The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Local News

September 4, 2013

Unruly tenants, police calls are under further discussion

City wants ways to lessen problems

CLINTON — City staff members plan to meet with Clinton landlords to address issues they face with unruly tenants and determine how the groups can work together to alleviate potential problems.   

Members of the Rules and Regulations Committee on Tuesday made the suggestion for the meeting to take place after a discussion about various ordinances that would hold property owners responsible for their tenants’ unlawful behavior.   

“I think holding a landlord responsible for your or my behavior, for somebody else’s behavior, how do we dictate that? I don’t know how we would handle that. I mean, knowingly they shouldn’t be renting to people with misdemeanors or anything like that,” Ward 2 Councilwoman Julie Allesee said.

The item evolved from a suggestion made by At-large Councilwoman Jennifer Graf last month to make large apartment complexes hire a security guard if they produce a significant number of emergency calls.  

Miller Ridge, although never specifically named by city staff or officials during the committee meeting, saw a spike in police activity last year, generating a greater than average amount of calls for a large complex. But this year, the complex is in line with other complexes of similar size, City Attorney Jeff Farwell said.  

Also, when city staff investigated, they found that other cities didn’t have ordinances that required complexes to have security and the legality of such an ordinance also was questioned. Instead, city staff came forward with information that would declare a property a “nuisance.”

The committee looked at ordinances from Mason City, Dubuque and Jackson, Wis., that deal with nuisance residential properties. The ordinances run the gamut from declaring a property to be a nuisance after six incidents have been reported in a year to declaring it a nuisance if one robbery is committed on the property.  

Fines and punishments also cover a wide range and apply to the landlord.  

Ward 4 Councilman Paul Gassman was opposed to placing another ordinance on the city’s books when the city already has policies in place to deal with the items listed in the various regulations from other cities.  

“In my opinion, I don’t think this is what we need to go forward. We already have ordinances that address this and the police should arrest those people if they’re guilty. And if you do have an apartment complex that isn’t paying attention to all this going on you can already take away their certificate of occupancy,” Gassman said. “To me, that’s the tool the city should use against these properties that are consuming all of our services and see how that works.”

City Administrator Jessica Kinser agreed, based on the discussion, the city should focus on the tools currently at its disposal rather than implementing a new ordinance directed at the property owners.  

“What’s in here is holding the landlord responsible for tenant behavior and if that’s not the direction you’re going, then I think it’s revisiting what we currently have,” Kinser said.

Allesee proposed, as the next step in the discussion, that city staff meet with the landlords to ask them what problems they see and how they deal with those problems. Her fellow committee members supported her suggestion.

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