City council approves rental property registry

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COLUMBUS, Ind.–Columbus City Council on Tuesday night voted on the first reading of an ordinance that creates a mandatory registration for residential rental property owners. The purpose of the ordinance is to get valid contact information for these rental units for use by police, fire, 911 dispatch, and code enforcement and to make it easier for police or fire to reach property owners.

Executive Director of Community Development Mary Ferdon said that the information would be collected by the department and then sent directly to public safety agencies without Community Development keeping track of the data internally. This measure protects the privacy of rental owner’s contact information.

State code prohibits the city from charging a higher fee than $5 for the registration or imposing the registration on other property owners, including private homeowners.

Many Columbus landlords in attendance felt the new $5 fee was a disguised tax hike targeting them specifically. Council members shared that monies collected from the registration fees would remain in a non-reverting fund associated with the registration process, preventing its use elsewhere.

Landlords were also concerned that this would be an invasion of their privacy, allowing code enforcement to perform at-will inspections to impose non-compliance fees, which would also boost city revenue. Architects of the registration proposal re-iterated that information collected through registration would not be kept on file by the Community Development or Code Enforcement personnel, and it could not be requested by the public.

Four amendments were added by the council to guarantee the $5 is a one-time fee. The vote passed 6-1, with Councilwoman Laurie Booher dissenting, as she felt that the urgency of the ordinance did not warrant what was being asked of property owners.

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