Toledo needs rental registry

Ohio cities, including Canton, Youngstown, and Sandusky, use the data from a rental registry for a variety of issues.

The Editorial Board
Mon, 02 Dec 2019 05:00:00 GMT

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As Toledo dives into its latest — and hopefully last — revised version of an ordinance aimed at eliminating the danger of lead contamination in the city’s older housing stock, there will be many hurdles to implementing an effective ordinance.

One of the first challenges will be identifying where all Toledo’s rental properties are and who owns them.

A 2006 state law requires the county auditor in Ohio’s 13 largest counties to keep a rental registry. In Lucas County, landlords are supposed to file paperwork to register their rental properties, though most believe the registry is incomplete or out of date.

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Toledo needs its own city rental registry — one that is meticulously managed and updated — to track the parcels across the city that are rented. Such a registry will be necessary to properly enforce the lead-safe ordinance, but it would be useful for so much more, including tackling blight and code violations.

Renters occupy nearly half the city’s dwellings.

The city is attractive — too attractive in the eyes of some — to out-of-town real estate investors.

Aging housing stock, decades of declining population, and affordable housing prices have combined to make it appealing for investors to snatch up Toledo houses that were once well cared-for owner-occupied homes and turn them into distantly managed rental properties.

In too many cases those rental properties are neglected, contributing to the blight issues across Toledo.

In East Toledo, community advocates complain the problem of absentee landlords is such a nuisance that one city council candidate running to represent that area of the city ran with a campaign promise of making it illegal for anyone who lives more than 50 miles away to own property in the city.

Other cities in Ohio, including Canton, Youngstown, and Sandusky, keep a rental registry and use the data to help with a variety of issues.

Many require interior and exterior inspections, usually at the time a landlord registers a rental property and sometimes on an annual basis.

For a responsible property investor, such a registry would be nothing more than a quick bit of paperwork. For the less responsible landlords, having to register ownership with the city might serve as some deterrence to neglect homes or let them become eyesores.

In all cases, a reliable list of rental parcels and their owners will help Toledo launch an effective lead-safe ordinance that has been too long delayed as it is.