Reynoldsburg City Council: Rental registry, source of income legislation moves forward

Kelley Rodriguez
ThisWeek
Reynoldsburg City Hall

Reynoldsburg City Council is expected to vote this month on two proposals related to rental housing in the city.

Council heard the first readings Feb. 22 of an ordinance that would create a registry to track rental properties and landlords in the city and another ordinance adopting a “source of income” law prohibiting housing discrimination based on how tenants pay their rent.   

If approved, the rental registry would require property owners to register and pay a one-time fee of $25 for each dwelling unit.  

Larger multi-family buildings will be charged $25 per unit up to the first five units per structure and nothing for additional units in the same building. 

They also would be required to have a local “designated agent” the city could contact in case of violations.  

City officials said code-enforcement officers often have a difficult time finding a property owner to hold responsible. 

Although all rental-property owners would be required to register, officials said the registry likely will note be used to target minor violations like trash and overgrown grass, which are violations typically caused – and remedied – by the tenant. 

The Columbus Apartment Association, which says the city has about 6,000 apartment units, opposes the rental registry, pointing out Ohio law already 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 is $150. 

Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Gahanna, Marietta, Nelsonville, Oxford, Painesville, Sandusky and University Heights are among Ohio cities with some form of additional rental-registration requirement. 

Source of income law

Council also is considering adding “source of income” as a protected status under unlawful discriminatory housing practices.

“Veterans, recipients of disability payments, households with rental assistance vouchers and anyone with other governmental or private sources of payment should be protected from discrimination when seeking rental housing solely on the basis of source of payment,” according to draft legislation present to council.

Landlords would retain the right to use screening criteria, including rental history and credit scores, and still would be allowed to charge security deposits.   

Amy Klaben, an affordable housing advocate and project facilitator with Move to Prosper, said SOI laws help prevent people from becoming “economically trapped in neighborhoods without job opportunities.”

“In (Franklin County) we have a dangerous mismatch between where affordable housing is located and where the jobs are located,” she said.

Keith Benner, a Reynoldsburg real estate agent and landlord who owns six rentals, said the proposal unfairly lumps together all types of landlords, from small-business owners to large corporations.

“Dealing with the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority is not an easy thing for the average guy to navigate,” he said. “Those conglomerates will swallow this bill without any issues. I’m not sure how many of us might choke on it.”

City Attorney Chris Shook said Reynoldsburg has not received any complaints from tenants and he is not aware of any problems with landlords.     

Several states and at least six other Ohio communities have enacted similar legislation. In September, Bexley became the first city in central Ohio to add “source of income” to its fair-housing law.    

Council is expected to vote on both pieces of legislation March 22.

Reynoldsburg in June expanded its anti-discrimination laws, adding sexual orientation, gender identity or expression and natural hairstyle as protected classes related to housing, employment and public-accommodation practices.   

It provides recourse for people who believe they have suffered discriminatory acts or practices not otherwise protected by state or federal law. Written complaints must be filed with the city and sworn to under oath within 180 days of the incident.    

The legislation included exemptions for those seeking employment at a religious corporation, association, educational institution or society and allows a religious institution to employ only people of the same religion. It also includes definitions of commercial and noncommercial activity to help provide clarity for religious institutions.

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