By Jessica Mathews/

Sweeping changes are being made to rental registration requirements in the City of Howell.

City Council met March 9th and adopted Ordinance 932, which amends city code to update rental registration requirements. A memo states the ordinance completely changes the way the City handles rental properties and overhauls the certification process. The City has talked about issues with rentals for many years but has also been working to address blight and other dangerous properties. All rental properties are now required to be registered and inspected on a bi-annual basis. That would include transitional housing facilities recently approved under Ordinance 929. Other significant changes include requiring a site plan, floor plan and pictures of all rental structures at the time of registration and renewal, inspections would be required every two years but the City will also maintain its complaint-based system currently in place. City Council would be the established body to hear appeals from an order of the building official and the distance a responsible local agent is required to live is now within 30 miles of the City. It was previously 60 miles. The City has built in a grace period of one year for compliance and will be working to determine implementation.

Interim City Manager Erv Suida says a few years back, a rental inspection process based on complaints was implemented. While that has had some success, he says it really doesn’t address the underlying problem that they have rental properties with some safety and health concerns out there so they need to make sure those are met at duplexes, single family rentals and the big apartment complexes. Suida tells WHMI there are several communities in Michigan that do this and it’s really for the safety of the renter - to make sure that their interests and safety is met because sometimes, that’s not always the number one priority for a landlord. Suida says it’s a simple rental license and inspection program, noting they’re still working through procedural details and will be working with both renters and landlords. He says they’ve already met with the Apartment Rental Association for feedback and have talked with a lot of communities that already do this to learn about their successes. Suida reiterated this has been talked about for a long time but is finally coming about and it is a revenue neutral program. He says revenues only pay for expenses so it is not a money maker at all - they just want to make sure renters have a safe and healthy environment.

Rental owners in attendance at the meeting were not pleased with the changes and felt more time should be given and that proposed fees should have been included before approval. Many expressed those fees would likely be passed on to tenants and they don’t want to create hardships. It was noted that per laws, the City cannot make any income on the inspections so fees must be revenue neutral. Many who spoke further agreed the inspections are very intrusive to tenants. One preferred having inspections on a three-year basis similar to the City of Brighton’s program.

Meanwhile, after last Monday’s City Council meeting was cancelled because of the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order from Gov. Whitmer, officials have postponed it to this Monday, March 30th at 5pm. The purpose of the meeting is to hold an Executive Session to review confidential applications for the position of Howell City Manager. However, it will be a virtual meeting of the City Council.

Refer to the City’s website to view the complete Agenda & Packet. Those interested can click the provided link to join the webinar:

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