NEW PORT RICHEY — Local property managers and realty professionals came together for a discussion on how to better record and police vacant or unattended rental properties.
Commissioner Mike Wells called the group together after the idea for an ordinance had been floated that would require rental property owners to inspect their properties every six months and keep it on file with the county.
The discussion took place April 18 at the West Pasco Board of Realtors. The board’s property management committee took part.
Wells cast doubt on the prospects for requiring twice-a-year inspections of rental properties.
“My opinion is we can’t do that. Code [enforcement] can’t do that. The Sheriff’s Office can’t do that,” Wells said. “We have a fine line in my opinion when it comes to government and overregulating and ‘getting in the way.’”
The commissioner said he wanted to take the opportunity to discuss some ideas with those who would be most affected.
“In a perfect world, it would be great if everyone used a property management company and then we wouldn’t have to worry about it,” Wells said. “We have 99,000 homestead houses in Pasco County. It’s a big number. That doesn’t mean they are all rentals, but that’s a big number.”
He noted the major issue has become the Sheriff’s Office being called to the same rental properties on repeated occasions.
“I hate to put renters in a box because they are not all bad, but it tends to mostly be renters,” Wells said. The authorities have a hard time finding who owns the properties because they are often owned by out-of-state limited liability companies, according to Wells.
As a result, Wells said, “We are trying to find a way for anytime the Sheriff’s Office or county has to go to these places for an issue to be efficient in trying to do something. I don’t know what that something is.”
Wells emphasized the effort in developing a plan prioritizes not placing a cost for any proposed service.
He said there has been contacts with other areas which have used or are using such a registry, but he added it was his impression some had tried to over regulate the situation.
“Could we do more, which will help everybody?” Wells asked. “It’s going to help home values. It’s going to help accountability. It’s going to help hold these folks, especially out of state that aren’t here.”
He said it was his understanding those properties are required to be inspected once a year for insurance purposes.
“That should be happening because the insurance companies are getting stricter with those kind of things,” Wells said.
Chase Daniels, assistant executive director of the Sheriff’s Office, confirmed local law enforcement was making multiple visits to various properties.
“There are several rental properties in areas we all know we are going to three, four and five times a night,” Daniels said. “Unfortunately, we are not seeing the changes we need to make because the property is owned by an out of state LLC and we have no way to contact the property owner. The resident is not sharing that information.”
To address this problem, Daniels said, the Sheriff’s Office is looking to prepare a “rental registry.”
“It would give us a name and a local contact,” Daniels said. “That way when we or codes are called out to a property for the fifth time in a week — still trying to cite them because of a car on the road or complaints about drugs — those are things the property owner needs to be involved in. Far too often, we are not able to find the information about the property owner in a timely manner or at all.”
He said the proposed system is similar to the established false alarm ordinance, under which alarm systems are registered with owner-business information.
“There is no penalty if you are not registered, until you have multiple false alarms,” Daniels said, adding the registry provides a local point of contact for business that may be owned by out of state companies.
Both Wells and Daniels said any information in the proposed registry would come from public records and not violate anyone’s privacy.
Wells said he wanted more discussions and ideas before the concept is fully shaped.
Any plan would have to be adopted by the County Commission and there has been no date set for such an approval.