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The Yale Park Apartments were evacuated in September. There are now multiple proposals at the state and city level that attempt to address rental housing problems and try to prevent another situation like Yale Park from happening.

Local landlord Frank Overhue was once a teacher, and he remembers one of the main lessons he learned about keeping order in a classroom: Don’t punish the whole class for the actions of a few.

The same applies to landlords in Omaha, he said, as the idea of a city landlord registry and more frequent inspections surfaces again after major code violations were found at the Yale Park Apartments, a north Omaha apartment complex housing 500 refugees from Myanmar.

“Don’t punish the whole class; punish the bad actor,” Overhue said. “More government isn’t the solution.”

Almost 100 people gathered in a middle school auditorium Saturday morning at a town hall-style event and listened as a steady stream of landlords ticked off their reasons for opposing a registration system and regular inspections. The event was organized by the Metropolitan Omaha Property Owners Association, or MOPOA, which has vowed to fight back against any landlord registration push.

The cost of doing business will rise if landlords are forced to pay annual registration fees, several attendees said. Taking time off work to meet city inspectors could be inconvenient for both tenants and property owners. And tenants might not welcome city employees entering their homes.

Mike Salkin of Berkshire Real Estate thinks that a landlord registry would hurt the rental market.

“Most of the people I represent are just regular guys,” he said. “They move, buy another house, put the old one up for rent. You start piling registration requirements, inspection requirements on them and it becomes a burden, so they just sell the house.”

In the wake of the city’s mass inspection and evacuation effort at the Yale Park complex on Sept. 20, community groups like Omaha Together One Community have resurrected the idea of a rental registry. OTOC suggests a three-year inspection cycle for rental properties — with annual inspections for properties that aren’t repaired quickly — to be funded with a landlord fee system. La Vista, for example, charges landlords $50 for single-family dwellings and $6 per unit for multifamily dwellings. Omaha could use the extra revenue to hire more building inspectors.

Several city officials, including Mayor Jean Stothert, have said that they’re open to the concept but that many details would have to be worked out, including how to hire and pay for additional housing inspectors.

Kevin Andersen, the city’s deputy chief of staff for economic development and development services, said Saturday that the city is merely at the stage of researching and exploring different options.

“We will not propose a knee-jerk reaction,” he said. “We are simply vetting ideas.”

La Vista and Council Bluffs, as well as larger cities like Minneapolis, have landlord registries. But Andersen said any system would likely be a complex undertaking in Omaha, which has an estimated 79,000 rental units.

Other property owners said tenants, not landlords, are the real problem.

Steve Hamilton invited city leaders to accompany him on a house cleanup after a tenant has moved out.

“Come with me when I am cleaning out a house, when I have literally removed dog crap out of a refrigerator in August with the refrigerator unplugged,” he said. “That is my challenge to the City of Omaha.”

Not all landlords are totally opposed to the idea of a registry.

Lauren Brasch and her husband own four properties. Brasch said she supports the work that Lutheran Family Services does when resettling refugees but wonders if landlords and social service groups can partner to educate tenants on their rights and how to treat rental properties.

“If they can do 70,000 inspections, I think that’s great, but I just don’t think that’s realistic,” she said. “And I don’t know that it is going to fix the actual problem.”

MOPOA member Bill Stilwell said the city needs to get its own house in order. The conditions at the Yale Park Apartments — bedbugs, mold, gas leaks and leaking roofs — didn’t happen overnight, he said.

“This was the product of many years,” he said. “Where were the code enforcement people through those many years? They didn’t do their job.”

City officials said they can’t inspect a property until a formal code violation complaint is filed. The Yale Park inspections were spurred when the city received more than 90 complaints from tenants in mid-September. The city has since cited landlord Kay Anderson with more than 1,900 code violations. Anderson attended and spoke at Saturday’s meeting.

OTOC member Greta Carlson said she works with refugee families, teaching them how to get acclimated to America, care for their home and talk with their landlord. But language barriers and fear of retaliation are major hurdles.

“They’re still not going to call and make a complaint, even if their apartment is terrible,” she said. “For the most vulnerable populations in Omaha, they don’t feel safe calling code enforcement and calling for an inspection.”