WATERVILLE — Rental property owners will have to register their buildings with the city, provide contact information and indicate they comply with safety standards if the City Council on Tuesday approves a proposed rental housing registration ordinance.

The council voted unanimously Jan. 3 to approve the ordinance, which requires a second, final vote.

The purpose of the ordinance, modeled after one in Lewiston, is to ensure the city has safe housing, the code enforcement office can enforce regulations and property owners have reasonable time to correct deficiencies, according to City Council Chairwoman Rebecca Green, D-Ward 4.

Green said Friday there are many rental properties in the city, several of them old, so having an ordinance would help improve the housing stock.

“We understand that maybe there are (changes) that need to be made that cost money,” she said, “but the city’s responsibility is to make sure that people are living in safe quarters.”

The ordinance requires the owners of rental properties to register those properties, at no cost, with the city clerk’s office and provide the name and mailing address of the legal owner; the name, mailing address and primary phone number for the property manager; and the address and telephone number of an emergency contact.


Having such information enables code enforcement, police and fire officials to get into buildings quickly if there are problems, according to Green.

Owners must also sign off on a safety check list, saying their properties adhere to the items on the list. It is really a list of requirements that already exist in several other ordinances, such as the property maintenance ordinance, according to Green.

Requirements include that smoke detectors are in buildings; no debris such as lumber or scrap metal piles are on the property; and stairs, hallways and basements are clear of trash and personal belongings, such as bicycles, appliances and furniture.

If the ordinance is approved, registration would begin March 1, but advance notice would be given to property owners, and the city would be patient in its goal to have compliance, according to Green. Those who do not register face a $50 fine for the first month, $100 a month for the next two to six months and $200 for months seven through 12.

“So the fee for someone who is not willing to comply will pile up,” Green said, “but, again, we’re going to be understanding and work with people in good faith to get this information, which is, frankly, very minimal. We’re going to be lenient and patient and cooperative. This is not meant to be punitive. It’s simply getting the information.”

At a City Council meeting Oct. 19, Daniel Bernier, a lawyer who represents the Central Maine Apartment Owners Association, told councilors some language in the proposal was concerning, and he questioned what a registry would achieve that the code enforcement office could not.


Bernier also said contact information for building owners is beneficial, but it is already contained in city tax records. He said he agreed that having telephone numbers is useful, but the registry could result in unintended consequences, such as driving people out of the city.

The idea for an ordinance originated with the city’s housing committee, of which Green is chairwoman, and the council has had input from property owners, members of the apartment owners association, city officials and other communities, she said.

Some changes have been made to the proposal since the City Council’s first vote Jan. 3, such as adjustments to protect landlord privacy.

Green emphasized that every apartment in the city is not going to be inspected every year. Instead, the code office would check buildings on a rotating basis.

“Maybe every five years an apartment would be inspected. It’s not going to be every year, and not of owner-occupied units,” Green said. “If they live in a house with other units, yes, those other units would be inspected.”

Tuesday’s meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at The Elm at 21 College Ave. A public hearing is planned for before the meeting to discuss a proposal for tax increment financing for the Manor Gardens housing project on College Avenue.

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