Aldermen pass Ordinance 594 requiring city landlords to register annually

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 9/23/20

BELLE — Ordinance No. 594 regarding landlord registration passed as written during the Sept. 8 Belle Board of Aldermen meeting after its second reading, despite a community member’s …

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Aldermen pass Ordinance 594 requiring city landlords to register annually

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BELLE — Ordinance No. 594 regarding landlord registration passed as written during the Sept. 8 Belle Board of Aldermen meeting after its second reading, despite a community member’s suggestions to revise wording

“I have read it and agree with it for the most part,” said Terry Connors, a city business owner.

The ordinance has been in discussion since April under former mayor Josh Seaver’s administration. Connors, owner of Connor’s Country Lodge, has been adamant about making changes to the ordinance, while adding that he thinks the ordinance is needed and well-written.

“In item number six, talking about ‘a local person to control (landowner inspections), who lives in Belle or within 50 miles of Belle,’ my only concern with that is that some people live several states away,” Connors told aldermen. “Will they have to hire a property manager because they are more than 50 miles away?”

He also added suggestions to the wording of the ordinance that included revising the $25 fine per day for failure to register.

“I recommend the word ‘fine’ be changed to ‘late fee’ and ‘per day’ be scratched off,” Connors said.

He added that the line item saying “the city administrator shall notify the landowner” should be more specific about how they would reach out. He thinks people will say they didn’t know.

“If the city ordinance passes, I think that a $25 per day fine is adequate,” Alderman Tony Gieck said after listening to the first few suggestions. “If I am only going to fine someone a flat $25, and not every day, they can take all year to pay it.”

Connors said it could be more than $25.

“You could change that to $50, especially when it is being sent certified mail,” Connors said.

Gieck agreed that they could, but if the landlord sees that they are going to be charged $25 per day, they will come in and pay it. Connors argued that they may not be able to do that legally.

“It seems to me the only thing, like if you have 10 days to reply after they are notified, then hit them with a second offense, double or triple the amount. Then maybe the third offense,” Connors said.

Gieck also questioned why they would change the wording from “fine” to “late fee.” Connors said he doesn’t want a landlord to come back on the city. Alderman Jeanette Struemph said changing the wording would make the notice incorrect.

“How do you classify it as a late fee when it is actually a fine — if you violate it, it’s a fine,” Struemph said. “If they haven’t followed through, it’s still a fine. It’s not a late fee. A late fee is ‘I get charged this amount because I didn’t pay my water bill on time.’ This is a fine because you are already in violation.”

Connors said his suggestions were for consideration.

“But if we start using words like ‘subsequent, violation, and ordinance’ you are getting into the judicial process and we don’t have the ability to do that,” Connors said.

As a city municipality, aldermen passing an ordinance is like passing a bill — law for the city. Alderman Sundi Jo Graham asked Connors why he thought the city wouldn’t have the ability to enforce an ordinance that they pass.

“These ordinances are from other cities that have this,” Gieck said. “If this is illegal, why would other cities have this?”

Connors said he isn’t saying the ordinance isn’t illegal, just that 10 days should be 10 business days, and that the ordinance should be more refined.

“You have 30 days after you acquire that property,” Gieck said. “Then another 10 days after being notified that you are late. Technically they have 40 days.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Connors said. “We are trying to do right by the people. That’s all I am saying. Just consider how it is phrased. I am not arguing against it, and I think it is well-written, I just think we should consider a few changes.”

The board passed the ordinance as written later in the meeting with a 4-0 vote.

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