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Proposed ordinance aims to reduce rental housing code violations

city Hall
city Hall

Several Democratic Metro Council members are pushing for new legislation they say could improve rental conditions in Louisville.

The ordinance would affect rentals with contracts lasting a month or more, which the lawmakers call long-term rentals.

Landlords would be required to renew the registration of those units each year and have to attest that their properties are up to code. Currently, only units rented under 30 days at a time have to renew those contracts. 

It would also mandate random annual inspections for 10% of long-term rentals.

The legislation’s sponsors say these changes will help compel landlords to fix problems in their units and reduce the share of inspections that are complaint-driven.

Council member Nicole George, who represents District 21, supports the ordinance and said it could lead to better rental conditions through vigilance.

“If we harken back to ‘what gets watched gets done,’ and people who are running the business know that people are watching, know that there's a different standard, we expect to see higher quality maintenance on a proactive level,” George said.

Rick Blackwell, a council member who represents District 12, also supports the legislation. He previously sponsored an ordinance in 2016 to establish the city’s rental registry.

That law went into effect in March 2017, though rentals have still gone unregistered. Blackwell said a remedy for that could be through the ordinance itself, which he says will collect data to establish a long-term rental map.

Anyone would be able to access that data, which he says would increase transparency. The city currently has a short-term rental map online.

“I guarantee you, we will get a ton of calls from folks who say, ‘Hey, look, I just looked on the registry, and I have four houses that are rentals on my street, and they're not listed,’” Blackwell said.

The city’s Public Works Committee, which George chairs, is scheduled to discuss the ordinance on Tuesday.

Anthony Piagentini, a Republican who represents District 19, serves on the committee. In a written statement, he said he has some issues with the legislation but plans to find a way to reach an agreement with the other committee members.

“While I do have concerns related to the new fees being charged to property owners as well as the requirement of Metro to inspect 10% of all properties, I will maintain an open mind on the ordinance,” Piagentini said.

The ordinance sets an initial registration fee at $100 and has a $50 fee for each subsequent year. It also includes a provision where owners who have no registration or maintenance violations against them can have their annual fee waived.

The Louisville Tenants Union, a new organization that advocates for renters, said in a written statement that the ordinance as-is would not do enough to combat poor rental conditions.

“Not only are the proposed fines for non-compliant landlords not high enough to be effective, [the ordinance] pales in comparison to the policies tenants actually want,” the group wrote.

Under the legislation, a property owner would be fined $100 for each unit not registered. That penalty would increase to $250 per unit for a second offense within two years, and $500 per unit for any further offenses within two years.

Another proposed city ordinance affecting rentals would require landlords to assess properties for lead hazards if they were built before 1978. That legislation has been held up in Metro Council’s Community Affairs, Housing, Health and Education Committee since April.

Jacob is LPM's Business and Development Reporter. Email Jacob at jmunoz@lpm.org.