There's no crime wave sweeping through West Jordan's rental units but someday there could be.
The mere threat of an influx of criminal renters moving to West Jordan a city that currently doesn't have a Good Landlord plan to give landlords a financial incentive not to house those with a criminal history has prompted city leaders to look into the program.
"The reason (the Good Landlord program) came up is a lot of other cities are doing it," said Sheila Jennings, West Jordan crime prevention specialist. "If other cities are doing it and keeping the criminal element out of their apartments and cities, then they're going to have to find someplace else to go. To keep that level of security, so they don't move here, we need to keep on board with what a lot of other cities are doing."
West Valley City, Ogden and South Salt Lake currently follow the Good Landlord program. Clearfield, Washington Terrace, St. George, Provo, Sandy and West Jordan are also considering adding the program to their cities.
The Good Landlord program requires landlords to do thorough background checks on potential renters' credit and criminal histories, attend an 8-hour class on good landlord practices taught by the Utah Apartment Association and add a lease addendum that lists crime as grounds for eviction.
Landlords receive a financial incentive and decreased fees for signing a contract with the city and participating in the program.
In West Valley City, which implemented the program in 2007, Good Landlord program participants agree not to rent to anyone who was charged with committing sex, drug, violent or property crimes in the past three years. The result has been a 30 percent decrease in crime calls for service in the city's worst neighborhood from last May to this May.
"Code violations and criminal activity are bad for everyone," said Claire Gilmore, assistant West Valley City attorney. "They're bad for the city and they're bad for the landlords. We just have to get rid of it. That's our mission."
The Good Landlord program was formulated by the Utah Apartment Association in an attempt to protect landlords from being punished by the actions of a few, said association executive director Paul Smith. Criminals who rent from landlords who opt not to participate in the program usually end up paying more for their rent, Smith said, and landlords who participate in the program have less fees to pay because they don't rent to criminals.
"Housing is not a right, it's a privilege," Smith said. "Criminals will still be able to rent in certain places. They pay more, but hopefully that gives them incentive to change."
West Jordan's City Council agreed to do a study and will determine what fees would be charged landlords who do and don't participate in the program and whether the program should be added to the city.
In Sandy, where 14 percent of the 29,000 housing units in the city are rented, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, a committee that includes landlords and the police has been formed to study the issue. Like West Jordan, Sandy is looking to cities that already have the program for direction on what advantages it may bring.
"When we talked to South Salt Lake and West Valley, they said they wished they had this prior to having problems," said Sandy city spokesman Nick Duerkson.
If eventually enacted, any landlord program would be designed specifically to suit the needs of Sandy, he said.Sandy's committee is discussing whether to make its program voluntary, how to reward good landlords and how to treat convicted criminals equitably while simultaneously maintaining public safety. They also hope to address code enforcement issues such as overgrown lawns, Duerkson said.
Contributing: Rebecca Palmer
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