The rent for basement apartments and duplexes in the city will go up if owners of those apartments must pay for licenses and inspection, the owners warned.
Angry apartment owners urged the Salt Lake City Council to reject Mayor Deedee Corradini's recommendation that owners of fewer than five rental units be required to obtain business licenses and pay for annual inspections.The owners may be required to pay $70 for a license fee, $30 for annual inspection and a $3 fee for each apartment. The council is scheduled to vote on the ordinance June 11 when it adopts the 1996-97 budget.
If inspectors didn't like what they found in some apartments, improvements could cost thousands of dollars, said landlord Scott Carter at a budget hearing Tuesday.
"I wonder how hard-pressed tenants will appreciate the rent increase when it's passed on, as it surely will be," said Rainer Huck, spokesman for the Salt Lake Rental Property Owners Association. "We feel this is another incidence of government devouring the rights of citizens. . . . Surely we have enough government intrusion in our lives without spawning a vast, new and expensive bureaucracy."
Almost a dozen apartment owners complained bitterly about the cost and inconvenience of the ordinance.
Joel Coleman is a schoolteacher who could only afford a home mort-gage by buying a duplex and renting out one side, he told the council. The $103 fee for the duplex "is really going to slam us," he said. "We can't pass it on to our tenants. They are in the same situation that we are. Paying $70 for a business license is outrageous for people like us. We aren't really in it for the commerce."
Talk of increased rent is a threat used to manipulate the council, replied Councilman Tom Godfrey. "I feel like tenants are being played with here," he said. The condition of too many apartments in the city is horrifying. Almost a dozen people have died in apartment fires here in recent years. Even one death "should not be accepted by this council, or the city or the people trying to make a buck," he said.
Councilman Sam Souvall said he has less faith in the goodwill of some landlords after inspecting some apartments "which are no more than basements with a rug thrown down, no ventilation, no windows."
The owners of those apartments, "the slumlords of the city," didn't come to the hearing, noted Council Chairman Keith Christensen. But apartments many of those people own "are what I consider despicable and deplorable."
Typically, single mothers struggling to raise their children live in these apartments, and the conditions are often so horrifying no one present (at the hearing) would live there, Councilman Stuart Reid told the crowd.
But some low-income families are afraid the new ordinance will indeed raise rents or force them out of apartments that don't meet code, said Cheryl Ek, spokeswomen for JEDI women, an advocacy group for low-income families.
Councilwoman Deeda Seed agreed.
Currently, anyone owning five or more units contained in one building must already pay for licensing and inspection. The new ordinance would apply to anyone owning fewer than five in one location or more than five if they are in several locations. The ordinance would require basement apartments in owner-occupied homes to be licensed and inspected.