A new landlord-tenant ordinance, proposed in the wake of the recent closure of a low-income apartment complex, would help authorities respond more quickly to housing crises in Salt Lake City, a city housing official said Thursday.
Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis gave his blessing Thursday to drafting an "equitable" ordinance putting teeth into city housing law to force landlords to maintain apartments in an "inhabitable" condition.The mayor's comments come on the heels of the city relocating tenants from the Smith Apartments, 230 S. Third East, after the owners, First National Leasing, failed to comply with an order to restore heat to the complex.
Assistant Building and Housing Director Harvey Boyd is reviewing other cities' ordinances and recommendations from a recent city housing conference to head off future housing crises.
"The bottom line is if we don't help safeguard our housing, we won't have any housing left in Salt Lake City," he said.
Two cities, Dallas and Sacramento, Calif., have effective landlord-tenant ordinances on the books to address housing that has fallen into disrepair and become a public nuisance, Boyd said.
"The basic point is both the Sacramento and Dallas ordinances address the question of nuisances and allow a city to respond to nuisances in a much quicker way," Boyd said.
Some cities impanel "housing courts" to expedite judicial review of housing code violations, such as those at the Smith Apartments, in order to head off code violations before they destroy entire buildings.
At the Smith Apartments, Boyd said, the problems that led to the eventual abandonment of the building began with a small leak in a pipe leading to a bathtub.
"If we don't step in somewhere to help, we'll lose valuable housing," Boyd said.
The city could be in a position to help with financial backing for landlords, Boyd said. More federal money could be found to help make repairs and better defined housing law could establish when that money can be spent.
"A new ordinance could clarify when and where we can do that," he said.
Additionally, the new ordinance, which could be brought before the City Council this summer, could include stiffer penalties for those landlords who don't keep properties up to code.
"People have go to realize they're in violation of the law," Boyd said.
But the ordinance won't be an exclusively pro-tenant law, Boyd added. "I think also we've got to help the landlords out with abusive tenants" who often damage properties belonging to well-meaning landlords.