Saturday, April 06, 2002

Hamilton to reconsider landlord-tenant proposal

Dozens object to ordinance at crowded hearing

By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — After listening to dozens of people lambaste a proposed landlord-tenant law at a public hearing, Hamilton officials plan to make plenty of changes.

        “I feel we will be able to craft an ordinance that will be acceptable to all,” City Councilman Richard Holzberger said.

        Designed to reduce crime and poor living conditions in rental housing, the law would require landlords to register their tenants, submit to fire and health inspections and pay annual per-unit fees ranging from $5 to $150.

        But many landlords and tenants have denounced the law as a flagrant violation of their constitutional rights. More than 300 people showed up at a public hearing on the ordinance Thursday at One Renaissance Center.

        “I fully expected a well-orchestrated mandate of opposition at that meeting, and it was served to us,” said Mr. Holzberger, who co-chaired the meeting.

        There will be another public hearing on this ordinance at 7 p.m., April 18. The location hasn't been determined.

        Because of the limited space in council chambers, about 200 people had to stand in the building's lobby and listen on speakers. Mr. Holzberger said the April 18 meeting will be held at a larger site.

        City Council won't vote on the ordinance before this summer.

        Missy McCall Hammonds, president of the Investment Property Owners Association, a non-profit group composed primarily of Hamilton property owners, said she and many other owners agree with the city officials' goal of attacking the drug and prostitution problems in some rental properties.

        “We both want to clean up the city,” she said. “We just want to do it a little differently.”

        “As it's written,” said Ron Gardner, a representative of the Hamilton-Fairfield-Oxford Board of Realtors, “the law walks all over people's property rights and invades tenants' privacy.”

        Coyt Rains, a Hamilton real estate broker who has owned and managed rental property since 1964, said it seems as if city officials are assuming that most landlords knowingly rent to law-breakers and fail to screen tenants.

        “That's not the case,” he said. “I think city officials are listening to us, but they're listening with preconceived ideas in their minds.”

        Mr. Gardner said Hamilton should model its ordinance after Springfield, Ohio's.

        “Landlords are required to give tenants a pamphlet that tells them what their rights and responsibilities are,” he said. “The tenant has to sign off on it.”

        Ms. Hammonds said she would like to see the city update its health code, develop a process for notifying landlords when police find drugs on their premises, and create a community education program that will help police, landlords and tenants work together.


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