After a contentious public hearing, letters of concern and objections from city commissioners, Battle Creek city officials are set to ask the commission on Tuesday to send a proposed rental ordinance back for revision.
The ordinance in its current form no longer will be considered, officials said, but they are hoping a revamped rental ordinance will be introduced by the commission later this month
Assistant City Manager Ken Tsuchiyama said the proposed ordinance has been rewritten to consider several concerns raised by city commissioners, Legal Services of South Central Michigan and the local Realtors association, as well as other stake holders.
Tsuchiyama said the new draft ordinance likely will be introduced in the commission’s Aug. 21 meeting.
One of the changes Tsuchiyama said the city made was graduating the rental registration fee, instead of the $75 fee per building proposed in the original draft.
“We’ve been talking about this ordinance for almost a year now, and while we’d like to see closure, I also understand that folks, particularly commissioners, need to feel comfortable with it,” he said. “We know there’s no perfect ordinance out there, but at some point, a decision will have to be made. If it’s approved, we know full well we may find ourselves doing some tweaking.”
City Attorney Clyde Robinson said the city is trying to stay ahead of the curve.
“We heard what people said and we took them seriously. We attempted to put together an ordinance that addressed many of the concerns that were raised by commissioners and stakeholders,” he said. “We heard a lot of folks who said, ‘Let’s adopt this even if it needs a little more work.’ We tried to do that little more work.”
Robinson said some of the changes include clarifying eviction language and eliminating the city’s ability to hold tenants’ rent in escrow.
“Legal aid thought we were going to use the process to evict tenants without taking them to court and that was not the case,” he said. “Because landlords would have to go through the eviction process anyway, the courts could order an escrow account, so we’ll leave it to that process.”
Language was eliminated that would have required domestic violence victims to report incidents at City Hall, Robinson said, but language excluding domestic violence incidence from the five-strike rule was kept.
The proposed rental ordinance would allow the city to suspend a rental permit if police are called to a rental property five or more times in a 12-month period.
According to city officials, the types of calls targeted in the five-strike rule include police calls for animal violations, code and zoning violations and disorderly conduct will be considered. Domestic violence, theft and other property crimes, as well as murder and other major violent crimes likely will not be counted.
Rental permit standards were made more objective, Robinson said, and a three-member committee would be created to consider any rental permit suspensions and orders to vacate.
The previous draft named only the assistant city manager to hear permit suspensions and eviction orders, but the new draft adds two Battle Creek residents appointed by the city commission.
Robinson said language was changed to notify landlords and tenants of arrests or police citations within 10 days of an incident, and time between application and issuance of a rental permit was compressed.
“The ordinance states we have 45 days,” he said. “We’re going to aim for 15 business days.”
An exemption for housing commission rental properties has been eliminated, Robinson said, as well as the house sitting provision.
The city also has added some new language to the proposed ordinance.
“We added a section where we are recommending certain clauses be inserted into leases,” Robinson said, such as a summary eviction provision under state landlord-tenant law, which gives landlords the ability to evict quickly for certain offenses, such as drugs or prostitution.