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Council to Becker: What's up with our landlord/tenant program?

Published December 24, 2012 10:29 am

SLC • City Council not sure how or if initiative is being implemented by Becker administration.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Salt Lake City Council thought it sounded like a good idea: Institute a landlord/tenant program that would weed out slumlords as well as nuisance tenants.

It required a small amount of training and a business license for landlords. It also would keep landlords abreast of tenants who constantly attract police attention.

But more than a year after the City Council passed its "good landlord initiative," council members don't know how the program is working — or if it's being fully implemented by the administration of Mayor Ralph Becker.

It appears to Councilman Luke Garrott that what the council had sought is not being carried out because there are no systematic inspections of rental units, as outlined in the ordinance.

"I'm disappointed with the implementation of the program," Garrott said. "It doesn't seem like the intention of the ordinance is being followed."

The confusion has been helped along by the Utah Legislature. In its 2012 session, lawmakers, prodded by some Salt Lake City landlords, weighed in on the issue and passed HB216.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Kenneth W. Sumsion, R-American Fork, exempted landlords with four units or fewer. It also added language that said municipalities cannot "without cause or notice require a landlord to submit to a random building inspection."

Sumsion could not be reached for comment.

In a council meeting earlier this month, Garrott challenged the administration on its determination made by City Attorney Ed Rutan and Deputy City Attorney Lynn Pace that HB216 forbade any inspection unless a complaint was lodged concerning a specific rental unit.

"That's not a good reading of the law," said Garrott, who believes the legal language allows regular inspections that are not arbitrary or seeking to single out a particular landlord.

But Rutan and Pace did not agree.

According to Garrott, inspections are a key part of the program because they guarantee rental units are safe to live in.

"We've given the signal we aren't doing safety inspections," Garrott said. "That's a terrible thing."

Becker spokesman Art Raymond said the good landlord program is being implemented, but inspections are only performed upon complaints.

"The potential for scheduled inspections is still being determined," Raymond said.

Nonetheless, Raymond said that landlords who own some 28,000 units in Salt Lake City are participating.

"The great majority of units are part of our good landlord program," he said.

But the council, most likely, has not finished its inquiry, said Councilman Soren Simonsen, who is the outgoing chairman.

"It would serve us well to determine how the program is being implemented," he said.

It isn't the first time the Legislature has nosed into city affairs. Earlier, state lawmakers entered the fray surrounding the creation of local historic districts in Salt Lake City.

"It's hard to know what's going on when the state Legislature starts to tinker with our ordinances," Simonsen said. "We are far more transparent at the local level than they are at the state level."

csmart@sltrib.com

Salt Lake City Landlord/tenant program

O For more information on the program, go to http://www.slcgov.com/landlord or call 801-535-7980.