City officials are making yet another attempt to "remind the landlords that there is an ordinance that requires them to register their rental property," said Trey Hardy, community redevelopment coordinator, "or face a $500 fine." Landlord requirement packets were mailed to all known landlords in Sikeston Oct. 27.
The list of those who are not in compliance with the city's rental ordinance is being posted to the city's Web site, www.sikeston.org, this weekend, according to Amy Smith, administrative assistant for the Department of Public Works.
She encouraged anybody who owns residential property in Sikeston to check the Web site to see if their name is on the list.
"Out of 675 landlords, 222 are not in compliance," Hardy said Friday. Of the 222 landlords not in compliance, 61 are living out of town, Smith added.
City Manager Doug Friend said those who are not in compliance are usually not in the rental property business with several properties but tend to be those who only own one or two buildings.
Some of those who own residential property in Sikeston may not think of themselves as "landlords," but city officials define residential rental property as any non-owner occupied residential structure.
"If you are not the recorded owner of that property," Hardy said, "you are in rental property."
"We went off the tax records," Smith noted. "If you are living in that property and your name is not on the tax record, you are a tenant."
Hardy offered as an example a scenario in which an older couple with an adult daughter buy a bigger house and move out but continue to pay the bills on their old house for their daughter to live in.
First of all, Hardy said, the couple would have to register the property as rental property - even if the daughter is not actually paying rent.
Secondly, "she would have to fill out a tenancy application and submit it but there would be no fees associated with it," Hardy said.
There is usually a $15 inspection fee for tenancy applications but the city waives this requirement for immediate family members, according to Hardy.
Other examples of non-owner occupied structures that aren't typical rental agreements include situations such as parents who deed their home to their children for various reasons even though they remain in the structure or children who buy a home for their parents but don't transfer ownership.
Another example that comes up regularly is property that is inherited and already has renters in it or is kept vacant. "They still have to register it," Hardy said.
As most people think of rental property as a place with a renter living there, many landowners don't realize that the city's definition of rental property as any property not owner-occupied means that vacant and condemned properties are also included and must be registered as rental property.
Those who move out of a home they own to remodel it or because they have a new house and are trying to sell it must register the properties as well.
Hardy also reminded property owners that the registration is required on an annual basis.
"They have to do this every year by Dec. 1," he said - even if nothing has changed since registering last time.
Tenancy registrations, on the other hand, are only required when a tenant moves in and don't need to be renewed annually.
While the deadline to register rental property for 2006 was Dec. 1, city officials are providing a grace period to comply.
Friend will sign complaints beginning Feb. 1, according to Smith.
The fine is for a non-complying landlord, not each structure, so landlords face only a single fine of $500 "regardless of if they have 10 properties or one piece of property," Smith said.
Mobile homes or trailers that are not occupied by their owners are somewhat more complicated as the person who owns the trailer many not necessarily own the property it sits on. Smith advised those who own a trailer or land that has a trailer that isn't owner-occupied should contact City Hall to find out what is required.
The rental registration ordinance was passed and implemented effective Dec. 1, 2000. Following the Dec. 1 deadline, "there's usually about 200 each year that have not complied," Smith said.
Smith said most of those initially listed as not being in compliance turn out to be owners of properties that were sold or are now vacant "and they don't realize they have to register."
In 2000, 25 landlords ended up paying a fine in court. In 2005, there were 16 non-complying landlords fined and five fines imposed for failure to submit tenancy applications. Smith noted landlords are also held responsible for the submission of tenancy applications.
If someone sells a home they don't occupy, "at least let us know," Hardy asked. "Please let us know you don't own it and please let us know who owns it now."
"That way you can get your name off the list," Smith said.
Later this month, Friend is slated to present a list of non-complying landlords to the City Council for publication in the Standard Democrat.
Friend advised that landowners should also at this time begin to think about property maintenance as spring is just around the corner.