If the Dallas City Council winds up passing an ordinance requiring rent-house owners to register with the city -- a proposal we mentioned Sunday and just discussed at the council's briefing -- it'll apparently have to do so without three members' input. In the middle of Code Compliance's presentation, two years after this notion first surfaced at City Hall, Mayor Tom Leppert said that Pauline Medrano, Vonciel Jones Hill and Tennell Atkins had to step out of council chambers because they "have a conflict of interest." Hill and Medrano garner revenue from rental properties (thanks, Texas Watchdog!); it's unclear what Atkins's conflict is, at least judging from his personal finance statement filed with the city secretary.
Which left the rest of the council to debate the proposal -- or, at least, to ask questions while also offering support for the idea, which will bring in money (each property would be subject to a $25 registration fee) and allow Code to more easily find a homeowner when citations are being doled out. "I am so excited to see this," said Carolyn Davis; Ann Margolin likewise issued a here-here, while also wondering, "Why do we believe owners of drug houses are going to register so we can find them?"
Thus far, the only naysayer is Dave Neumann, who wonders why the city is considering "punishing the good" rent-house owners: "Let's call it what it is: a $2 million tax on a business element, and a majority of them are good rental property owners." To which City Manager Mary Suhm said "a good number ... are problems." How many is "a good number"? Dunno. To which Neumann responded that this is "an overreach of government."
Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway hit upon one big issue with the proposal: Citations for such things as overgrown weeds or structural problems would still go to the tenant. Why, he wondered, will they not be sent the owner? Is that not the point of having them register in the first place?
"What," he asked, "does that do if the tenant moves?"
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"It's like any ticket we write," said Suhm. "Eventually, there will be a warrant issued for their arrest, and if they're stopped for a traffic violation, they'll go to jail."
"But why can't send [the citation] to the owner?" Caraway asked. "The owner's not going to put up with a tenant who keeps getting him fines, and the owner has more control of the finances, since he controls the rent. ... The owner has a better chance of collecting on those tickets than we do from a tenant who's moving around."
"The owners aren't respnsble for the actions" of their tenants, said Suhm. "The person who let the weeds grow is. So the citation go where the residnet is. But we'll be in contact with the owner: 'We've given your tenant a citation, and you may want to check in on this.'"
They're still debating this, if you're interested.