Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A Few Words About the Proposed Rental Ordinance

Council is considering an ordinance that came forward out of work done by the Zoning Committee. There has been a lot of public discussion and Council members have reached out in a variety of ways to help the public understand the proposed ordinance and its intent. After holding a Rental Law Open House, gathering input through Open City Hall, and inviting public comments at the last two Council meetings, there still seems to be some confusion. Council's attorney, Brian Jones, was able to present a very helpful summary of how the ordinance would work and what it intends to accomplish, as well as responses to frequently asked questions. We share that explanation with you here:



Intent
  • The purpose and intent of the proposed ordinance is to provide a tool to aid in the enforcement of, and compliance with, occupancy limits that are already in place under the laws in Provo
    • The Zoning Compliance Council Committee was organized as a subcommittee of the Council after the Council set achieving Zoning Compliance as one of its top priorities in 2017.
    • The Committee was tasked with looking for legislative solutions to increasing compliance with current zoning laws, not with reexamining whether those current laws should be changed.
  • Many of those commenting on the proposed rental disclosures ordinance have argued that the City’s occupancy limits that are already in place are too restrictive.
    • That is a valid policy question, but not one addressed by the proposed ordinance.
    • Occupancy limits are common across the country and throughout the state.
    • The proposed ordinance does not address or alter Provo’s occupancy limits in any way.
      • Provo’s current limits were set by law years ago.
      •  The proposed ordinance is intended to improve enforcement and compliance regardless of what the occupancy limit is.
      • Unless occupancy limits were abolished entirely, enforcement would still be needed and changing the current occupancy limit would not affect the effectiveness of, or need for, this tool.

Enforcement
  • Over-occupancy is currently illegal under Provo’s zoning laws.
    • Zoning violations are currently prosecuted as Class C misdemeanors. 
  • Although already illegal, prosecuting over-occupancy cases is time consuming and inefficient because of (1) a lack of cooperation by both landlords and tenants and (2) lack of knowledge about occupancy laws.
  • The proposed ordinance has two primary purposes:
    • To require landlords to educate tenants; AND
    • To make enforcement more efficient against those purposefully engaging in currently illegal behavior.
        • It serves this latter purpose by making it harder for landlords to intentionally remain ignorant of the occupancy of their units and for tenants to claim ignorance of the occupancy limits
What it is not
  • A proposal that affects current occupancy limits;
  • An independent, perfect solution that solves all occupancy violations by itself; or
  • An idea invented by the policy makers without input about what is needed to improve enforcement.
What it is
  • A tool to be used, along with a variety of other tools, to improve zoning compliance and enforcement; and
  • A proposal requested specifically by those in charge of enforcement based on their experience in actually prosecuting cases that addresses problems they face.

Changes to proposal
  • The following changes have been made to the original proposal based on feedback and discussions with stakeholders:
    • Added a definitions section
      • Definition of owner includes agent
      • Use of defined terms streamlines the rest of the ordinance
    • Reduced requirement for a contract to a requirement for disclosures and occupancy acknowledgement
    • Reduced penalty from Class B misdemeanor to Class C (but it is enhanceable to a Class B for repeated offenses)
    • Included effective date of January 1, 2018

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