Landlord licensing ordinance postponed by Seaford Council
By Lynn R. Parks
A planned second reading of a new ordinance that would require landlords in the city of Seaford to be licensed has been postponed. According to a notice published on the city's website, it will be held on or before the city council meeting of Aug. 22.
The second reading of the ordinance was set for this week's city council meeting, which was held Tuesday. The notice says that the postponement 'stems from a request by Mayor and Council for additional information which will be compiled into a presentation to be given at the time of [the] second reading.'
Speaking by email Monday morning, Mayor David Genshaw said that he wants the city to have decided what amount it will charge for the yearly license before the council votes on the new ordinance. Possibilities that have been discussed at earlier meetings include $50 for each dwelling unit, or $25 per bedroom.
Genshaw also wants to clarify the responsibilities of the city's code department if a license and inspection program is instituted, and start working on programs designed to provide financial incentives for landlords to fix up their properties and even convert them to owner-occupied housing.
The first reading of the new ordinance was held July 11. As it read then, the ordinance would require all people who rent out dwelling units in Seaford to have a license. A dwelling unit is defined as having one or more rooms, with a separate cooking area and bathroom, and accessible to the outdoors either directly or through a hall that is shared by other dwelling units. A room in a nursing home, for example, is not a dwelling unit.
The license would be good for one year. Landlords would pay an annual fee and all dwelling units would undergo an annual inspection. Apartments that are already inspected by other agencies would not have to undergo a second city inspection.
During a public hearing on the proposed ordinance, held in June, assistant city manager Charles Anderson said that landlords would be provided with checklists, showing exactly what city inspectors would be looking for during annual inspections. 'It is pretty basic stuff are your steps safe, are your walls intact,' he said. 'Landlords will be able to pre-inspect so that everything is ready when we get there.'
Several people, including landlords and tenants, showed up at the meeting at which the first reading of the ordinance was held, to protest it. They said that they hadn't known about the public hearing and asked what the city was trying to achieve with the licensing requirement. Genshaw told them that the city wants to improve conditions in rental units, and that the new procedure would give it the information and leverage it needs to do that.
He also described the process that the city has gone through to get to this point. In December, he appointed a committee of area landlords to look at the possibility of instituting a rental license in the city. That committee, which included Anderson and Councilman Dan Henderson, met five times to talk about the license. The city estimates that it has 1,566 rental units, including 413 single-family homes, 180 duplexes, 302 nonsubsidized apartments and 671 apartments that are subsidized by the federal government.
For your information
The full proposed ordinance requiring landlords in the city of Seaford to be licensed is available on the city's website, seafordde.com. Under 'Government,' click on 'Minutes and Agendas.' The ordinance is part of the agenda for the July 11 meeting. The ordinance will get a second reading on or before the Aug. 22 city council meeting.
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