A new ordinance before the Evansville City Council takes aim at tenants of rental properties that have a history of being a public nuisance. The so called Good Neighbor Ordinance has the support of a majority of the City Council, many for-profit landlords, Evansville Police and the Mayor's office.
Crafted in part by Councilwoman Stephanie Brinkerhoff-Riley (D-3rd Ward) and Councilman Dan McGinn (R-1st Ward), the Good Neighbor Ordinance builds upon the city's public nuisance ordinance which was passed in 2006. The ordinance could have a big impact on the rental property environment in Evansville, officials said.
By using a 'carrot and stick' approach to improve tenant behavior, Councilwoman Brinkerhoff-Riley said the ordinance will not only encourage rule-abiding tenants to move less frequently but also weed-out troublesome tenants.
"The vast majority of renters aren't the problem," Brinkerhoff-Riley said. "It just takes one in your neighborhood or on your street to cause problems."
Under the ordinance, tenants accused of serious crimes like rape or murder face automatic eviction. Tenants accused of less serious offenses like disorderly conduct, public intoxication, theft and intimidation have 'two strikes' before eviction. Finally, tenants accused of code violations like high weeds, trash in the yard or abandoned vehicles have 'three strikes' before eviction.
The ordinance is complaint-driven, Brinkerhoff-Riley said. Evansville Police may start the complaint of nuisance activity at a rental property. Landlords and tenants who receive these complaints must eliminate the issue within 72 hours and provide a response to the Evansville Police Department that details the steps taken to take care of the nuisance, Brinkerhoff-Riley said.
"If it's not a crime of passion or a crime of addiction, I think we have a shot at controlling some behavior," Brinkerhoff-Riley said. "Part of that is by reinforcing that they are part of the neighborhood and we have an expectation when you're there. The point of this ordinance isn't to add an additional penalty to someone who is already dealing with the court system. It's only when that behavior has also affected a neighbor."
The ordinance has the support Monte Fetter. Fetter is the owner of Fetter Properties, one of the largest property management companies in the city. He is also the president of POMA, the Property Owners and Managers Association of Evansville. Fetter said because the complaints will be tracked, it establishes a paper trail on troublesome tenants.
"Screening is critical in tenant selection," Fetter said. "The more information you get, the better. This will certainly help."
"One of the biggest complaints landlords have had is when someone is coming to them wanting an apartment or a rental house, they're being evicted somewhere else," Brinkerhoff-Riley said. "The landlord has no way of knowing that because the eviction hasn't been filed yet."
"It's really changing the face of how we've done business in the past," Fetter said. "I'm really excited for the future of rental property in Evansville."
The ordinance has it's first reading before the City Council on Monday night. If passed, it would take effect in October.