The Clarkfield City Council discussed work on a possible rental property ordinance during their regular council meeting on Tuesday, July 17.
Police Chief Ian Hodge, the city and council have been working on drafts of the possible ordinance for several months now.
Finalizing the ordinance has been a priority of the council for most of this year, but work on the ordinance was ramped up in March after councilman and Clarkfield Fire Chief, Francis Staab, asked that progress on the ordinance move faster after the fire department’s experiences with one rental property owner. In that specific instance, the fire department was called to a residence three times on suspicion of a gas leak. The property owner, in this case, failed to respond to repeated attempts at contact from the fire department, police and the renters of the home.
The family that rented the property was moved to a hotel for one night with the city picking up the cost. The property owner then came to a later meeting asking for the $3,000 bill he received from the fire department to be forgiven.
Staab and the council believed there should be more the city can do to make rental property owners responsible for their property and in respect to their tenents.
Discussion and action on the ordinance has been tabled for further consideration at several meetings now, but the council is expected to finalize the ordinance at the August 7 meeting and then choose a date for public hearing.
Essential to the ordinance the city council is considering are two key parts. The first is that a landlord must notify the city administrator of all rental properties, describe the property and give contact information prior to occupancy of that dwelling. The second, and possibly the most impactful, is that the property must be inspected both internally and externally by a designated agent to the city at cost to the property owner.
This part of the ordinance has been generally accepted by the council, yet the execution of it is still being debated. At question is the frequency with which inspections should be done. Here, answers have ranged from ‘every time the property is about to be re-occupied’, to ‘every two years’.
Other possible clauses include language on the correction of “Nuisance Violations” and the responsibility of the landlord for “Past Due” utility bills.
Mayor Gene Kockelman has called a special meeting to discuss, in part, action to be pursued on the Phillip Schwartz property at 1113 13th St.
At the council’s regular meeting on Tuesday, July 17, Nicole Kragh, neighbor to the Schwartz property and operator of Niki’s Stay-n-Play Daycare, appealed to the council to do something about the property, which has been labeled a health and safety risk.
The council is considering pursuing abatement of the property.
Clarkfield Care Center
Clarkfield Care Center Administrator, Paul Luitjens, has had to give some tough reports to the city council over the past couple of months.
His latest report on the month of June for the facility had their occupancy down to 79 percent. Currently the 52 bed facility is caring for just 38 residents, prompting Luitjens to remark “We’re the lowest we’ve ever been”.
As recently as this winter, the Care Center was operating at maximum capacity and was even forced to turn some would-be residents away.
Summer is traditionally a low month for the Care Center in occupancy, but Luitjens thought that the drop he’s seen in the last three months was new, but not wholly unprecedented.
“We’ve been through this before. We’re looking at options, but we’re not jumping to conclusions. Right now, I think we just wait and see how it picks up this fall,” said Luitjens.
Councilman Neil Linscheid asked Luitjens if he was concerned, or at what point the council should become concerned. Luitjens responded, “Me? I’ve been concerned since I’ve been here. But this is what you plan for. This is why we put money away in the good times. We just have to be aware of it and have our options ready.”
Luitjens said currently the facility was adjusting down the cost of departments like nursing, house keeping and laundry.