In February, New Haven’s Board of Aldermen will have to make a decision about whether to revise the city’s system for collecting landlords’ fees.
The Livable City Initiative — the city agency that is responsible for enforcing the city’s housing code and public space requirements — introduced a proposal to the board in December that would change the licensing and inspection payments that landlords are required to pay the city. LCI Executive Director Erik Johnson said the amendment will benefit landlords by making their payments less frequent while improving the payment process by ensuring that all landlords pay.
“The amendment that LCI is proposing will benefit landlords and individuals living in the apartments because it will reduce the issues of the current system,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the new system would ensure that landlords pay their licensing and inspection fees, because it improves the notification process and calls for stricter enforcement of these fees. This change would take pressure off of landlords, especially the smaller landlords, who would only have to pay less frequently, Johnson said.
LCI’s amendment would change the current system, in which landlords pay inspection fees every other year, to one in which they would pay every three years. Currently, landlords pay $75 for buildings with two or three rental apartments, $150 for buildings containing four to 10 apartments and $250 for buildings with 11 to 20. The amendment would require them to pay $100 for buildings with up to three apartments and $40 per apartment for larger buildings, with a maximum price per building capped at $1,000.
Johnson says that this amendment proposed by LCI will most likely pass because the current system just isn’t working as well as it could. But Ward 7 Alderman Doug Hausladen ’04 said he did not know whether the amendment would pass, because not enough aldermen have carefully considered it yet.
Johnson said some landlords claim that others do not pay their fees, though he could not confirm whether this is the case. LCI’s amendment, he said, would eliminate these landlords’ cause for concern by requiring stricter enforcement on all landlords paying licensing and inspection fees.
But one member of the board has been very vocal about her desire to change the system more radically than LCI’s amendment.
Ward 28 Alderwoman Claudette Robinson-Thorpe proposed to stop making landlords pay any money to cover the cost of inspections, according to the New Haven Independent.
“Most people are good landlords,” she told the Independent. “If my property passes inspections, I shouldn’t have to pay,” she said.
Johnson said Robinson-Thorpe’s proposal is impractical because the money for inspections and LCI’s administrative costs has to come from somewhere. As 77 percent of the city’s residences are rented, he added, it is unlikely that the city could afford to exempt landlords entirely.
Ward 1 Alderwoman Sarah Eidelson ’12 said she supports LCI’s amendment.
“The ability of all New Haven residents to live in safe and healthy homes is obviously of paramount importance,” she said. “I’ve spoken to innumerable residents who have serious concerns about the functioning of the Livable City Initiative, so I support a review of the overall program.” she says.
The amendment has already been recommended by the board’s legislation committee, and the full board will vote on it in early February.