HUTCHINSON, Kan.— The Hutchinson Housing Commission and the Hutchinson City Council met to discuss the rental inspection program. But for all of the discussion and complaints from some landlords in the city, few if any showed up to hear what the Commission had to say. “I was a little surprised that the room was empty,” Planning Director Ryan Hvitlok said. The meeting was held at the Fire Command and Training Center to make room for a large gathering but few showed up.
Hvitlok was happy with most things from the meeting which included questions from the Council on various concerns and topics. “It went very well if one is looking for this program to continue,” Hvitlok said. “The council had some good questions, but they did agree to continue to work on this program and directed staff to take it back to the housing commission.”
The proposed ordinance requires all rental units in the City to be licensed. Renting an unlicensed unit is a violation of City Code and a Class C misdemeanor. The license will replace the previous requirement of registration. The fee for licensing a unit is unchanged from the registration fee. The main benefit of a rental license is that the City would have the ability to place on probation, suspend, or in the worst-case scenario, revoke a rental license for code violations. The Building Trades Board would serve as the appeal body for license actions. The City would post a list of licensed units on their website under the proposed amendment.
The second part of the proposed program is an incentive program to encourage interior inspections. A unit that requests an interior inspection shall be eligible, after noted deficiencies are corrected, for additional recognition as a “best-practice” unit from the City. Best-practice units would receive a 25% reduction on their license fee for the year following the inspection. These units would also be provided signage or an insignia from the City for the landlord to advertise its status. The City would also maintain a list of best-practice units on its website.
Some of the questions from the council included how to pay for the program and if landlords would have to bear the financial burden of the program or if it should be a yearly budget matter. Other concerns expressed included the ability to keep landlords from retaliating against tenants if they file a complaint with the city regarding living conditions. Hvitlok says he has talked with other communities and that does not seem to be a problem.
Now its time for the commission to go back to work on the proposal and to get landlords involved. “ We’re going to reach out to the landlords and let them know that this is going before the Housing Commission Sept. 25th, and if they want to provide feedback that’s a great opportunity for them to do so,” Hvilok said.
If all goes as planned the matter will go back to the council during their Oct. 1st meeting.