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Committee continues work on rental housing code

By Staff | Jul 24, 2010

After two consecutive meetings with standing room only, a much smaller audience greeted the Estherville Rental Housing Committee at its meeting Thursday afternoon.

Approximately six weeks ago, city administrator Penny Clatyon formed the committee in order to create a set of minimum standards for rental housing in Estherville.

Before the committee had a chance to work on the ordinance, word leaked out that there might be required inspections and landlords showed up to protest such stringent measures at the second meeting.

At the third meeting on July 8, Clayton and committee members assured the audience the inspections would not be mandatory and only complaints would be investigated. They also began scaling back the original proposal.

Clayton told the landlords that the committee is looking to create some easy-to-follow rules.

Also, the committee doesn’t want to create any rules that are covered by another ordinance.

Those assurances appeared to have satisfied many area landlords allowing the committee to continue working on a draft for a minimal rental housing code.

In reviewing exterior standards on July 8, the committee began deleting the word “sanitary” from the ordinance as the term was too difficult to legally define.

The committee continued to delete the term as it continued to review the interior standards on Thursday.

The two most discussed issues were exits and infestation.

A provision that required each bedroom to have one window was struck from the draft and the topic was forwarded to a section titled “Means of Egress.”

The committee is considering language stating, “Every dwelling unit shall have at least two means of egress.’

A provision about having every bedroom with two exits was debated intensely.

Estherville Fire Chief Dick Beaver said he would like to have that requirement, but also admitted it wasn’t realistic.

However, the committee agreed that any below-ground level dwelling unit should have two exits.

Concerning infestations, the rental housing ordinance draft reads, “All structures shall be kept free from insect and rodent infestation.”

Audience and committee members discussed at length that the source of the infestation was a concern-often an infestation could come from what the tenant brought into the rental unit or cause the infestation in other ways.

Clayton pointed out that this ordinance is invoked only when there is a complaint. City officials would talk to the landlord before taking action.

However, the committee has yet to discuss how violations are enforced.

The Rental Housing Committee’s next meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 5 in the city council room.