Covington unanimously approves changes to rental requirements

For Rent sign - generic graphic
For Rent sign - generic graphic(Source: WAFF)
Updated: Aug. 14, 2020 at 1:55 PM EDT
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COVINGTON, Ky. (FOX19) - The City of Covington is making changes to its Rental License Dwelling Ordinance.

According to a news release, the City claims the changes will make it easier for landlords to navigate and achieve the city’s goal of maintaining safe and decent housing for those who need it.

“We just want safe housing,” Covington Neighborhood Services Director Ken Smith said.

The Board of Commissioners voted 5-0 on Tuesday to approve the changes to Chapter 155 of the Code of Ordinances.

In a release, the city details what the “new” Chapter 155 accomplishes.

  • It moves from a one-year license to a three-year license, lessening the frequency with which landlords have to apply.
  • It requires only one license per parcel, no matter how many units are rented at that location.
  • It changes the penalty from operating without a license from a criminal offense to a civil offense, with the fine for a first-time offense set at $500 (instead of potential jail time).
  • It creates a small license fee to help pay a portion of the costs of inspections, starting at $30 (every three years) for a parcel that has a single rental unit and rising to $150 for 100-plus units.
  • And it requires an inspection when a license is granted, rather than reserving inspections for when complaints are made.

The city says the initial fee is due when current licenses expire on April 15, 2021, but Smith said the city will initially issue “provisional licenses” next April and stagger the inspections over three years.

“We don’t have the staff to do every single inspection next April, so in essence, we’re gradually phasing in the required initial inspection by doing about a third of them each of the first three years,” Smith said.

The inspections, which are completed by the city’s code enforcement division, primarily look for unsafe or unsanitary conditions, Smith said.

“We’re trying to maintain a decent quality of life for renters in Covington while providing a meaningful service to those who rent out the property,” Smith said.

One of the goals of the licensing system, the city says, is to create reliable communications channels by ensuring they have accurate contact information for property owners.

Smith says he believes the change from criminal to civil penalties will improve compliance with the overall requirements.

“We think the new system will increase accountability and collaboration all around, to the benefit of tenants, landlords, and the surrounding neighborhood,” Smith said.

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