Debate ensued when the Fayetteville Village Board opened a public hearing on the proposed rental law Monday, Nov. 19. About 20 residents attended and about half of those residents spoke.
The rental law would create a registry for the village’s estimated 300 rental units. Code Enforcement Officer Richard Greene said there are 255 rental structures “that we know of, and we probably have at least 50 more that we don’t know about.”
Mayor Mark Olson said the village intends to find out how many rentals are out there, and how that number affects the quality of life of its residents. The proposed law requires all landlords to register by filling out an affidavit.
The board drafted the law in 2010 and has held multiple public hearings on it since.
David Vickers, an attorney who lives in Fayetteville, said the law makes no distinction between people who own entire apartment complexes and homeowners who decide to sublet out a room to help make ends meet.
“The language of your law has created that relationship to be landlord-tenant,” he said. “And I don’t think that’s acceptable.” Vickers isn’t a landlord, but he owns property in the village that he said he might some day rent out.
“If I own this house and I have a commercial exchange with someone, especially if there is something in writing, that to me is renting,” said Trustee Chris Randall, who chairs the rental law committee.
As a solution, Olson proposed adjusting the law to exempt owners of single-family homes from having to register.
Lisa Steele, a landlord, suggested the board approach the issue one step at a time, starting with the registry and leaving the inspection aspect out for now. The proposed law has been criticized for giving renters the power to start the inspection process with a call to the village clerk.
“Maybe the first step would be to just find out who are the property owners and just have a simple registration saying ‘yes, I am a landlord … I am the one paying the taxes, taking care of it,’” she said.
“I think the concern was that if we made it voluntary, that people take it just as that,” Olson responded.
“You can still make it a law, but make it a simple law,” Steele said.
The original law included a fee to register starting at $30 for a single unit. That fee has since been nixed from the drafted law following opposition from residents.
Vickers asked how the village planned to pay for the process of registering rentals without the fee.
“We’re not adding any labor do this,” Olson said.
“So that’s your cost analysis,” Vickers said, “that it’s not gonna cost anything?”
Olson responded: “We pay a flat fee for the use of a code enforcement officer and we have a salaried clerk/treasurer. Believe what you want, there’s not an additional cost.”
When Olson asked Vickers to trust him, Vickers said: “I don’t trust politicians.”
“We’re not politicians, we’re elected officials, sir,” Olson said.
Marty Morganstein, a of Spring Street, followed by saying he was in favor of the law. He said he owns his home but has no rental properties.
“I think we need some type of law. It’s a quality of life issue,” he said.
He said the wording of the law might need clearing up but felt that some rental property owners were simply “stirring things up.”
“I don’t think we know how you to do your jobs here, listening to all this stuff,” he said.
The board did not vote on the law that night. Olson said the rental law committee would review the comments and adjust the law before another public hearing is held.
“Because a lot of these are legitimate language changes, but we don’t want to lose the intent of the law,” Olson said.