Council considers rental ordinance, again

The Oxford Village Council heard mixed complaints and support of a proposed Residential Rental and Inspection Ordinance at a public hearing on Dec. 10.
Proposed Ordinance 414 would require all residential rental units in the Village to register with the building official and zoning department of the Village, and all units must be inspected by the enforcing officer for the Village within 60 days of registration.
The stated purpose of the ordinance is “for the health and safety of tenants and for the ongoing and general welfare of the public.”
This is the third time council is considering the ordinance in six years. The ordinance was voted down in 2013 and 2016.
After hearing public input, the council approved the first reading of the ordinance and scheduled the second reading for January, in a 3-1 vote with Village President Joe Frost voting against.
“I think it still needs work,” Frost said. “I don’t think this is ready.”
After initial inspection, the ordinance gives the Village further inspection rights under various circumstances, such as upon receiving a complaint or in an emergency.
Registration information must include: the addresses of all rental units, the number and types of rental units, contact information of property owners and local agents, the maximum number of occupants for each rental unit and information on the size of all rooms used as part of a rental unit. There is no fee for registration.
The initial inspection fee will be $25. For one re-inspection after the first inspection, no fee will be charged. A fee of $100 will be charged for the second re-inspection. An additional fee of $200 will be charged for all inspections after the second re-inspection. If an inspection is initiated by a complaint, and no violations are found, there will be no fee. If an inspection is initiated by a complaint, and a violation is found, a $35 fee will be charged.
These fees are lower than earlier drafts of the ordinance from the previous years.
“The fee never exceeds $200 and $200 is only triggered if there’s multiple, multiple, multiple re-inspections required because the person is not fixing the one or two things they were asked to fix. So we totally restructured the fee schedule back three years ago when we were considering this,” Village Attorney Bob Davis said.
Frost asked if they knew how many rental units are in the village.
Village Manager Joe Madore said they “don’t have a good answer to that.” There are 1,100 total properties in the Village based on the water meters, but they don’t know the number of rental units. Registration would give them this number.
The public hearing began with Mark Young, of 31 N. Washington berating the council with a series of questions. The council opted against answering the questions.
“We’re not here to respond to questions, we’re here to listen.” Frost said.
“Sir, this is a public hearing where we receive your comments. I’m going to write down all your questions. So can we just hold this as a public hearing?” Davis said.
“Based on this, I’m wasting my time and probably most of these folks because if they have pertinent questions, you can’t answer them,” Young concluded.
Betty Young expressed concerns about costs of paying for the bureaucratic “manpower” for the paperwork and enforcement involved.
Chuck Schneider, who owns 18 properties, listed several issues he saw. “You can’t enforce the ordinances you have now,” he said.
“As a property owner,” he continued, “I’ve already been inspected. I have to get a certificate of occupancy for people to reside in my buildings whether they are a residential tenant or a commercial tenant.”
Schneider went on to accuse the council of exempting one of the “biggest offenders” from the definition of a dwelling unit in item (6), “A dwelling in which a parent, child, brother, or sister of an owner is living.”
“Why are they exempt? That’s the biggest offender. The son gets a divorce, he moves into the house. Where does he move in? He moves in the freaking basement. They make a bedroom down there for him. Grandma, she’s not feeling well, she needs a place, where do they put her? They put her in the basement. Total violation of the code. But yet you’re excluding it. You’re excluding a person who is not the owner but who lives in the dwelling for up to two years. Why is this person exempt? They’re a renter. They’re not an owner.”
Village attorney Bob Davis responded to this point later in the evening.
“We debated this for a long time in the last public hearing process and the public spoke loudly that they wanted exceptions for the kid who comes home from college and is now in your basement – I had that for a while – or the relative who is sick who needs to spend some time in the house. This came from the public. Item number 6, under 6-102 was an outgrowth of the public comment.”
Tom Claycomb was concerned how this would impact renters.
“There’s a lot of 20 and 30-year-old people out there who need a place to live. And it’s getting so expensive in Oxford. I’ll bet you there’s a lot of people who can’t live here,” Claycomb said. “This sounds like a solution looking for a problem.”
There was some confusion as to the number of pages in the ordinance. Several complained their copies were missing pages.
“In my packet I have four, single sheets of paper for this ordinance and I know its longer than that,” one woman said. “My only comment is that the whole thing is incomplete, but you (the council) have additional information tonight that Bob (Davis) passed out to you. I think that should be available to the public to read and digest before you have a public hearing, because we’re sitting here with incomplete information.”
The full ordinance is nine pages long, one-sided.
Andy Reed, a homeowner with rental units in sight of his property, said he was happy with the intent of straightening out rental units.
“I have actually complained a few times to the township and nothing has been able to be done,” he said.
Joan Reed complained of noise from rental units not within eyesight, but within hearing distance of her property.
Justin Ballard of 61 Pontiac St., a former renter in Oxford and current landlord in Ferndale, voiced his support. “I love the intent of the ordinance,” he said. “I think it’s fantastic.”
Ballard said the apartment he rented in Oxford was not up to code.
Schneider got up to speak a second time to complain the ordinance has a double standard that discriminates against rental unit owners but does not apply to residential home owners. He said it should apply to all members of the community equally.
Councilwoman Katie Logan later pointed out a distinction between private homeowners and rental unit owners, who are running a business.
“The difference is you’re making a profit off those people because you are in fact running a business when you have a rental property. If I’m living in a residence, and I live there, we can still cite you. You’re still violating the ordinances,” Logan said.
During council discussion, Councilwoman Allison Kemp spoke in support of the ordinance.
“I am a renter here. This is something I feel very strongly about,” she said.
She toured many apartments in the village that were not up to code before settling on hers. Still, she found out her apartment’s circuit breaker had been recalled in the 1970s.
“I’m blessed with a very good landlord, they fixed it immediately,” she said. But all the wires were melted inside. It was a major fire hazard. “That’s something I think that this ordinance could have caught,” she said.
Just before the vote to approve the first reading, Logan conveyed a sense of urgency because of the upcoming 2020 census.
“We need to know where our people are. We’ve got addresses where either we’re not able to locate them, or they’re not being properly reported, and that’s really important because that brings money into our communities,” she said.
“We’re going to be having partnership specialists coming to us from the Census Bureau asking us what we’re doing to ensure that they get an accurate count that year, and this (ordinance) is part of that plan.”
Frost was concerned that the language of the ordinance did not include Airbnbs or short-term rentals.
Davis directed him to the definition of a rental unit on Page 2 which includes, “any dwelling unit containing sleeping units . . . leased . . . to any tenant, whether by day, week, year or any other term of time.”
Schneider interjected that that contradicted the definition of a dwelling unit on Page 1, which excludes “places of public accommodation such as a hotel, motel, or bed and breakfast establishments.”
Davis said he would look into resolving the contradiction before the second reading.

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