AUGUSTA — A committee responsible for reviewing a city proposal to address concerns about dangerous rental properties in the capital city has recommended tossing out the proposal.

The proposal, which would require mandatory registration and annual inspections for all rental housing units, was discussed by the City Council and members of the ad hoc review committee at an informational meeting Thursday night.

The committee recommended inspecting a random sampling of 10% of the rental units in the city each year. The committee, according to its report, was divided on whether the city should institute a voluntary or mandatory rental housing registration process, with landlords on the committee arguing the city does not need a registration process because it can already identify rental properties for inspection through property tax records.

At-Large City Councilor Courtney Gary-Allen, chairwoman of the review committee, told councilors the committee also rejected the staff proposal to pay for additional workers to conduct inspections and oversee the program by charging landlords a $100 annual fee per rental unit. Instead, the committee recommended that if additional staff members are needed to conduct inspections, the cost should be paid by taxpayers through property taxes.

Mayor Mark O’Brien and others said city officials now cannot get into rental units to inspect them, unless a tenant complains and invites them in or a landlord invites them in. O’Brien said the rental inspection ordinance or some other form of licensing system would provide a vehicle that would allow city inspectors to enter rental units to ensure they are safe.

Concerns about dangerous rental housing in Augusta prompted city staff members to propose an ordinance that would require landlords to have rental units inspected annually by the city. The proposal would increase staffing in the code enforcement office to conduct and oversee the inspections. The program would be funded by charging landlords $100 per unit every year, although discounts would be provided to landlords whose units met code requirements.


Landlords lashed out at the proposal in March, prompting city councilors to form the task force to review the proposal. Gary-Allen delivered the Augusta Rental Inspection Ordinance Ad Hoc Advisory Committee’s recommendations to councilors Thursday night.

Ward 4 Councilor Eric Lind said while most Augusta landlords are good people who are concerned with the safety of their tenants, some landlords do not provide safe housing and should be punished, including fines.

Robert Overton, the city’s code enforcement director, said city officials previously enforced the rules with landlords who ignored safety codes by shutting down their buildings and ordering them to remain closed until problems were addressed. In those cases, the city would help tenants find other housing.

Overton said the city in recent years has not been able to do that because officials cannot find alternative housing for tenants who are displaced. He said the city now takes those landlords to court and seeks fines for ignoring safety codes. Some, he added, likely face large fines for ongoing violations.

At-Large Councilor William Savage said if the city only inspects 10% of rental units each year, it should not do so randomly. He suggested a system to ensure every unit is inspected within a certain number of years.

“If it’s purely random,” Savage said, “there’s going to be that one apartment that never gets picked, and it may be the one that really needs it.”


Councilors did not vote on the issue at Thursday’s informational meeting. They indicated by consensus, however, that they did not want to move forward with the proposed inspection and registration program. They expressed interest in creating a registration program, even if it were voluntary, but said they need more information on the potential cost to the city of implementing different proposals.

The committee’s members included now-former Ward 1 Councilor Linda Conti, Kim Gleason of McAllister Real Estate, Katy Childs of Pine Tree Legal Assistance, Ratna Liyange-Don of Capital Area Housing Association, landlord William Guerette and Alec Rogers of Maine Evergreen Hotel.

In December, committee members voted to express opposition to the rental registration proposal presented by city staff members to councilors, with five members voting to oppose it and two members abstaining from the vote. Gary-Allen said members expressed concern about the cost of the program creating a financial strain for landlords, potentially leading them to increase rents for tenants.

Matt Nazar, the city’s director of development services, said Augusta has about 4,500 rental units, including hotel rooms.

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