Carol McCracken (Post # 2,521)
Arthur Howe, the city’s Housing Safety Office administrator was eating his lunch – a submarine sandwich with pretzels and a soda – at his desk in his bare bones basement office of City Hall. It was after 4:30 pm. The last landlord, Diane Hudson, had just left his office – one of thirty-nine (39) landlords who came in to register with the city today. Howe finally could take a break to eat his lunch.
The deadline is January 1, 2016 for registration, However, a fine of $100.00 per day for failure to register will be imposed as of February 1, 2016. That delay gives landlords a grace period because of the newness of the program and the city’s failure to adequately inform landlords. The City relied on notification from the Southern Maine Landlord Association to notify all 4,000 landlords, local media outlets and its webpage. There was no personal contact with the landlords by the City. “We plan to enforce the $100. penalty, ” said Howe this afternoon.
The registration of landlords owning rental property in Portland is to comply with a new City ordinance passed earlier this year by the City Council. It’s purpose is to keep an accurate and updated list of landlords so the new office can inspect their properties and keep records of safety violations and expect landlords to fix these violations or face the consequences. The penalty of a fine of $100. per day for failure to comply by the deadline is part of the ordinance. The impetus for this move was the fire on Noyes Street over a year ago in which multiple lives were lost – an embarrassment to a city trying to attract young, affluent people from away to offset its aging population and stagnant growth. A task force was setup (without a tenant on it) and the establishment of a Housing Safety Office was its recommendation to the city council.
Close to 1,000 landlords have registered to date, although about 4,000 landlords have been identified through city tax records according to Howe. Many landlords are from out-of-state and a few from overseas. Many have come into city hall to register while others have registered on-line. It was the busiest day since the City announced the registration program. Howe said he had probably 50 telephone calls today he had not been able to respond to as well. Howe said this response was expected, however.
Dan Olson, owner of three rental units on the West End came to city hall this afternoon to register them. “This fee is a tax on tenants. Do you think that Port Property will pay this fee? They will not accept 5% less profit on their units in the future.”