The Opelika City Council will consider an ordinance at its Tuesday meeting that would hold landlords in the city accountable for ensuring their rental properties are livable for Opelika residents.
The ordinance, which will be discussed by the council at its work session Tuesday, would require landlords to register their rental properties with the city and be held up to city code standards before the properties would be eligible to renters.
Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller said the ordinance is much needed in the city to ensure that all residents could live in a safe place.
“It will be a way to make sure that folks living in a rental unit in Opelika are living in decent, safe housing,” Fuller said. “The good landlords will not be bothered by this. If a landlord is not taking care of their property, then they may have some issues.”
Rental property inspections would be conducted by city staff after a resident leaves a property and before another moves in, and if the property does not pass inspection by meeting city code, then renters will not be allowed to live there, Fuller said.
If passed by the council, enforcement of the new ordinance would begin with the creation of an inventory of all rental properties within the city, which Fuller said can be cross-checked with lists of properties with city utility data.
“We can track most of this by when they turn their power on or off or when they turn their water on or off,” Fuller said. “We’ll check our list and make sure that’s a registered property, and if it’s not registered then we’re not going to turn the power on or switch it to your name until we contact the property owner or rental agent.”
Property owners would be required to register their properties with the city between Oct. 1, 2020, and Jan. 1, 2022. Properties built after Jan. 1, 2022, would be required to be registered before they can be occupied by renters, according to the ordinance.
The ordinance would ensure that landlords maintain and improve the quality of housing in Opelika and make sure that more affordable housing options within the city remain habitable. If passed, the ordinance would also allow renters to file complaints to the city regarding the conditions of their rental property, according to the ordinance.
“We don’t want it to be difficult, we just want to make sure our citizens are living in a safe place,” Fuller said. “Elle, who is the fifth member of my family, is a 100% purebred hound dog who came from the humane society. There’s some housing that people are living in that we wouldn’t let Elle spend the night in, and it’s shameful. We think this is the right thing to do.”