City tables certificate of occupancy

Henderson City Council met for a special Public Hearing yesterday at 7:00 p.m. at the City Municipal Building.

All members were present for the Public Hearing regarding the two separate issues of An Ordinance Changing the Minimum Standards Under the Minimum Housing Code and An Ordinance Requiring a Permit to Rent Dwelling Units in the City of Henderson.

The City Council had the right to vote on both ordinances after hearing the public comments.

Mike Satterwhite, local attorney, resident and rental property owner spoke first, representing other area rental property owners. He stated that the landlords, as a group, favor Chapter 21 C recommendations, with some exceptions.

Satterwhite said the property owners were mainly concerned about rental units being required to be inspected previous to occupancy. This would require the owners of these units to have water and electricity connected before the inspection could be done, adding an expense for the landlords.

Instead, the rental owners would prefer to have a contract with the tenants stating that an inspection of the property would take place after the tenants moved in. Satterwhite said that if the existing ordinances were enforced changes in the minimum housing code would probably not be necessary. He said it was not the fault of the property owners that the code is not enforced.

He spoke in favor of holding both landlords and tenants equally responsible for maintenance of the rentals. Satterwhite said that there are probably some landlords who don’t maintain their properties up to the health and safety codes but he did not represent them.

Satterwhite stated that the City needed to “go after” tenants who destroyed the units and stole appliances. He contended that both tenants and landlords be equally subject to enforcement.

At this point, Elissa Yount asked Satterwhite to clarify whether or not he was saying the City Council should take action regarding complaints from tenants and landlords. Currently, complaints from tenants are reported to the City Code Department and owner complaints of damage and theft is reported to the Police Department. It became evident that “City” is an inclusive word.

Satterwhite assured the Council that the property owners were willing to work hard and work with the city but it seemed like it was “Us against you”. He pointed out that the new codes would put older units out of compliance, since codes were not the same when they were built.

Yount asked Satterwhite if he agreed with the minimum code as presented. Satterwhite responded that if older rentals were considered code compliant according to the standards of the time they were built, it would be a reasonable compromise.

“If we add the wording that the property met the code at the time it was built and any new additions need to meet current codes, would that work?” Yount asked. Satterwhite did not give a direct answer.

The requirement for rental units to have screen doors and screens on the windows was another subject Satterwhite addressed, giving examples of the damage done by tenants. After listening to his reasoning Yount said she would not compromise regarding the need for screens on windows and on doors.

Satterwhite thanked the Council for listening to his views. Requesting that the Council not vote on the ordinances yet, he said that lots of time had gone into the ordinances and there was no need to “rush to the finish line”.

The question was asked whether the Minimum Housing Code applied only to rental property or applied to privately owned homes. Mayor Seifert stated that the MHC applied to all residential properties.

Currently, an inspection of any dwelling can be made upon the receipt of a request signed by five legal residents of Henderson.

Reverend C.J. Dale was next at the podium to support the concept of treating both landlord and tenant equally. He went beyond the subject when he stated that there were certain council members who had personal agendas and wanted to be in control.

Mayor Seifert interrupted Dale to direct him back to the issue of Minimum Housing Codes. Dale argued that he was on the subject. After several back and forth comments, Seifert stated that he was in charge and would not hear more of Dale’s off subject statements.

Dale left the podium saying, “It’s time for a change”.

Speaking on behalf of Tenants, Marchita Vann said that some tenants wouldn’t speak out and didn’t really know they could.

Janice Jeffries followed up with the need for tenants to know their rights. She said some tenants moved into places where the landlords promised to do certain repairs, which were never done. “You have some slumlords here” she said, “What are you going to do about the irresponsible landlords?”

Geraldine Champion was next at the podium, reinforcing the need for tenants to know how to file complaints. She said that renters needed to be informed of their options.
Andrew James Burton said that many people paid big rent to live in poor conditions over the past thirty years. He stated that some of those places looked good on the outside but were a wreck inside. He admonished the Council to “go and do your job”.

Last to stand before the Council was Barbara Richards, who pointed out that there are two separate societies in Henderson. She said that some landlords didn’t confirm whether the renters held jobs and didn’t seem to question that rent was paid with cash. She contended that people who use cash to make payments tend to be dealers.

After the Public Comments came to an end, Garry Daeke motioned to table the issue and take it up at a future meeting. During discussion Mary Emma Evans commented “We need to do serious homework, set another meeting and have the work done.” The motion was passed.

The second item on the agenda, regarding the Permit to Rent, received no public comments, having been covered during Satterwhite’s earlier address.

The meeting concluded with the Permit to Rent item being tabled until the next meeting, Monday, June 11 in the small meeting room at City Hall.