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Metro Council Proposal Would Require Rental Owners To Register With City

The house in Shawnee has been abandoned for as long as neighbor George Palmer can remember.
The house in Shawnee has been abandoned for as long as neighbor George Palmer can remember.

A group of local legislators wants to establish a registry of rental housing in Louisville. But the idea is likely to run up against opposition on the Metro Council.

The cadre of council Democrats is looking to pass a law that would require property owners with rental housing units to submit to city government contact information for themselves or a property manager, according to a proposed ordinance.

Failure to register a rental unit would bring a civil fine of $100 a day per unregistered unit, with the potential for liens to be placed on properties, under the proposed ordinance.

The council members say an absence of readily accessible information on rental property owners impedes enforcement of the city's property maintenance code.

"This seems like a way to help," said Democratic caucus chair Bill Hollander, a District 9 Democrat.

The city is owed nearly $41 million from property maintenance fines associated with vacant or abandoned properties alone, according to a March 2016 report from Metro government.

While Hollander said outstanding fines are a concern, they're not the driving force behind the proposed ordinance.

"This is not designed as a revenue measure at all," he said. "It's really designed as a way to get more information to the code enforcement officers so that they can get properties up to code."

Councilwoman Marianne Butler, a District 15 Democrat, is the ordinance's lead sponsor. She did not return multiple requests for comment. Other Democratic council members sponsoring the ordinance include Rick Blackwell, Vicki Aubrey Welch and Cheri Bryant Hamilton.

Hollander said he's heard no opposition for the proposed ordinance that, if approved, would take affect Oct. 1.

The council's Republican caucus appears divided on the issue. A spokesman said the the nine-member minority has "a number of concerns regarding this ordinance." Those concerns include "the penalties levied per unit, the information needed for reporting, as well as questions about the effectiveness of this ordinance."

Still, Councilman Kelly Downard, a District 16 Republican, said "boy, this is a good idea."

"We have a responsibility, period, to keep lousy properties from languishing," he said.

The ordinance would likely face some resistance from the Louisville Apartment Association.

J.D. Carey, the group's executive director, said there's no need for rental property owners to register their property "when it is the violators of code policy they are trying to reach."

"It makes more sense to require the violator of the policy to register upon notice of a code violation rather than all rental property owners," he said.

Carey suggested a "grace period" of 30 days from the time of enforcement and when fines begin. He said it's in "the best interest of all parties" to have properties in good shape.

"This should include property owners who do not rent their property and not single out property owners who do," he said.

The proposed ordinance remains in a Metro Council committee. Hollander said some details are still up for discussion.

A similar ordinance was approved in New Albany earlier this year.

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.