Urbana landlord fees here to stay

Urbana landlord fees here to stay

By Walbert Castillo

Landlords in Urbana will continue to pay an extra registration fee implemented by the Urbana City Council in 2013.

The fee was unanimously voted into permanence by the council on Oct. 6 to pay for a new staff inspector to help achieve a goal to evaluate the safety and cleanliness of Urbana’s 9,600 rental housing units over the next three to five years.

Libby Tyler, community development director and city planner of Urbana, said depending on the type of unit, the extra landlord registration fee increased by $4 or $5, from the average amount of roughly $50.

With the increased fee, the city collected an extra $67,405 more in rental registration fees from 2013 to 2014.

“Although this may sound ambitious, our number one goal is to inspect all 9,600 rental housing units at least once every three to five years,” Tyler said.

Tyler said that the only concern she has with the increased registration fees is if landlords will add the fee to tenants’ rent. Although Tyler frowns upon this, she said that it is vital to have rental housing.

“It’s just part of a business cost that we incur just like registering a vehicle,” said Jason Reda, manager of Green Street Realty. “It’s something that we’ll incur. We won’t take it out on our tenants by charging them a little more.”

Urbana City Council Alderman Charlie Smyth, Ward 1, said the fee will help the city meet its goal of inspecting all apartment units, regardless of size.

“When the rental registration program initiated 20 years ago, it only covered five-unit apartments and up, because they were safer than our smaller rental units,” Smyth said.

However, he said that three years ago, the Urbana City Council decided to include all types of unit apartments to the rental registration program.

Tyler said she discovered the department was understaffed to take on so many apartment units. With only two inspectors, she didn’t think all apartment units could be inspected in three to five years. She said that there simply isn’t enough manpower to check up on all smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, plumbing and functioning windows and doors.

The permanent increase in registration fees, however, will go toward hiring additional staff members such as housing inspectors, and increase the frequency of inspections being done so that the city may reach its goal.

Smyth said that although it will take a couple of years to really see the impact of this permanent fee, he is confident that their goal can be met.

Walbert can be reached at [email protected]