La Marque for rent

A leasing sign is displayed in front of a duplex that is available to rent in La Marque on Friday, June 1, 2018. The La Marque city council passed a new ordinance that will help control rental properties and combat slumlords.

LA MARQUE

Five months after La Marque’s city council said it wanted to crack down on slumlords, a new ordinance aims to strengthen residential rental unit rules.

The ordinance requires owners who rent or lease a residential property to tenants to file written registrations with the city or face fines, officials said.

Each registration would include a registration fee of $100 for the first rental unit and $20 per additional rental unit, according to the city. Any owner who rented or leased a unit but failed to register with the city could be fined up to $500, officials said.

The ordinance was prepared after a comprehensive review of existing ordinances from other cities, Mayor pro tem Keith Bell said. La Marque City Council approved a first reading of the ordinance in May, but the council will still need to take up the ordinance two more times and have a public hearing, officials said.

“Through our fire and police departments, through visiting and being in those structures, we found that many of our citizens live in deplorable conditions,” he said. “We found that when properties are leased, those are less kept and have more structural problems. They tend to harbor and facilitate all sorts of criminal activity.”

In January, Bell proposed shifting some of the city’s policy attention in a longtime blight reduction program toward developing ordinances concerning rental properties, which make up about 70 percent of the housing inventory and landlords.

City staffers had been working on potential ordinances to bring before city council that would more aggressively police landlords with inspections and hold them accountable for things that happen on their property, city officials said.

This new ordinance follows a growing number of at least 20 Texas cities such as Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth and Arlington that are adopting rental registration ordinances, according to the University of Texas School of Law.

Some rental registration programs can give city code inspectors the authority to inspect the exterior and interior spaces of rental units on a rotating basis without having to go through the time-consuming process of obtaining a court warrant, according to the University of Texas School of Law. The La Marque ordinance does not contain language about code inspectors entering properties.

La Marque’s ordinance will make residential rental units more manageable, and the city will fine those who don’t follow the rules, Bell said.

“In an effort to make the living conditions better and in an effort to expose those hidden pockets of criminal activity, I believe that rental ordinance can be structured in a way where the housing structure is adequate,” he said. “We believe an ordinance can speak to that.”

While other cities have filed similar ordinances, this was Bell’s idea, city spokeswoman Colleen Merritt said.

“The need and want for an ordinance of this type in La Marque was spearheaded by Bell,” she said.

It’s time the city tries to push back on slumlord activity, Mayor Bobby Hocking said.

“This is more about holding the property owners accountable to their leases than regulating tenants,” he said. “In this regard, it makes it safer for the citizens who lease properties in our city.”

Connor Behrens: 409-683-5241; connor.behrens@galvnews.com.

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Before coming to work for The Daily News as a staff reporter, Connor worked for us as a freelance correspondent throughout 2017. He has written for other publications such as the Washington Post.

(6) comments

Kimberley Jones Yancy

This will definitely be a slippery slope for the city to oversee.

Toyya Braskey

Every surrounding city should do this because there are so many violators. Actually there is a Standard for Living law. There is rental rights. Few pay any attention to this. There are rules for rental properties, but no enforcers. I recently suffered a severe injuries in LaMarque at a property that was neglected. 9 months after the injuries I am still in great chronic pain, and most likely will be for life ... and my landlord had no property insurance to cover my injuries! So I alone have paid medical expense, had to work double to make up for lost wages. This move by LaMarque and surrounding cities is way overdue. Galveston too has multiple run down properties that it is unbelievable, and these slumlords have gotten away with not fixing things and relying on desperate people, especially with hurricane shortage of available housing. They continuously demand ridiculous deposits and rent for run down, mold infested, safety risk properties and get away with it because housing is so desperately needed that people just try to make due. This is so unfair. I looked for housing after the hurricane and found a house in Galveston, they wanted $900 deposit, and $900 rent. The outside was cute, but as I walked in the floors were unfinished plywood! I found a $2450 sq foot house for $800, that if fixed would rent for $1,500 mo. I alone, am paying out of my pocket to repair & upgrade multiple problems. This is not my responsibility, but this has become the kind of rental experiences many of us have encountered. This is the best move to protect renters in a long time.

Dave Andrisek

What exactly does the $100 do or go for. If you want to inspect my rental property, just ask. You know who the slumlords are, go after them.

Leonard T. Payne

The $100.00 is adding another tax on that property that the City of LM gets. ( double taxation ).
Just drive the City of LM streets, look at the condition of the roadways, ditches, drainage culverts, City ROW’s. Go in City Hall, look at the condition/appearance of the carpet in the lobby area and behind the counter at the secretary area.
Stains and worn out carpet that should have been cleaned and replaced 10 years ago.
Look at the City Barn area, then drive over to 10th. Street and Texas Ave. to our neighbor City of Texas City and look at what a REAL City Utility Yard really looks like.
Mayor Hocking, Keith Bell, City Council and Carol Buttler, you fill the the definition of Slum Lords.

sheryl tillson

Well said Leonard. Following the OLD LMISD down the tubes!!!

Leonard T. Payne

I added a comment on this.
I no longer see it. Was it deleted by GDN?

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