WENDELL — Town commissioners will revisit a proposal that calls for a registry of rental properties in the town’s corporate limits and gives the town the authority to levy penalties against landlords who don’t maintain their property.
Commissioner Christie Adams took the town’s enforcement approach to task during Monday night’s town board meeting with questions about how the town enforces existing rules regarding dilapidated housing and violations of other ordinances that disallow things like parking vehicles in the front yard of homes and leaving items such as indoor furniture on front porches.
Town manager Teresa Piner admitted the town could do better at enforcing the rules that are currently on the books, but she also pointed out that the town only has one code enforcement officer and enforcing the town’s regulations is only one of the jobs that employee has each week.
Adams’ questions came in response to a report from Piner on the town’s efforts to enforce the existing codes.
In her report, Piner said the town actively looks for violations of uncut grass, junk cars and trash. But other codes are enforced only when a complaint is filed, including violations of the town’s minimum housing codes.
She said the town wants to be careful that it doesn’t negatively impact a resident by enforcing the codes and evicting a tenant who has nowhere else to live.
“The (resident) has to leave that home immediately. We don’t want to put someone out on the street,” Piner said.
Mayor Tim Hinnant said he thinks the town should work to train other town staffers to identify problems and enforce the town’s rules, or provide more time for the town’s lone code enforcement officer to do that work. The town’s current code enforcement officer, Daryl Hales spends one day a week traveling around the town looking for violations of town ordinances.
But Adams disagreed..
“This is not a staffing problem. It is a policy problem. Most of the places where these violations occur are in rental properties. I am not in favor of beefing up minimum housing codes. We’ve done it. I’d like to see us take another look at the rental policy we considered before and bring it back to the table at our next meeting for discussion and action,” Adams said.
That drew concerns from Commissioner Sam Laughery who said he would like to have more than two weeks to review the policy. Adams relented and agreed to have the topic revisited at the board’s Sept. 23 meeting.
Hinnant closed the conversation by reversing course on his earlier statement.
“What we’re lacking is not town staff,” Hinnant said. “If we are weak in any place it’s because the town board hasn’t implemented the policies to help with these issues.”