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Multiple problems arise over rentals
Multiple problems arise over rentals
By SUE REID
A proposed rental-occupancy-permit ordinance does not solve situations such as multiple renters in a single-family home, some members of Solon's planning commission said last week.
Prior to tabling the public hearing on the ordinance, commission members discussed issues brought before them at their last meeting by residents Joanne and Michael Behnke. The couple appealed to the commission to recommend strict legislation for rental properties, specifically in single-family areas. Their request was based on what they described as "dubious renters" around their home in the Thornbury subdivision for the past four years and the "veritable hotel" across the street from them on Flanders Drive.
Councilwoman and commission member Toni M. Richmond said the ordinance, as currently written, does not address those issues or solve the problems the Behnkes described. "It's not something I can support right now," she said.
Ms. Richmond said it sounds as if the house the Behnkes described across the street is used as more of a boarding facility with people coming and going, not as a rental.
"How are we going to stop people from moving in in the night?" she asked said. "There's no way to control and monitor it unless people alert us."
Planning Director Robert S. Frankland said the ordinance does address some of those issues in that it would provide other means of accessing a structure if there is a violation.
"One of the things they were concerned about is people coming and going and tenants changing constantly in the house, related to what they perceive to be illegal activity," Mr. Frankland said of the Behnkes. "As of right now, the city has no authority to determine who is occupying a rental unit. If you have this ordinance, every time the renters change in the unit, a new rental occupancy permit is required.
"The ordinance would give the city the ability to know who is occupying a rental unit," he said. "If the city was to have reasonable cause to believe the occupancy permit is not accurate, then they would have the ability to follow up, such as requesting a judge's order to verify."
"I don't think the proposed legislation anticipated this being used as a boarding house," Ms. Richmond said.
"This ordinance would give the city considerably more power to address these types of situations," Mr. Frankland said.
Ms. Richmond said that, in taking a look at the legislation the city already has in place, "it limits how many people can live in a single-family residential that are not related." What the Behnkes described is "already in violation of ordinances we have in city," she said. "That is not being enforced."
Ms. Richmond said she sympathizes with the Behnkes' situation. "It's a big problem, and they need to alert the city. We have the tools in place already to send an inspector out there to make sure to follow up on complaints that they are out of compliance," she said.
"We don't need another layer of legislation to address that when we already have legislation," Ms. Richmond said. "My view of the proposed rental-occupancy-permit ordinance is that it doesn't address the situation any more than our current laws do. It just provides another layer where people have to get a permit."
She said she's "pretty certain that people moving into the residences in Thornbury, as described by the Behnkes, are not going to be applying for a rental permit. Neither are they going to apply for a permit every time someone moves in with their sleeping bag or mattress."
Mr. Frankland said it's difficult to verify who is residing in a structure for every community.
"The basis for any zoning code is a single-family zoning district," he said. "The issue is, even if it is required to be single family, it's difficult to determine if it is."
Mr. Frankland said that Solon often runs into situations of people not related and not in compliance with the ordinance in order to get into the school district. "That is a major concern of the schools," he said.
"If the city didn't want to proceed with rental-occupancy-permit ordinance because it would be difficult to prove who is occupying a rental unit and who is not, I would say that is the same argument you would make for eliminating single-family or two-family zoning entirely," Mr. Frankland said. "It's the same issue. It's a matter of occupancy."
Ms. Richmond said she would be in favor of legislation that is written in such a way that calls for an inspection in between owners and occupants.
Commission chairman William M. Mazur said he posed the question to Shana Samson, of Law Director David J. Matty's office, whether it's feasible to just register apartment rentals in residential areas.
Ms. Samson said the registration needs to be applied universally to the rental of single-family homes and the rental of what are generally considered multi-unit apartments.
"I think, at the absolute minimum, we require that all rentals be registered," Mr. Mazur said. He asked Ms. Samson to look into what the city could legally ask for as far as registration, such as proof of citizenship or how long people have been there. "It would be a starting point," he said.
"The city identified 1,200 rentals, but we don't know all of them," Mr. Mazur said.
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