Ordinance could have unintended consequences

The city of Fairmont has drafted and is considering adopting a rental ordinance. Proponents hope it would offer protections to landords and tenants, and improve the appearance of rental properties. Landlords see an unnecessary burden that could decrease the availability of rental units, a result that collides with a recent local housing study that says Fairmont needs more rental units.

A large portion of the debate centers around the word “deficient.” As in what constitutes a deficient rental property and what kind of role should the city play in remedying such deficiencies.

We are struck by the notion of outside interests trying to tell landlords that they need to do a better job, in some instances. It’s easy to judge a given property without considering the cost, time and effort that would go into renovating it. And those upgrades could then price a low-income renter out of a place to live.

Some in the general public may have images in their heads of greedy slumlords taking advantage of their tenants. We suppose there could be some truth in there. But one also must consider the cost and work involved in being a landlord. There are many more truly awful tenants in the world than there are bad landlords. That is just a matter of mathematics.

Already, there are numerous laws on the books involving landlord and tenant rights. And any attorney can tell you that disputes between the two are best settled in the appropriate forum – civil court.

We are wary of the proposed rental ordinance. The city and proponents may have good intentions. Those sometimes work out. If they don’t, there could be a devastating effect on available rental units.