The DeKalb City Council will once again discuss adding a yearly registration fee for landlords. DeKalb City Manager Mark Biernacki proposed the "Housing Registration and Inspection Bureau" because, he says, there are growing concerns of crime in some areas of the city. Not all landlords agree they should be lumped in with that characterization.
The proposal calls for hiring five new employees paid through a registration fee and city dollars. Members of the bureau would be trained to inspect rental properties from a sidewalk's distance, and enforce various other ordinances.
The Housing Registration and Inspection Bureau would require:
- an exterior inspection program
- a crime-free lease addendum
- crime-free training for rental property owners
- "three strikes" provision for disorderly properties
Biernacki says the fee could be up to $15/unit each year to promote the upkeep of rental properties:
"If it's left unattended, you get blight. It's my opinion that bad properties attract bad tenants, and bad tenants often times attract a criminal element."
-Mark Biernacki, DeKalb City Manager
Jim Mason says the majority of landlords in DeKalb deserve more credit than that. He's the owner of Mason Properties and a member of the DeKalb Area Rental Association. He says the Bureau is a waste of money because volunteers could do the same work:
"We should experience and try a volunteer program to attack this thing head on and go where the problems are, don't bother the other people, and pay it with the general fund like everything else."
- Jim Mason, owner, Mason Properties
The council meets again Monday night.
Program Used in Other College Cities
Biernacki says the registration fee proposal is nothing new, and has been implemented in university towns elsewhere where apartments are numerous. He says the DeKalb plan is modest in comparison. For example, the city of Carbondale (home of Southern Illinois University) has had a $35/unit fee since 2009.
Jim Mason, of Mason Properties, says it is not a fair comparison because DeKalb has a better housing market than Carbondale.