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Jim Oetter, a mechanical inspector for the City of Omaha, examines an apartment’s heating/cooling system last fall.

Those who want to give the City of Omaha more tools to deal with problematic landlords or think it has enough can weigh in on a trio of potential ordinances Tuesday.

That’s when the City Council is set to hold a public hearing on competing proposals for new landlord registries and inspection regimes that range from lenient to strict, with varying fees and penalties.

Councilman Brinker Harding, who represents west Omaha, has a proposal requiring all landlords to register. It would require inspection of rental properties if the property owners’ buildings or units have outstanding city code violations.

The proposal from City Council President Ben Gray and Councilman Chris Jerram, who represent north Omaha and central Omaha respectively, would require all landlords to register and would require regular inspections.

Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert has a proposal that seems to split the difference. It would inspect known problem properties more often, annually, and let landlords earn their way off the naughty list, resulting in fewer inspections.

All three proposed ordinances are aimed at helping the city better ensure clean and safe conditions in Omaha’s estimated 80,000 rental homes or units.

Early public comments the City Council received seem to mirror the previously expressed concerns of neighbors, tenant advocates and landlords.

The farther east in town a neighborhood association or resident commenting is, the more likely the support for a stricter rental registry ordinance.

A Gifford Park Neighborhood Association letter, for example, supports a registry that helps neighbors contact the owners of troubled properties.

The group wants to see tenants treated fairly and landlords held accountable, it says, including for renting single-family homes to too many tenants at once. Gifford Park is home to many college students. Neighborhood residents often complain about loud parties and parking violations.

Omaha Together One Community has already weighed in on the need to protect tenants from situations like what happened at Yale Park Apartments.

In that case, 500 refugees were relocated because of poor living conditions — mold, faulty electrical or plumbing work, bugs and more.

Landlords say the city could do more good by beefing up its current complaint-based rental inspections.

Their association, the Metropolitan Omaha Property Owners Association, sent a letter on Friday that repeated that it is “firmly opposed to all three proposals.”

One, Pierce Carpenter, wrote that his bureaucratic load for owning property had already increased too much in his 30 years of ownership.

He said neither landlords nor tenants would be helped by the new ordinances.

A group of Realtors weighed in on the side of landlords, too, with a letter-writing campaign suggesting better education of renters about their rights.

They say, like landlord advocates before them, that rental registries and inspections would discourage investment and raise rents.

Other cities, including La Vista and Council Bluffs, have rental registries and inspect rental properties.

Tuesday’s hearing is at 2 p.m. at the Omaha City-County Building, 1819 Farnam St.

A snapshot of the city rental ordinances being considered:

Mayor Jean Stothert’s proposal

Rental registration: All owners must register with the city, naming all associated entities and supplying contact information of managers.

Which properties get inspected? If a property had current or previous code violations from the past three years that hadn’t been fixed by the city’s deadline, the property would be inspected annually. If landlords went two years without violations and completed a property owner education course, their property could be inspected less frequently. Properties with no history of violations would receive a threeyear exemption. After that, they’d be inspected every three years. Property owners and tenants would get a 14-day notice of inspections, a sample inspection checklist and a consent form for tenants to sign. If consent isn’t granted, the city could ask a judge to issue a warrant allowing inspectors inside. All single-family rental homes and duplexes would be inspected. For multifamily rentals, staff could inspect a sample of units, at least 15 percent. If violations were found in more than 20 percent of units, all would be inspected.

The cost: Registering a property would be free, as long as an owner did it within the proper time frame. Late fees would equal $500 per property. For annual inspections, landlords would pay $125 per unit for the initial inspection, $125 for each reinspection if violations were found and a $125 penalty if a property owner didn’t let an inspector in.

Other details: Several types of properties would be exempt, including Omaha Housing Authority rentals, rentals built within the past five years and Section 8 properties. Upon registration, property owners would get a packet of information about tenant rights (which landlords would be required to give to tenants), a list of common violations and a sign to post in each rental unit that includes phone numbers for the owner or property manager and the city’s code enforcement division.

Councilmen Ben Gray and Chris Jerram’s proposal

Gray and Jerram’s proposal essentially mirrors La Vista’s rental inspection program, which has been in effect for nearly a decade.

Rental registration: Property owners would have to register each rental unit and provide contact information and proof of pest inspection. Code officials could decide to accept a single registration for a multi-unit building. Registration certificates could be suspended, denied or revoked.

Which properties get inspected? Once a property owner had registered and paid, an initial inspection would be scheduled. Tenants and landlords would get at least 10 days’ notice. After the first inspection, each property would be assigned a classification. Class A dwellings, those with no major violations, would be inspected every four years thereafter. Class B rentals, those with major violations not quickly remedied, would be reinspected before a registration certificate is issued or renewed, and inspected again one year later. If no major violations were found, they would be upgraded to Class A. Class N rentals include new buildings or buildings newly converted to rentals that could be inspected every four years. Inspectors could decide to look at a sample size of units.

The cost: Annual registration fees for a single-family house or duplex would be $50 per unit and $6 per unit for multifamily buildings. A late fee of $100 per unit could be applied. There would be no charge for primary inspections and fouryear inspections, but one-year inspections would cost $125 and, if violations were found, the first follow-up inspection would cost $125.

Other details: Inspectors could also inspect units if a specific complaint was received. If a property owner or manager was a no-show, they’d face a $125 rescheduling fee.

Councilman Brinker Harding’s proposal

Harding’s proposal focuses on rentals with a history of code violations.

Rental registration: All rentals would have to be registered with the city. Applications would have to include contacts, number of units and when the rental was built, among other information.

What rentals get inspected? Annual inspections would be required if a property had any outstanding code violations from the past three years, or current violations. Landlords and tenants would get 14 days’ notice of an inspection. Inspectors could decide to look at a sample of units in larger complexes. Landlords could get off the annual inspections list if all of their properties went two years without violations and they completed a property owner education course approved by a city code official. Complaint-based inspections would still be allowed.

The cost: Registration would be free, but if owners didn’t file within 30 days of the required date, they could face a $500 late fee. Inspections would cost $125 per unit. If violations were found in more than 20 percent of units, inspectors could examine all of the units on a property, at a cost of $125 each. Property owners could rack up other fines if they didn’t appear for an inspection or failed to promptly reschedule.

Other details: Landlords would get a rental education packet and have to hang a sign in each rental with contact numbers for them and the city.

Aaron covers political news for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @asanderford. Phone: 402-444-1135.

Reporter - Education

Erin is an enterprise reporter for the World-Herald. Previously, Erin covered education. Follow her on Twitter @eduff88. Phone: 402-444-1210.

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