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Pioneer Editorial: City Council taking rental issues seriously

In a perfect world, there would be no need to convene a rental committee, an entity the Bemidji City Council created in June. Landlords would be service oriented and considerate of tenants. And tenants would treat their rented homes as if they ow...

In a perfect world, there would be no need to convene a rental committee, an entity the Bemidji City Council created in June.

Landlords would be service oriented and considerate of tenants. And tenants would treat their rented homes as if they owned them, act as exemplary neighbors and improve the quality of life in their parts of town.

But the daily Bemidji Police responses to party complaints, property damage and disturbing-the-peace calls demonstrate that plenty of irresponsible people live in Bemidji, both in rentals and self-owned residences.

As it is, rental ordinances are necessary to ensure landlords act responsibly and tenants cause no problems in their neighborhoods.

The Bemidji City Council is expected to vote on the final ordinance draft at the Sept. 19 meeting.

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One of the committee's suggestions involves requiring rental property owners to take Crime Free Multi-Housing training if they do not comply with city ordinances and regulations. The training is designed to make multi-family residences and single-family rental homes safe and desirable places to live. The program launched by the Minnesota Crime Prevention Association sets up partnerships among police, local rental property owners and managers and renters to foster quality neighborhoods.

Controls on the tenants' side of the proposed ordinances include a "three-strikes" clause. An administrative fine or criminal citation would be issued after three incidents of bad behavior by tenants or their guests. Rental property owners would also be notified each time law enforcement officials make contact with the people in a rental unit.

That double dose of penalties makes sure tenants know when they've stepped outside acceptable behavior, and lets landlords know what's going on in their rentals.

A list of rental ordinances is not going to solve all neighborhood problems. But the first step in improving the situation is to acknowledge that problems exist. The second step is the brainstorming going on now among the rental committee members - landlords, police officers, city staff and councilors. After the City Council approves the committee's draft document, the final step will be serious enforcement both for landlords and for tenants.

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