Urbana considers rental program

By Rob Warren

A prospective rental registration program in Urbana could mean fines and repercussions for negligent landlords and tenants.

On Monday evening, the Urbana City Council held an open panel for discussion on the program, which details guidelines for rental properties and inspections and the fines and repercussions that could result for those who do not comply with the new codes.

The program is still being drafted by council staff. Sections remain incomplete, but citizens held strong opinions on whether or not the new legislation is necessary.

“Urbana is one of few communities in a college town that does not have such a program,” Mayor Laurel Prussing said. “The goal is to make things safer for tenants and neighborhoods.”

Citizens disagreed over whether the current codes are strong enough to protect tenants.

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    “No doubt landlords will tell you it costs too much, but safety is above the cost of a few more dollars,” said Urbana resident Joan Zagorski in favor of the program.

    Charles Lozar, an Urbana landlord, disagreed and said he felt current codes are sufficient.

    “First of all, you are duplicating your building code,” said Charles Lozar. “All of your issues have been addressed in the international building code, which you already adopted and enforced.”

    Lozar also said he was concerned about a section requesting that landlords make background checks on new tenants. He said he felt this was a violation of civil liberties.

    Not all landlords were against the legislation. Some agreed with its current form and felt the current codes need to be stronger.

    Dianne Marlin, and Urbana landlord, said she felt there was need for an additional inspector.

    “With 10,000 rental units in Urbana, it takes the inspector 7 to 10 years to cycle through,” Marlin said. “This is an issue very much related to safety in Urbana.”

    Allen Berman, another Urbana landlord, agreed and said he was concerned about the deterioration of Urbana neighborhoods.

    “I think every tenant has a right to safety,” Berman said. “I have watched deterioration in neighborhoods due to the negligence of a few people.”