The Garden City Telegram
12/28/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Rental work

With complaint-based system, there's room for improvement.

Input from local landlords who attended a recent Garden City Commission meeting was no surprise.

A number of landlords showed up to express concerns about the possibility of a rental inspection program in the community.

Currently, the local system of rental property oversight involves the city fielding and investigating complaints from tenants. Knowing the city reportedly identifies several valid health and safety-related issues a month through the complaint-based system, some landlords suggested nothing needs to change — even though the city's numbers don't take into account issues that go unreported and could pose a threat to renters.

The run-down condition of some local properties suggests there are indeed problems. With an inspection program, far more issues could be identified.

Unfortunately, it's also easy to see how some tenants might be reluctant to complain and possibly jeopardize a relationship with their landlord, considering the shortage of local rental properties.

Even though the hope is new housing developments eventually force the more suspect rental operations out of business, it's necessary to ensure that all rental properties are safe and inhabitable now.

During their meeting, commissioners voted to have city staff do more research, to include looking at a uniform inspection form for landlords and renters that would meet minimum standards of safety codes, and a way to register landlords.No one wants to unnecessarily burden landlords. Good landlords who follow the rules and maintain their properties have nothing to worry about.

That said, the safety of local residents — to include those with language barriers who may not understand their rights as renters — is paramount.

This community has a long history of drawing immigrants for jobs others won't fill. Many of those workers cannot speak English when they arrive, and have much to learn as they try to assimilate.

Our many immigrants make significant contributions to the community's economic well-being. Their interests matter, as well.

While landlords should help craft a solution, commissioners also need to keep in mind every local resident — including those who have more trouble speaking out — as they move toward a system of rental inspections that addresses local needs.