Aerial view of Springfield City Hall on April 24, 2017. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

Springfield changes local law, will warn landlords before citing them

Under former legislation, landlords were required to provide a booklet to renters that explains the rights and responsibilities of both parties or face a $100 fine, according to a city code enacted in 2001.

The city commissioners voted unanimously late last month to first provide Springfield landlords a written warning for not providing the information. A second violation would then result in a $100 fine.

“This is a fair adjustment to it,” Commissioner Joyce Chilton said. “As we already know, the landlord has so many responsibilities — water bills, trash bills. I would like to see the tenants take some responsibility and this is balancing it.”

Landlords must provide proof that tenants either received the booklet or knew they could view the booklet at the city’s website upon moving in, City Law Director Jerry Strozdas said.

“Hopefully, this will help everyone play by the rules and avoid some issues,” City Commissioner David Estrop said.

In 2001, the former Justice Action Mercy group wanted the city to create a landlord registration ordinance, meaning landlords would have to apply for a license every year. As part of the proposal, each time a property got a new tenant, it would have to be inspected.

Landlords fought against it, Strozdas said, and later compromised by agreeing to inform tenants about their rights with a booklet.

The new debate began because the Springfield Fire/Rescue Division asked the city to consider making some fire code violations punishable through civil fines rather than criminal offenses, Springfield leaders said.

Under the current city codes, certain fire-related violations, such as commercial businesses not refreshing fire extinguishers, currently only can be enforced through filing a misdemeanor criminal offense through the Clark County Municipal Court.The fire department would rather fine offenders, which led to the proposed changes to the city’s code violations.

As city staff members examined civil code enforcement violations, city staff believed other areas should be cleaned up, including moving the section about a requirement for landlords to provide a tenant’s rights booklet to renters or face a $100 fine to the business regulations category, Strozdas said.

Springfield city commissioners discussed last December eliminating the requirement for landlords but that ended in a stalemate after former Commissioner Dan Martin abstained.

The new legislation applies only to new rental agreements, meaning landlords who didn’t follow the previous rules won’t face penalties, Strozdas said.

“Our understanding is that most landlords have followed this previous obligation,” Strozdas said.