Orem City Council is aiming to strengthen neighborhoods — and they need the cooperation of residents and landlords to do it.
On Tuesday, the council discussed introducing rental licensing and fees, which they hope will provide a way to make tenants, and more importantly landlords, more accountable.
The ordinance and code changes are expected to take place at the December council meeting and become effective Jan. 1 with a grace period to July 1.
One major change is the city will require all rental properties to have utilities in the name of the landlord (adding a property management company if applicable).
“Landlords can still assign tenants to pay the utility bill and have the bill electronically sent to the tenant. Tenants will pay any of the ways they currently pay (including autopay),” according to Steven Downs, city spokesman.
The city turns in about $70,000 in unpaid utilities to collections and only gets back about $30,000. The city is hoping to get the other $40,000.
With an ordinance in place the city will begin notifying landlords when citations are issued on properties — this would be programmed to happen automatically, Downs said.
“We are proactively notifying landlords,” Downs said. He indicated the city has garnered property owner information from the county records and is building at database of names, phone numbers, and properties owned or rented.
“This will allow our neighborhood preservation officers to have quick access to the contact information for landlords,” Downs said.
The new database will also address “illegal rentals” by quickly determining if they have a rental license, Downs said.
Over time, they will be able to identify the landlords that are not attentive to the happenings at their property.
The new licensing program will reduce the amount of work city employees spend doing shut-offs, reading meters, reviewing lease agreements, and dealing with various challenges of rental properties.
Downs said the recommended fee for a rental license is $50.
“Licensing rentals would be handled through our Utility Billing system and will be done through the Orem Help Center (311), with the help of our civilian code enforcement employees,” Downs said.
Police Chief Gary Giles said he needs to train his officers in code enforcement on rentals.
Licensing will mirror fiscal years (July 1 – June 30). Signups can begin in January, but the initial license will not expire until June 30.
The city will hold an open house with landlords to let them know of the changes, fees, and how to come into compliance with the changes.
Downs said, the city will forgo the “per-unit” charge for the first year to allow it to further determine how they should proceed — looking to equitably charge fees to landlords through a good landlord program.
“Getting ‘licensed’ will be as simple as getting the utilities in the names of the owners (adding a property manager, when applicable),” Downs said. “Minimal programming will need to be done to allow this system to accommodate both the utilities and the rental licensing”