Landlords in Columbus will have to provide emergency contact information, such as phone numbers, for their rental properties under an ordinance that received final approval during Tuesday night’s city council meeting. City officials say the measure is meant to enhance public safety and make it easier for the city to reach property owners. For the second consecutive meeting, a spill-over crowd packed council chambers. Several landlords spoke out against the proposal, while others were in favor.
Mayor Jim Lienhoop says the measure is being taken in the name of public safety and being able to ensure that issues are resolved in a timely manner.
Lienhoop agreed with city police, firefighters and the Bartholomew County Emergency Operations Center that data needs to be readily available in an emergency situation.
The council’s second vote mirrored the first, as the body approved the ordinance on a vote of 6-1. Laurie Booher was the “no” vote. She expressed concern that the ordinance was overreaching and confusing as to what it is trying to accomplish. Booher said that she has heard concerns from community members that the information gathered would be used to go after the owners of so-called “problem properties” instead of for contacting owners for emergency situations. As a landlord, Booher added that she understood some landlords’ concerns about personal safety.
City officials say that the information will be kept by the city’s Office of Community Development, though no database will be maintained. During Tuesday night’s public input session, Mary Ferdon, the city’s director of administration, conceded that ownership information on individual parcels would be subject to public information requests, just as they are now. However, she stressed that those seeking the information would have to know exactly what they are looking for.
The ordinance includes a one-time five-dollar registration fee per property, as well as fines of up to $850 for non-compliance. A registration fee would need to be paid to the city each time the property changes ownership.