Wednesday, May 07, 2014

County Residents Up in Arms on St. Louis County Rental Licensing Bill

A controversial proposal to license St. Louis County landlords has been placed on indefinite hold by its sponsor, who claims critics misunderstand the intent of the measure.

In temporarily withdrawing the legislation, Councilman Mike O’Mara, 4th District, emphasized that the licensing would be aimed at rental property owners who failed to meet housing code benchmarks.
“Nobody would be evicted from a home,” O’Mara promised.

The councilman delivered the remarks after opponents for a second straight week blasted an ordinance they contend will trample the rights of individual homeowners.

The critics Tuesday evening invoked the Founding Fathers (Samuel Adams), the U.S. Constitution (the Fourth Amendment prohibiting unlawful searches and seizures) and totalitarianism (“a dictatorship telling us who can stay in our home)” in arguing against the bill.

One speaker even envisioned the measure turning county government into a “plantation owner or a sharecropper.”

Another worried the ordinance would discourage out-of-town relatives from staying at his home on an annual summer trip to visit the St. Louis Zoo and other local attractions.

“If this bill becomes law, our niece and nephew will not be happy with you,” he warned the council.
O’Mara assured the opponents that bolstering the ranks of code enforcement officers while providing the county with a means to track problem landlords was the primary purpose of the legislation.
The rental license would not impose a fee on rental property owners. But yet-to-be-determined fines would be imposed on for failure to obtain the license.

“It’s a shame that we have a few bad pennies but we had to address (the problem) because (some landlords) know how to circumvent the system,” O’Mara said.

O’Mara promised to meet with factions opposing the bill before it is reintroduced.

He offered no timetable for returning the measure to the council agenda. After the meeting, critics expressed relief that the legislation had not moved forward but regret that it may be resurrected.
“I wish he’d just killed it,” said Cathy Armbruster of Lemay. “This ordinance has too many holes in it — it’s like Swiss cheese.”

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