Action on a proposed rental registry for the city of Reynoldsburg is on hold, with officials saying more time is needed to study its implications.

Reynoldsburg City Council's public service and transportation committee voted Jan. 14 to table the proposal until at least Feb. 25.

"This is a piece of legislation that I want us to be very conscientious about and do everything possible to minimize disruptions for our landlords and tenants," committee member and at-large council member Kristin Bryant said.

Bryant introduced the legislation in October as a way to better track apartment owners and help ensure complexes are being maintained.

If approved, it would require all rental units within city limits to register and pay per-unit fees ranging from $50 to $100 annually. The buildings would then be subject to city inspections between rentals and any newly built apartments would need inspected before new tenants move in.

If a unit has not been inspected within two years, the proposed ordinance says notice would be sent to the occupant that they have the right to request a city inspection. It does not indicate how the city would manage the program or who would conduct inspections.

Bryant did not want to name what she called the city's "problem complexes."

"People who live in town will know what I'm talking about," she said.

"Any time a project comes up with some type of housing ... there seems to be this outcry of 'We don't want more apartments.' When you delve a little deeper, people think we have enough and many of them have grown dilapidated and uncared for and have extensive maintenance issues," Bryant said.

"The idea is to have the current rental units pick up the pace and try to stay relevant and look like they belong here. No one wants to bring in new (apartments) and have them fall into the same state of disrepair."

Reynoldsburg has two code enforcement officers and Bryant said she would like to see more officers hired.

"It's complaint-driven, so if someone calls something in, they'll go check it out, but they may drive past 20 other code violations," she said. "Two code enforcement officers are not enough to get the job done."

Landlord concerns

Local landlords say the city is unfairly burdening them with more costs and oversight and lumping them in with out-of-town or absentee owners.

"Don't confuse crime-laden complexes with those managed by good landlords," said Larry Ruben, president of Plaza Properties, which owns three complexes in the city.

Ruben told committee members that inspections could create delay in renting units in a timely fashion and new fees could force landlords to raise rents.

County registry exists

Ohio law requires the owners of residential rental property to register a contact agent with the auditor of the county where the property is located.

The fine for not registering rental properties in Franklin County was $50, but it was raised to $150 -- the most the law allows -- beginning in December when property tax bills due in 2019 were mailed.

"The vast majority of the units in Reynoldsburg are already registered with the Franklin County auditor," said Dimitri Hotzifotinos, an attorney representing the Columbus Apartment Association.

According to the nonprofit association, which represents multi-family property owners in central Ohio, there are about 6,000 apartments in Reynoldsburg, 4,970 of which are in Franklin County.

Hotzifotinos said the CAA hopes to work with the city to draft legislation that gives Reynoldsburg the ability to better track and contact landlords, but takes issue with requiring additional fees and inspections outside of those required for property maintenance code violations.

"Cities are being proactive in order to make sure they have a quality housing stock," he said. "Our position is that there is already a quality housing stock in Reynoldsburg.

"No one has said that there is a problem that needs solving," Hotzifotinos said. "We are concerned that a fee is not proportionate to a problem that has been presented. We don't understand why the city would be increasing the costs to live there."

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"The vast majority of the units in Reynoldsburg are already registered with the Franklin County auditor. ... We are concerned that a fee is not proportionate to a problem that has been presented."

-- DIMITRI HOTZIFOTINOS

representing the Columbus

Apartment Association