Monday, March 16, 2009

Nuisance Property Issue (Part 3)

A friend of mine recommended a new blog to me the other day.

"Ozarks Law & Economy" is written by Harry Styron, an attorney with the Branson, Missouri firm Styron & Shilling.

Styron's post, "Court reminds city that its powers are limited," was interesting in light of recent discussions at Council luncheons pertaining to the City's nuisance ordinance and the process by which it is enforced.

In part one of a series regarding the Council's ongoing discussions, I noted that Councilman John Wylie raised a question about the possibility of some sort of City mandated, tenant registration for utility services in rental properties. At issue was the possible benefit such tracking of services could be for landlord screening of tenants.

Part two of the series noted that, over the years, Director of Building Development Services Nick Heatherly said his department has noted some areas the ordinance (ORD5465 and see Chapter 26, Article III and Chapter 36, Article X of the City's Municipal Code) could be "tweaked" to improve their ability to take action. Enforcement of the nuisance ordinance is made more difficult by the City's inability to track problematic renters who float from one rental property to another, seeming to wreak havoc wherever they go.

While I don't think the word "license" might have been used specifically, in the course of the City Council discussions, and I didn't note the singular word, "license" in those previous two postings, I wonder if it might be difficult to require landlords to register their tenants without the City having the ability to track rental property owners, themselves, through some sort of licensing system? I can't fathom landlords voluntarily offering those lists of registered utility customers without being mandated to do so by the City, how would the City be able to mandate such registration without first licensing landlords for regulation?

In part one of the nuisance property series, local rental property owner Sherry Byrne said anything the City could do to help track problematic tenants who shift from one rental to the next would be welcome, "I'd be all in favor of that," Byrne said, though she expressed concern about the creation of more "red tape" for landlords.

I'm not sure how the City would be able to enforce such a tenant registration mandate without more red tape.

At the last luncheon I attended, I inquired of City Attorney Dan Wichmer whether the Council would be continuing their discussions on the nuisance property issue and he indicated the discussion would be ongoing. It is not, however, on the agenda for tomorrow's luncheon meeting. I'll try to keep you updated as more information becomes available.

But it is interesting to note, according to Mr. Styron, in the case of Cliff Hindman Real Estate, Inc. v. City of Jennings, the Court of Appeals for the Eastern District of Missouri, "struck down an ordinance requiring landlords to buy licenses from the City, because the state of Missouri didn't give the City the power to require such a license."

To read previous JackeHammer entries on the Nuisance Ordinance discussions, follow these links:

Springfield City Council/City Officials Continue to Discuss Nuisance Property Issues (Part 1)

Nuisance Property Discussion Continued Today (Part 2)

Update: I received a personal note from Mr. Styron. Styron pointed out that because Springfield is a charter city, it has more extensive powers than third-class and fourth-class cities. "Springfield also is the beneficiary of many statutory powers not shared by other cities," Styron wrote.

Jackie's Note: Springfield does not currently require landlords to be licensed. Whether they have the authority to require licenses for landlords, I cannot say.


1 comment:

tom said...

Imagine that a city within the boundaries of MO breaking the law. It is quite the shame that groups, individuals, or groups of individuals have to use their own money with NO thought of reimbursement to get local government compliant to either a city charter or the state constitution.

There really should be something that should occur to the cities legal departments that do this.