What’s the problem with inadequate information on rental housing and potential contamination hotspots?

Without complete, accurate information about the housing stock and which properties are rentals, city inspectors will struggle to identify which are subject to inspection requirements. Some places that have rental registries have low compliance.  For example, when Detroit’s rental registry requirement went into effect, only 2,000 of 152,000 units were registered. After Detroit launched a process to encourage more landlords to register their properties, registration increased to 8,783, out of a total of approximately 152,000 rental units.  That means approximately 6% of all rentals are registered.


What’s the solution?

For cities that do not have a way of tracking rental units, rental registries can be used to allow the city to better understand the housing stock.  Cleveland uses a Certificate of Rental Registration system which a landlord has to renew every year to rent a unit.  The certificate can be revoked if the property is not in compliance with the housing code.  This approach can be used to identify hotspots of older housing and at-risk populations.

For cities that have a rental registry with low compliance, the city should consider focusing efforts on getting all rental units registered. Cities can have designated rental registry enforcement staff looking for rentals in the same way the local community does–craigslist, zillow, facebook, the local newspaper, signs posted in front yards–and confirming whether those units are registered.  If they are not, the city should issue a ticket with increasing rates for tickets unpaid after 30, 60, and 90 days. Cities may also want to consider adopting a registration and inspection sticker system that units could place in a front window indicating the date of their last registration and inspection, like the system many states use to indicate motor vehicle registrations and inspections.