SALT LAKE CITY — All landlords are now required to get annual business licenses to operate in Utah's capital city — even those with just one or two rentals.
Changes to the city's landlord/tenant initiative that took effect Sept. 1 require anyone renting out a home, condominium, townhouse, duplex, apartment or even a basement to pay a $110 per year to become licensed.
On top of that, landlords can be assessed a fee of $342 per unit — unless they take part in the city's "good landlord" program, which rewards good management practices with discounted fees. Those who complete the landlord training will pay just $20 per unit.
The program has been in place in Salt Lake City since 2009, but changes adopted by the City Council in June as part of the city's 2011-12 budget made the law applicable to one- and two-unit landlords.
Salt Lake is one of several cities along the Wasatch Front that have implemented such programs in recent years to make sure landlords are conducting business professionally and legally.
"It's to combat people who deal in substandard housing," said Frank Gray, Salt Lake City's community and economic development director.
Ogden has had a good landlord program in place since 2004. In that first year, landlords participating in the program saw an 11.6 percent reduction in crime at their properties, city officials said.
According to the Utah Apartment Association, the programs have helped reduce the number of so-called slumlords — landlords who shirk their responsibilities to tenants and the surrounding community.
In Salt Lake City, there are an estimated 37,000 rental units, including 14,000 single-family homes, duplexes or triplexes. City officials want to know who is renting out those properties and make sure they're following city ordinances.
The city's 2011-12 budget includes $1.8 million in additional revenue as a result of changes to the program. Some residents have complained that requiring one- and two-rental landlords to obtain a business license is just another way for the city to boost its revenue.
However, Gray said all money brought in from the fees will go toward covering the cost of administering the good landlord program.
In addition, rental properties create a disproportionately higher cost for city services — such as police and code enforcement, city officials said. The program passes those costs onto landlords.
The most important thing, Gray said, is that landlords offer "a safe and sanitary unit that can be rented to somebody."
"When that happens, the cost to the community is far less," he said.
Berdje Bezdjian, who owns two duplexes in Salt Lake City, previously hasn't needed to obtain a business license for his rental properties there.
But Bezdjian is familiar with good landlord programs. He owns and manages 10 units in South Salt Lake, which has had a good landlord program since 2007.
"They'll go over some good practices for landlords, things like background and credit checks," Bezdjian said.
As part of the program in South Salt Lake, Bezdjian is required to complete an eight-hour training course every three years. He says the training has improved the quality of tenants in his rental units.
"When perspective tenants know that I'm a member of the good landlord program and I do background and credit checks on tenants that are coming in, that kind of eases their concerns about the complex," he said.
Salt Lake City's program requires landlords to take a city-approved, four-hour training course every three years.
During the training, landlords will be instructed in how to do credit and criminal background checks, as well as how to deal with problem tenants on their own to cut down the number of calls to the city.
The training is voluntary, though those who don't take it will be required to pay $322 more per unit than those who do.
"If you don't want to participate in the program, it doesn't mean you're a bad landlord," Gray said. "You just need to pay your fair share of the cost to the community."
Landlords with one or two rental units have until March 1 to complete the training in order to receive the discount.
Good landlord programs
Utah cities with good landlord programs include:
Salt Lake City
South Salt Lake
West Valley City
Source: Utah Apartment Association