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Ohio city considers registry to improve rental property safety

Property owners assume the responsibility of keeping their property safe for visitors and others using the premises. But property owners who simply lease or rent the property to others have additional duties as landlords. States generally require landlords to keep the property in habitable condition, both at the time the tenant moves in and throughout the lease period.

Local housing codes in Ohio outline for landlords the standards that need to be met to maintain a habitable condition. There are repercussions for not keeping up with housing codes. And in the event that a tenant is injured due to a dangerous condition on the property, the landlord may be exposed to premises liability.

Residents of Newark, Ohio want to make sure that local rental property owners are held accountable for maintenance of their property. The residents say that owners are not keeping up with housing code and that there needs to be increased accountability when landlords don't meet those standards.

The Citizens Committee for Housing Rights put together a proposal that demonstrates some of the worst offenders in the area. The concern is more than superficial appearances. Some of the issues, like unmaintained electric systems, pose dangers to the tenants. Other issues, like broken furnaces and nonworking toilets, simply make property uninhabitable.

The proposal creates a registry that would track property owners and would charge landlords a $20 annual fee for each apartment they own. The though is that by implementing a tax, owners would be more accountable for keeping up safe and habitable conditions of the rental property.

Regardless of whether or not the proposal is approved, rental property owners do have a duty to keep the property reasonably safe for tenants. This duty includes regular maintenance of the premises and fixing anything that the landlord knows is an unsafe condition. If a tenant, or visitor of the tenant's, is injured because of the landlord's breach of this duty, then the injured party may be able to seek recovery of damages for the injury.

Source: 10 TV, "Plan Proposed To Expose Rundown Rental Property Owners," April 10, 2013

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