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The City of Carbondale Voice Their Opinions on a Landlord License

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City of Carbondale

The Carbondale city council allowed community members to voice their concerns on February 13th about a rental license ordinance and a landlord/tenant ordinance being developed for the city. Each ordinance would allow city officials to enforce regulations easier and raise the quality of rental housing overall.

Many citizens spoke at the meeting with some showing support and others voicing their concerns. Gregory Holthaus, a landlord with SI Property Management, says some of the duties that the ordinances will require from landlords are not practical.

“One of the proposals is that a walkthrough inspection be done with every tenant. I can tell you in August, that’s just not possible” Holthaus said.

Many other landlords came to the meeting voicing similar concerns. One such landlord is 86 year old Loretta Cooley. She says after decades of being in the business, she does not need any more fees for the good work that she does.

“We’re caring and responsible people. We like our tenants. I have more renters than I have apartments. I don’t understand what the problem is and if I haven’t learned after 50 years then I am not going to learn now. I am doing just fine without any more rules, regulations, or expenses” Cooley said.

Some of the fees could be helping a tenant move who was in a property in poor condition and paying for the license itself. However, the license will not require any course or education for someone to obtain it.

While concerns may be valid, many in the community believe these ordinances are necessary. Victor Ludwig, a renter in Carbondale, says he is being forced to leave the city due to the quality of his home.

“There have been roaches infesting my apartment for eight months. The whole building is infested. I have to lock all of my food in plastic bins, I can’t leave a single thing out for five minutes, and when I cook I can’t leave the kitchen. I have to watch water boil, so that I can live safely, happily, and healthy” Ludwig said.

This is not a rare occurrence for the housing in Carbondale. Carbondale City manager, Gary Williams, says the older housing in the area have been in poor conditions for a while.

“The older housing has not been maintained as well as it should. It has become, in many cases, substandard. Some landlords oftentimes rent to tenants who have a difficult time renting under normal circumstances and some landlords are frankly taking advantage” Williams said.

Situations like these are what city officials say are the reason for a license being needed. Williams says the license will deal with landlords who refuse to maintain their properties.

“It’s difficult in some cases to get those units up to a decent standard. The thought was that being able to withhold a license and being able to revoke a license if necessary could be more of an incentive for landlords to comply with the rules and have better housing units” Williams said.

Many landlords fear that punishments like revoking a license are very extreme. However, Carbondale City Councilmen Adam Loos hopes that the revocation would be rare just like the liquor license.

“In the almost nine years I’ve been on the council and liquor commission we have revoked exactly one license. During the time I have lived here, which is 15 years before that, I have never seen one revoked” Loos said.

Revoking a license is expected to only be used in extreme situations if properties are kept in poor shape. This is why city manager Williams says good landlords do not have much to worry about with a license requirement.

“If you're a good operator then you shouldn’t be worried about anything because the process is really going to be unchanged from what it is now. You get your inspection every three years and as long as you resolve any issues as you do now then it's really no different than our current system” Williams said.

Some concerns such as the cost, revoking a license, and burden on good landlords were addressed in the meeting but some were not due to the limited time. Williams says this meeting will not be the final discussion the city has with its residents about the ordinances.

“We foresee having multiple public meetings to give people a chance to work through the ordinance and get to a place where the council and public feel good about adopting something” Williams said.

City officials say these meetings will lead to multiple future drafts of each ordinance and they hope this will be a collaborative effort. Williams says he does not see any future roadblocks keeping them from being passed but he does believe a vote will not happen in the near future.

Ethan Holder is a student contributor for WSIU Public Broadcasting located at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. Contact WSIU Radio at 618-453-6101 or email wsiunews@wsiu.org
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