City’s $50 home rental tax: Something only a bureaucrat could love

If you’re someone who believes city hall is all about protecting neighborhoods and enforcing the law, you’ll like this latest idea — council members could soon require a $50 registration fee and annual attendance at a "Safe Complex Symposium" for people who own rental houses, even if they’re renting the house to a relative.

The idea is being sold to council members as a win-win-win for everyone, according to information posted by Robert Wilonsky with the Dallas Observer. According to the city’s briefing, Renters win because they’ll be able to live in safer homes inspected by the city (rental homes typically aren’t inspected now), home owners benefit because the city promises to help stick it to unruly tenants, and of course the city wins by generating a couple million in new fees.

It’s worth reading the briefing, because it’s clearly written to butter-up people who own the rented homes; it even talks about how code enforcement is going to help crack down on tenants who litter, park cars on the lawn and "forget" to mow the lawn. And since the home owners are the constituency that will object to this, the buttering is well-placed: Council members probably know all of these local guys by nickname since I suspect they dole out political contributions from time to time.

Bottom line: I don’t see how involving the city in the relationship between a property owner and a tenant is going to facilitate anything but trouble, because — and correct me if I’m wrong here — the city already can hand out citations for all kinds of sloppy home maintenance. Local owners generally pay attention to their problems, because they care about the assets — the $50 annual fee and the forced annual classroom time (or the $600 fine for failing to attend) is nothing more than a new tax.

But if the registered owner of a property is Amalgmated Home Renters, LLC, of Portland, Ore., is the city any closer to cracking down on disinterested, money-grubbing property owners just because they don’t have to look up who owns the property online?

I’m all for cleaning up our neighborhoods, and I’m all for code enforcement cracking down on people who don’t follow the rules because they don’t feel like following the rules. But this is clearly a fee grab by a cash-strapped city government rather than an honest, effective attempt to make the city a better place to live.

By |2009-08-31T12:01:00-05:00August 31st, 2009|Business, News|2 Comments

About the Author:

RICK WAMRE is president of Advocate Media. He also writes a monthly column and blogs about neighborhood issues. Email him at                                                  


  1. Rick Wamre September 2, 2009 at 10:10 PM

    I think we all agree that crappy rental homes damage our neighborhoods. And I think we all agree that, for better or worse, the city has to be the trigger mechanism to force change on penny-pinching, self-interested landlords. Where thought seems to diverge is that, right now, the city has the power to resolve these issues, but for whatever reason, the will is not there ‘ and adding a $50 tax isn’t going to tip the scales. If this money is used to help reduce the deficit, and it will be, the city won’t be using it to do more with its existing tools ‘ then it becomes a fee grab. If money is the problem today, why wasn’t the city more aggressive a few years ago when money wasn’t a problem? Or why not just raise taxes and be done with it? The city could take far more action than it does to clean up rentals; this proposal is just designed to look like one thing while it accomplishes quite another.

  2. ericthegardener September 2, 2009 at 10:10 PM

    I think that this is at least potentially a good thing. The rent houses in my neighborhood are the trashiest houses in the neighborhood. The owner occupied houses are all kept up reasonably well.

    I can see your points but if it helps at all I am for it. $50 isn’t that much to be able track down an absentee landlord.

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