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North Liberty adopts rental housing code

NORTH LIBERTY– The North Liberty City Council finally settled on a plan for ensuring safety of rental housing in the community.
At its June 10 meeting, the council unanimously approved the third and final reading of a rental housing code, without much discussion.
The bulk of the discussion and debate took place over the last several months, since the first draft was introduced to the council in early March. State law requires municipalities with populations of 15,000 or greater to adopt an ordinance to regulate inspections of rental housing and a process for dealing with complaints. The housing code is specific to rental units, laying out the responsibilities of landlords to obtain a Certificate of Structural Compliance, maintain annual rental permits for each building and unit, and provide access to city inspection officials.
Though North Liberty used Coralville’s existing code as a model, the rules adopted last Tuesday went through many iterations as building officials and city administrators met with rental property owners and considered comments from the public, then refined the language and better meet landlords’ needs and councils’ concerns.
The most recent change was to better define the rules governing mobile homes built before 1973, when federal safety guidelines for manufacturing were put into place.
While landlords were concerned that the guidelines would prohibit them from re-renting mobile homes that did not conform to contemporary standards, council wanted to ensure that occupants were covered under minimum safety requirements. The new ordinance states those minimum requirements– including proper anchoring, mold- and asbestos-free materials, proper means of egress, stair guardrails, smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors– must be met by January 2015.
Rental property owners will be required to obtain certificates and pay annual fees for each of their units. A one-time structural compliance certificate for each unit, with some exceptions regarding mobile homes, will cost $50; a $50 annual permit will be needed for each building, and a permit for each rental unit will be required each year as well, at $12 per unit. City officials estimated the revenues for permit fees from the city’s 1,600 rental units to be around $67,000 in the first year.
The city plans to hire an employee to oversee and administrate the new code, starting as a three-quarter time position. Projected costs to hire that person is around $66,500.
The new code becomes effective July 1.