed ordinance that would hold landlords responsible for the actions of their tenants garnered a small crowd at the Washington City Council meeting Tuesday night.

At its last meeting, the council passed the first reading of an ordinance that would hold landlords responsible if their tenants are causing a disturbance. Mayor Jaron Rosien said the idea came about because after talking with Washington Police Chief Jim Lester, not every call the police respond to is a crime.

Charla Howard, a landlord in Washington, spoke to the council and said she was attending the meeting to gather more information. Howard said she heard about the proposed ordinance through friends and questioned why the council did not send out a flyer to all landlords in the area informing them of the upcoming vote.

She said she wanted to know what rights the landlord had if the tenant needed to be evicted and what language could be put into the lease to protect the landlord. She said although she and her husband Steve go to great lengths to ensure they have desirable tenants, some slip through the cracks.

Several other community members spoke up with apprehension over the proposed ordinance. Roger Letts said he has four homes in Washington and was concerned about losing money if he needed to evict someone because of the ordinance.

He said if he begins the eviction process, it could take months, which will result in no income from the property. He was also concerned the tenant would potentially trash the dwelling in retaliation, which would result in more costs to the landlord. Lance said he did not oppose the ordinance, but did oppose the potential for loosing money.

Council member Fran Stigers said he felt the proposed ordinance was aimed at landlords who are not cognizant of what is going on at their properties and is a way to encourage them to take better care of their property. Fellow member Elaine Moore agreed, saying she felt the issue came down to a matter of respect.

City council member Brendan DeLong said he was in favor of the ordinance because he believes the town has a problem when it comes to disorderly homes. He said when the ordinance was first introduced he was concerned about the language but after reading it over felt it needed to be passed in order to enforce the existing ordinance.

“I want the landlords to know we are not coming after then with pitchforks on this matter, we are just trying to hold landlords somewhat accountable for their tenants. I think most of us agree that we go to the tenants first and don’t go straight to the landlords with problems,” he said.

No action was taken on the matter and the council tabled the discussion by a vote of 5-0. Council member Danielle Pettit-Majewski was absent. A workshop session will be held in the near future for landlords to express their thoughts and concerns to the council as they look for a way to move forward with the ordinance.

Anyone with questions is encouraged to contact city hall or their city counselor. All contact information can be found on the city website.