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Archive for October 10th, 2019

OTOC Leaders respond to lawsuit against new rental inspection ordinance

October 10th, 2019

OTOC calls on MOPOA for Collaboration, not Lawsuits

OWH Article 10/9/19

Channel 7 News Story with Restoring Dignity

Hannah Wyble of Restoring Dignity, a partner of OTOC, speaks to Channel 7 reporter about how the rental property registration and inspection ordinance is no cause for a lawsuit.

The Housing Action Team of Omaha Together One Community (OTOC) is disappointed that the Metro Omaha Property Owners Association (MOPOA) has once again chosen a strategy of lawsuits over collaboration with other stakeholders in the city.

  1. We call on MOPOA to choose collaboration over more lawsuits.

Similar lawsuits from MOPOA in the past have done great damage and made the substandard living conditions at the Yale Park Apartments inevitable.  MOPOA has opposed nearly all efforts to improve neighborhoods, from the Omaha Land Bank and Abandoned and Vacant Registry, to the evacuation of Yale Park tenants and the Proactive Rental Registration and Inspection ordinance.

  1. The new Ordinance is Legal and Constitutional

The Nebraska Supreme Court has already ruled that Rental Registration and Inspection is constitutional, as La Vista has been operating a similar program for a decade.  Many cities in Iowa have operated such programs for decades.  The consent decree applies only to complaint-based inspections, not proactive inspections.  The Stothert Administration assured the public that the consent decree would not hamper any future program of rental registration and inspection. Most landlords find the new ordinance reasonable and are not joining the lawsuit.

  1. The new ordinance is needed after previous lawsuits and consent decrees have created a broken system

The Yale Park evacuation of 100 households and over 500 people was the direct result of the failure of the existing system of complaint-based inspections.

Background

OTOC has raised the issue of substandard rental property with the city Planning Department since 2016.  In 2017 we asked candidates for City Council to learn about proactive rental inspections as a national best practice to these serious problems.  In April 2019 the mayor and the city council took a step forward with the passage and adoption of a proactive registration and rental inspection ordinance.  We applaud the ordinance, which puts health and safety of tenants and neighborhoods first.

1 – Lawsuit is unnecessary

The lawsuit is unnecessary.  An Omaha rental unit with a good track record of fixing any past violations will receive one inspection in the next twelve years, and will be charged $125 only one time for that inspection.  The city says when fully implemented they will hire a total of five additional inspectors to implement.  How could this possibly be the basis for a lawsuit?

2 – Rental Registration and Inspection is Constitutional

Renting residential property is a business.  Minimum health and safety standards are enforced by government, whether in restaurants or rental housing.  Hundreds of communities across the country operate proactive rental inspection programs.  Many of these programs exist in the region, including La Vista, Lincoln, Council Bluffs, and Carter Lake.  The Nebraska Supreme Court has already ruled in 2013, in another failed landlord lawsuit, that La Vista’s proactive rental inspection program is constitutional.  For several decades, every city in Iowa with a population greater than 15,000 has operated proactive rental registration and inspection systems without constitutional problems. Inspection ordinances have operated across the country for decades. The ordinance should be presumed to be constitutional.

3 – The new ordinance does not violate the consent decree.

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