Increasing fines and penalties for neglectful landlords is a step in the right direction for Athens City Council, but more action is needed to crack down on so-called “slumlords.”
That’s what mayoral candidate Damon Krane and city council candidate Ellie Hamrick told council members at its Tuesday night meeting, demanding that the council take action to beef up the city’s code enforcement office.
“No matter how tough-sounding a piece of legislation is, it doesn’t mean anything if it’s not enforced,” said Krane, who identifies as a democratic socialist but is running as an independent.
Council members are currently mulling an ordinance that would increase fines and make jail time a possibility for landlords who neglect their properties. Currently, landlords face a $100 fee and a misdemeanor charge if a code violation isn’t addressed, according to a previous Post report.
Krane and Hamrick said tougher penalties are a good start, but added that the Athens Office of Code Enforcement needs more staff to address code violations in the city.
“We need tougher penalties,” said Hamrick, who identifies as a socialist and is running as an independent for an At-Large council seat. “But we also need to strengthen the housing code itself, and we need to adequately staff the code enforcement office.”
Councilman Jeff Risner, D-2nd Ward, previously said council members have been working to address these concerns for months, but have had to find ways around state laws that preempt local ones.
Council members took no action on the ordinance on Tuesday, and will likely vote on the ordinance in two weeks at their next non-committee meeting.
Council members also passed a resolution that could lead to more regulations on short-term rentals, like Airbnbs, in Athens. The resolution passed the issue on to the city’s planning commission to look at zoning.
“We have very limited regulations on short-term rentals,” Councilwoman Chris Fahl, D-4th Ward, said. “We need to take it on and make sure that it’s regulated so that everybody remains safe.”