Gary council grapples with rental ordinance
By Michelle L. Quinn Post-Tribune correspondent September 25, 2012 10:32PM
Updated: October 27, 2012 6:15AM
GARY — The rental ordinance still has a ways to go before it makes its way before the Common Council, but in the end, it’s going to all come down to money.
Building Administrator Steven Marcus told the Finance Committee during its Tuesday evening meeting — the second meeting devoted to the ordinance — there are five points of contention remaining in the ordinance: the square footage of dwellings assessed a fee, the cost of the registration fee itself, who is exempt from the fee, what a landlord would pay based on the number of properties and implementing the new system. In the most recent version, the rental inspections would be complaint-based, and an effort to let tenants know how to lodge complaints would be undertaken, Corporate Counsel Niquelle Allen said.
All funds collected will be place in a nonreverting fund and used toward building and code enforcement, she said.
Council President Kyle Allen Sr. and Fire Chief Teresa Everett maintained their view that a complaint-based system would defeat the ordinance’s purpose of safe housing. Councilwoman Marilyn Krusas, D-1st, said she understands there are a lot of slumlords in the city but that the ordinance must be mindful of all the property managers and landlords who have been in the city for years who do keep their properties maintained.
“I’m not adverse to charging a fee, but I’d rather see us develop something that works for the better of all,” Krusas said. “I want to see a registration database built and maintained, just not on the backs of private business.”
Krusas said any of the units in HUD or AHEPA, for example, are not-for-profit and therefore would be exempt, although Finance Committee Attorney Clorius Lay said they aren’t completely exempt and instead make a different type of payment in lieu of taxes.
City Court Judge Deirdre Monroe told the committee that a landlord registry would help not only the tenant but the landlords as well. She often sees burglaries go unprosecuted because no one knows who owns a property.
Kevin Morris, who owns MGM Property Management, said he doesn’t object to a one-time fee and agrees with the idea of the ordinance. He worries, however, that if a yearly fee were passed toward his 350 units in the city and he ended up passing it on to his tenants, he could lose good people who have lived in his properties for years.
“Who knows what the tipping scale is?” he said.
The ordinance won’t likely go before the council at its Tuesday meeting, Finance Chairwoman Mary Brown said.