City grants landlords mercy

Nov 162005
Authors: Hallie Woods

Although Fort Collins City Council members toughened the enforcement of its three-unrelated rule earlier this week – possibly tossing some students out into the cold – they granted some mercy to landlords by deciding against rental registration.

Council members chose Ordinance 124's Option A, which relies on a utility database to track landlords instead of the alternative Option B's, which would have required landlords to register with the city and pay accompanying fees.

The aim was to avoid the possibility of hard-to-track absentee landlords.

"Option A was selected largely because a new possibility had been presented since first reading (of the ordinance)," said District 1 City Councilman Ben Manvel.

One of the major concerns of Fort Collins residents was that when problems arise with their neighbors who are merely tenants, they have no way of contacting the landlord.

In a similar case, when tenants receive nuisance violations or other complaints, city officials cannot contact the actual property owner. City Council believes this problem could be solved with a utility database.

"We decided to go with a requirement that people record accurate and detailed contact info for owners in the utility database, so we do not have to develop a new database," Manvel said. "That information will not be available for the public but will facilitate contacting owners for city employers making inquiries."

At Tuesday night's City Council meeting, some residents came with backup of their opinions. Resident Bob Lawrence arrived with a petition he presented to City Council at an earlier date, consisting of 200 homeowners in his community that endorsed the three-unrelated rule and the requirement of landlord registration.

"Landlords should have to register just like business owners," Lawrence said.

Although Lawrence and other community members did not receive their desired registration requirement, they did win the larger of the two issues with the passing of Ordinance 123.

Although disappointed in the outcome, backing a change in the three-unrelated rule was the entirety of the Associated Students of CSU Senate. Vice President John Muller testified to the City Council urging for the change.

"The Senate asks that the council consider the body of CSU," Muller said.

Currently in Fort Collins, the law requires that no more than three unrelated persons share the same household. However the law, which many have refused to obey, will be enforced more strictly with the recent decision.

"The new rules will be that a family plus one person or two adults and their dependents plus one person may occupy one unit," Manvel said. "In effect, related to students, that will generally mean three may occupy a unit."

Manvel said that only provisioned boarding houses may contain more than three unrelated persons. However, boarding houses must contain 325-square-feet per boarder with three-quarters of an off-street parking space per boarder.

The areas zoned for boarding houses around the CSU campus approximately include north of campus and east of Meldrum Street. Also, east of campus along Remington Street, and east and west of College south of Prospect (for a couple of blocks, not including the Birkey and Wallenburg area), and west of campus near Elizabeth Street, Manvel said.

When civil laws come into effect in 2007, City Council members believe enforcement will become much easier. Large fines will be charged to the tenants or the landlords, depending on what is stated on the lease.

"The law requires that a disclosure statement, provided by the city, be signed by both the landlord and the tenants. That statement will display clearly the legal limits on occupancy of the unit, and everyone will agree to them," Manvel said.

The new ordinances will go into effect Nov. 25, with the exception of the occupancy limits. The rules requiring occupancy limits will go into effect Jan. 1, 2007, and will be strictly enforced as opposed to the existing three-unrelated rule.

"The hope is that the rapid replacement of families by households of multiple renters in the single-family zones will stop or reverse itself, and that boarding houses will help provide some of the inexpensive housing needed, without a similar impact on neighborhoods zoned for families," Manvel said.

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