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New Port Richey leaders to rethink landlord fee

Published April 6, 2005

NEW PORT RICHEY - City Council members on Tuesday night voted down a proposed fee that landlords of residential units would have had to pay the city. Instead, elected leaders voted unanimously to revisit the issue in a work session.

The goal of the annual permitting fee was to help address concerns about New Port Richey's significant amount of rental housing - something elected leaders say presents a challenge to the city's redevelopment efforts.

Citing problems that include trash and debris buildup, code enforcement officials had sought a new tool to better regulate rentals and problem properties.

But "I think the landlord ordinance needs tweaking some more," said council member Bob Langford, who reversed his earlier approval of the initiative and voted against it Tuesday. "I hate penalizing the good people for what the bad people do."

The annual $35 permit fee would have applied to landlords renting out one to five residential units; plus an added $2 for units of six or more.

In the past, council member Tom Finn has estimated about 40 percent of New Port Richey's housing is being used as rental property. In October, he dubbed the city "the rental armpit of Pasco County."

But he, too, changed his mind about requiring landlords to pay for permits, saying the current ordinance was "watered down" and did not require landlords to inform tenants about existing city codes.

The city's staff says there are about 1,765 residential rental units in New Port Richey. The proposed fee could have generated $61,775 to $78,000 a year, according to estimates from the finance department.

That figure, however, did not take into account units that might remain vacant with no fee collected.

Individual condos and mobile home parks, as well as hotels, motels, resorts, B&Bs and others, would not have been subject to the fee.

Despite voting down the initiative, city leaders said they do not want to let the issue die. Mayor Dan Tipton said he supported the permit fee's intent and wants to see it reworked because "we need to do something."

This is the city's second effort to hold landlords more accountable. The council recently voted to allow code officers to bypass tenants and go straight to property owners regarding problems at units.

[Last modified April 6, 2005, 01:07:18]

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