Starting Tuesday, a new ordinance requires all rental property owners in Charlotte to register their buildings with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, which CMPD says will help it respond quicker to emergencies and track spots in the city where crime is flourishing.
Property owners must go to the city’s website and register information such as the owner’s name, home address, home phone number, best contact number, email addresses and the range of rental property addresses they oversee.
The information will provide a database that can help police.
“All we’ve wanted to do with this information from day one is to tell someone when something has occurred on their property,” Capt. Steve Willis said.
Six-month grace period
Though the ordinance takes effect Tuesday, CMPD will give rental property owners a six-month grace period to register.
“We’re not chasing owners down to register,” said Willis.
Registration is free for nearly all rental property owners. Only those landlords of the most troubled rentals – locations that fall in the top 4 percent of police calls and crime statistics – will have to pay a fee.
After registration, those property owners will be notified by the city that they have to pay an administrative fee, which Willis said can range from $350 for single-family homes to upwards of $1,300 for large apartment complexes.
Willis said that the department’s goal has always been to register all rental properties in the city. But when the ordinance was first passed, the language required landlords of only the most crime-troubled properties to register.
In a 9-2 vote in June, the Charlotte City Council approved changes to its two-year-old rental registration ordinance. Two Republican council members, Warren Cooksey and Andy Dulin, voted against making all landlords register.
“I thought it was going to be intrusive on people’s businesses that are doing business right,” Dulin said. “Such a small percentile of rental properties are problem properties I didn’t want to penalize people that are using good business practices.” But Dulin said he “didn’t lose any sleep” over losing the vote.
“Police know where the troubled properties are already. This is just going to be another tool for our police to be able to try to keep others safe,” he said.
Ken Szymanski, executive director of the Greater Charlotte Apartment Association, was also originally against universal registration for Charlotte’s 170,000-plus rental units.
He said he didn’t understand why rental property owners needed to register when the city already has two databases with that information: the tax assessor’s records and the register of deeds.
“Anytime you deal with a government program, there’s a concern that it will morph into something bigger and more expensive,” he said. “But City Council has spoken, and it’s time to comply.”
Willis said the information from registration will be more current and more accessible than information from other sources.
“It hasn’t always been easy to find the owner of a property,” Willis said.
Szymanski said he can understand the frustration police felt when looking for rental property owners who may be in another state or simply untraceable.
Long term, registering with the police may help property owners prevent crime in their rental units, Willis said.
All owners who give CMPD an email address during registration will receive a regular summary of reported incidents and calls for service in and around the property.
This may help the rental property owner remove troublesome occupants quicker.
For instance, if an apartment complex has a ban on noise violations – and the owner is notified that a tenant has had repeated visits from police for that very reason – the complex can use that information as grounds to evict the resident.
Holding more ‘accountable’
Szymanski said the information will also give property owners insight on whether to beef up security, increase lighting or take other steps to deter crime.
“We’re trying to hold everybody accountable to where owners are aware of what’s going on in their property so they can take the civil actions needed,” Willis said. “It could help prevent them from ever getting to that 4 percent.”
If a rental property owner fails to register, the police department will remind them to register if and when they respond to a call for service on the property.
If the owner still does not register, that person could be charged with a failure to register, a misdemeanor, and will have to go before a district court judge, Willis said.
“That’s really a last resort,” Willis said. “I can’t fathom why an owner would not want to know what’s going on in their property.”