Ludington council hears comments on rental ordinance.

October 12, 2015

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

LUDINGTON — Several people addressed the Ludington City Council Monday night about the proposed rental inspection ordinance. Most of those who spoke were landlords, or people associated with the rental business who are opposed to the ordinance change. A couple people spoke in favor of the ordinance.

The council held the first reading of the controversial rental inspection ordinance during the meeting. Some of the highlighted items of the proposal include:

– Registration of rental dwellings at a cost of $15 per unit.

– Ownership transfer fee of $10 per rental units.

– Re-registration every three years.

– Minimum standards for rental dwellings.

– Waiver of standards for rentals that are “grandfathered.”

– Certification of compliance.

– Inspection fees of $50 per unit.

Melissa Reed of Amber Township, who owns six units in the city with her husband, Pat Patterson, said she was actually in favor of the ordinance if it increased the safety of tenants. But, she said she believed the city council and its building and licensing committee, were “confusing the motion with action. At the end of this process you can point to that ordinance and say ‘look what we did.’ What you won’t be able to say is that person is measurably safer. If you want to take action, enforce the laws you have available now.”

Reed called the proposed ordinance intrusive. “No citizens, including renters enjoy relinquishing their right to privacy to a stranger, even when they are assured when that stranger is from the government and here to help. This duplicates existing laws that have already been established.”

Joe Moloney, a member of the city planning commission, called the city’s current system is “antiquated and not working.” He said some of the units are “deplorable and unsafe… Self governance does not work in transportation, food safety, medical care and doesn’t work for safe housing.”

Maloney said the ordinance is “largely overdue. This is the right time and you are the right people to lead us into this era.”

Raymond Matson also spoke in favor of the ordinance. He said he recently purchased a home that was previously a rental. He said plaster was falling from the walls, shattered windows that were tapped, black mold in the bathroom that bled into a bedroom where a child slept. He said the tenants of the home told him they had to purchase their own stove because the stove the landlord owned was a fire hazard.

“There’s no oversight,” Matson said. “When I take a look at the … ordinance, it’s very simple. It’s not adding another level of government, it’s not making more restrictions, it’s simply enabling city officials to do their job.” Matson said city officials, under the current ordinance, cannot enforce the ordinance and cannot enter rental properties for inspections.

Tom Tyron, who lives on Ludington Avenue, said he was tired of the debate. “I’m tired hearing how bad the rentals are in Ludington,” he said. “Ninety-five percent are great. I’m tired of the baloney. We don’t need this proposal…. There are always going to be bad rental units and bad houses. It’s just a fact of life. We do the best we can to keep houses in this town the best we can and that’s what good citizens do.” Tyron said some people are just not good citizens.

Erika Trimm, who is a real estate broker and a landlord who lives in Ludington, said she is torn about the ordinance proposal. She said she has certain properties where she cannot control what the tenants do. For example, she said one of her renters refuses to mow their lawn and she receives complaints from the city about the tenants.

“I see every day of my life deplorable places where CPS (Child Protective Services) should be involved with and they are not. We can’t change these people and the way they live.”

Mike Wood, who lives in the 300 block of North Robert Street, said he lives in “ground zero of rental properties.” He said at one time, half of his block contained 16 rental units. He said he shares an alley with properties on North Rath Avenue that are rentals and in poor condition.

“There needs to be an ordinance and there need to be inspections. Something has to be done about these properties.

“Something has to be done.”

Wood said as a property owner he should have a say as well.

Prior to the meeting, Rob Nelson, who owns Washington Avenue Apartments with his brother, Chad, told MCP he owns 35 units and that the new ordinance would cost him over $4,000 a year. He said many of the residents are elderly and on limited incomes. He said he is not in favor of raising rents to compensate for the cost increases.

Councilor Kathy Winczewski, chair of the city’s building and licenses committee, said the current city ordinance only allows the city to inspect the exterior of rental properties. The proposed ordinance would allow the city to inspect the interior of rental properties to assure the health, safety and welfare of the tenants.

She said the fee structure is not meant for the city to profit but rather to meet the costs of the program. She said the committee has met several times and has asked for input and has made changes to the proposal.

Councilor Gary Castonia, who is not on the committee, said he was disappointed that several of those who spoke about the ordinance left before the councilors could respond. He said that the city has held several meetings, though some complained that there hadn’t been enough meetings.

“What I don’t want is for this to happen too late. I want to see something pass now before it’s too late. If you don’t like what we are doing, run for office. We aren’t getting rich up here, listening to people come in and complain every two weeks, badgering us. I’ve got the utmost respect for the city manager for the abuse he takes and sits there and doesn’t say anything.

“Let’s be part of the solution not part of the problem all the time,” Castonia said.

Councilor Les Johnson said he is in agreement with most of the proposal but does think there are some things that could be tweaked. He said he was in favor of forming a housing authority.

“I just feel it’s something we should not be in a hurry to do. We need to do it right.”

Winczewski said the committee has worked hard on the ordinance. “We have worked very very hard on this rental ordinance and we have taken lots of input and we have had lots of meetings. I feel we have listened to people and we have tweaked this. We want to make it safe for rental units in Ludington. Renting is a business and we should be able to ensure that people live in safe units.”

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