Landlord registration proposal has merit

The City of Columbus is proposing requiring landlords of private rental properties to register with the city annually. The reasoning is it will help ensure that up-to-date contact information for local property owners is on hand and easily accessible in case of emergency.

That could include a fire or an incident involving law enforcement.

Having accurate contact information for property owners is important, fire department officials said, as they are required to contact a property owner to secure a damaged property after a fire, for example.

Landlords of private rental properties would pay a $5 registration fee and provide a name, address and emergency contact number. Landlords who don’t live in Bartholomew County or a neighboring county would be asked to provide a name and contact information of a local representative.

Those who fail to register could be hit with fines. Also, each time the rental property changes ownership, a new registration would be required within 30 days of transfer.

Many landlords oppose this proposal. They claim it’s an example of government overreach that is unfair because owners of single-family residences wouldn’t be required to register. Landlords who oppose the proposal also claim that the information that would be required of the rental property owners is unnecessary because it’s already available online, such as through the county’s GIS program.

We, however, think the city’s proposal has merit.

For starters, the proposed registration cost is cheap, far from prohibitive.

More importantly, though, it would ensure that accurate information is on file and easily accessible when needed by firefighters, law enforcement or even city code enforcement officials if other issues with the property arise.

Searching the county’s GIS program doesn’t ensure someone will find the contact information needed, such as a landlord’s name let alone a phone number. Sometimes it’s just the name and address of a limited liability company — which then requires more searching of a state database to try and find an individual associated with the company. Such a process is too labor-intensive.

Making the information available to the public under a public records request is another good feature of the proposal because transparency is important.

For this process to work smoothly, though, the city must do several things:

It starts with coming up with a way to efficiently notify landlords that a new registration process, with a fee, is required.

The registration process needs to be easy and seamless, so it’s not a burden.

To assure that government overreach is not the intent, fines against landlords should be a last resort.

We support measures that aid and streamline processes related to safety, and ensure vital information can be obtained quickly.

The proposal serves a useful purpose and should be approved by the city council.

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