OMAHA, Neb. (FOX 42 KPTM) — Omaha’s council chambers were packed Tuesday with people eager to talk about the three bills to establish a landlord registration and rental unit inspection program.
Councilmembers heard hours of testimony from former tenants, landlords and community activists.
Hannah Wible is one of the admins for the We Don’t Slum campaign, a website that allows renters to anonymously submit photos of maintenance problems and code violations within their rental units. Wible said she supports the idea of an inspection program to help prevent tenants from living in unsafe conditions.
“We have to have proactive rental inspections to catch things before they get bad. That’s the biggest thing,” Wible said.
Ryan McGill is a broker for Sunset Realty LLC and owns multiple rental properties in Omaha and Council Bluffs, where there is a mandatory rental inspection program in place.
“There will be a registry, there’s not question about it. The state is pushing for it, it’s been done in Council Bluffs. I have properties over there, it’s not intrusive,” McGill said.
McGill said the ordinance should focus on the basics for landlords.
“Is it safe? Is it clean? Is it well maintained? That’s what they need to look at,”McGill said.
Helen O’Que said she lived in an apartment on 48th Avenue in Omaha with a severe leak for nearly two years and got no help from her landlord.
“I told management about the leaking for the water. They brought me a basket like if it’s leaking, I make sure I put the basket where the water is leaking,” O’Que said.
O’Que said she wasn’t allowed to turn the lights on when it was raining and the apartment had mold.
Two of the three proposals will include a fee for the registration portion of the program, but Mayor Jean Stothert feels that’s unnecessary with a based inspection fee costing approximately $125 per unit.
“I consider a fee to register all rental properties as a tax and I will not support a new tax,” Mayor Jean Stothert said. “We should not waste taxpayer dollars inspecting units that do not have unresolved code complaints.”
McGill said he doesn’t think the registry or the inspections would cause a decline in available rentals and landlords with well maintained property have nothing to fear.
“If the place is a good place to live, they are going to find someone to rent it,” McGill said."The fact that there is a list somewhere that says I own this property or that property and it gets inspected every once in a while isn’t going to change the value whats so ever.”
Senator Justin Wayne also attended the council meeting Tuesday in support of the bill proposed by Mayor Stothert. Wayne said he is currently holding Legislative Bill 85, a bill that would require mandatory inspections for rental properties in Omaha. If the council won't approve a rental inspection program, Wayne's said he plans to take the issue up at the state level.