Willmar’s new rental housing inspector deals – West Central Tribune

WILLMAR — Willmar’s new rent inspector has been busy since joining city staff in March, condemning a home for standing sewage and making some cutbacks — city actions to address ordinance violations on rental housing.

The introduction of this inspector position has also highlighted the need to change city ordinances to allow the planning and development department to address issues it sees in the community.

Ryan Tilleman, Willmar Rental Housing Inspector, and Director of Planning and Development, Justice Walker, spoke to Willmar City Council last month about what they are seeing in the community.

“The overall reception, I would say, is generally quite positive,” Walker told the council about the presence of a tenancy inspector. “People have been very grateful to now have a resource they can call if they know someone is having issues or issues with their landlord (or) if they feel their neighbor isn’t picking up on something. . I think in the past there was this idea that the city had an ordinance for something, but the city doesn’t do anything about it.

However, having a rental housing inspector reveals larger issues that will require a more systematic overhaul, Walker said, noting that the city is already getting to know landlords and identifying potential problem landlords.

Since word of Tilleman’s new post spread, local tenants who complain about their rental properties have occupied it.

One of the goals of the planning department is to fill a gap in education about the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants, Walker said. This would include building relationships with some of the city’s organizations that provide rental resources to which the city can refer tenants.

“We kind of need to be in a role where we can listen to the ground and also be more aware and more visible, to let people know that we’re here as a resource for you, for you protect, in a way,” Walker told the council.

A ‘vibrant’ community also causes problems with rental accommodation, as the language barrier can cause problems understanding rights and responsibilities. “They don’t know what they are entitled to, they don’t know what they can ask for, they don’t know who to tell their problem to,” Walker said.

Before sharing photos of some problematic properties in Willmar, Walker made sure to inform the council that this is not the norm in Willmar.

“Some of these exercises sometimes pull out the negative aspects of what’s going on in a community and don’t really talk about what the whole is, so I mean, on a larger scale, I think the vast majority of our landlords and a large majority of our landlords in town are good landlords, good landlords,” he said. “What you’re going to see in there isn’t the norm. All rental properties look the same, but these are still big enough issues that they need to be resolved.

The first photo Tilleman shared was of a rental duplex that for six weeks had raw sewage in one of the units. He condemned the house and provided housing resources for the two families who had to leave.

Some of the issues that Rental Inspector Willmar has investigated are mold issues in rental units.

Contributed

Tilleman also shared photos of homes with mold issues and photos of rental properties that had trash buildups on the property. Landlords receive an ordinance from the city to take care of any issues that exist in their rental properties.

Where the landlord or tenant refuses to deal with scrap metal, which includes scrap appliances and inoperable vehicles, city staff will resolve the issue by removing the scrap metal and bill the landlord for staff time.

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Some rental properties in Willmar have issues with storing waste on the property, such as old appliances or unusable vehicles. If not supported by the landlord or tenant, city staff will dispose of the waste and bill the landlord for the cost of city staff time.

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While problem owners with consistent issues on their properties are identified, the city currently does not have a process to revoke their licenses if the issues are not resolved, Walker told the council.

Currently, the city issues rental licenses for a three-year period, rather than having to be renewed each year, he said. One option would be to use a graduated process for new or problematic owners, issuing an annual license for a certain amount of time before allowing progressively longer license periods.

There should also be a process in place to revoke a landlord’s rental license for not fixing issues on their properties, such as having an ordinance with punitive measures that allows the city to fix some of the issues, a he added.

Walker would also like to see an expedited process for issues that need to be addressed and a better way to deal with cuts so they don’t fall under the city’s public works department. He suggested possibly bringing in an outside entity for the reductions.

Willmar Councilor Justin Ask wanted to know how long it would take before the Planning and Development Department was able to recommend changes to the ordinances to help solve rental housing issues.

Noting how busy the department is right now, Walker said that would likely come to the board sometime between late fall 2022 and the end of the year.

Willmar Councilor Audrey Nelsen encouraged Walker to ask council for additional resources if they are needed to address rental housing issues.

Walker assured the council he would, adding that they are still learning about the community and what to expect, as well as where the city can help.

“You have to be nimble on some of these things,” he said, adding that there are things the department would like to aggressively tackle, but there are also questions about where people who can’t pass a background check can live.

“Some of the slumber merchants, they serve a function in the market,” he continued, noting that “slumber merchant” is not a term he really should be using, but an easy term for explain his point of view to the council. “It’s nimble enough to … do we want some of these places to have minimum restrictions for certain people who can’t qualify to live in other places? Or do we want to remove that and force them out completely?

In conclusion, Walker said, “(These are) big macro-level questions that we have that we’re trying to fully resolve and figure out how we’re going to apply this and what we’re going to incorporate into it. It’s about identifying those things, learning the process, and understanding how big those problems exist. Are some of these issues singular, or are some of these issues really community-wide that we really need to be aggressive about? »

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