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Landlords, renters debating tougher housing regulations proposed in Grand Rapids

Lindsey Smith
Michigan Radio
West Michigan Environmental Action Council Executive Director Rachel Hood addresses city commissioners at the public hearing Tuesday. Landlords against the changes are wearing red.

The proposed changes would require landlords to register rental properties every year, instead of every four years. They would also require inspections of single family rental units. Right now only rental properties with two or more units get inspected.

This week hundreds of people turned out to speak at a public hearing. Mayor George Heartwell guessed the commission has received as many comments on this as they did on a proposed ordinance to allow residents to keep backyard chickens a little more than a year ago.

Barb Lester works with tenants through her job at a neighborhood association. She owns her home. She says renters in single family homes deserve the same safety checks as other renters.

“I’ve seen the kinds of conditions that exist in some of the one-families,” Lester said, “Often there are young people who are students that have no clue as to who to call other than the landlord when there’s a problem.”

Lester says she knows some landlords who don’t respond to their tenants’ concerns.

Many landlords argue the city should punish those who repeatedly violate the housing code instead of instituting more regulations.

Megan Smith rents her home, but she’d like to be a landlord someday. She says the proposed changes make her cautious. She says the city needs to crack down on “slumlords” – landlords with dozens of code violations.

“If these complaints have been justified over a time period for the number of houses they have that’s when additional inspections should be implemented.”

Grand Rapids City Commissioners won’t make a decision until early next month.

Lindsey Smith is Michigan Radio’s investigative reporter. She previously served as Michigan Radio’s Morning News Editor and West Michigan Reporter.
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