By Jeremy Weldon
Several landlords and rental property owners and managers attended Tuesday’s meeting of the Batesville Mayor and Board of Aldermen hoping to learn more about the city’s plans to regulate the rental business and tighten building codes governing that type of housing.
Alderman Stan Harrison, who has led the charge to clean up the city’s appearance and oversee local rentals, had invited Tupelo building and code enforcement and economic development officers to speak with the local board about how rental property is handled there.
Jimmy Farnham and Shane Hooper talked with board members for about an hour, explaining Tupelo’s approach to rental housing. Basically, that city and Batesville’s systems are very similar, other than the Tupelo’s practice of inspecting every rental house and apartment in the city every two years, and charging property owners $25 per year for each property rented as a business fee.
In Batesville, the Code Enforcement Office inspects rental properties anytime there is a change of residents, provided the new renters come to City Hall to have utilities changed to a new name. If electricity and water services stay registered under another name and are never disconnected, the property doesn’t get an inspection.
Hooper, an economic developer and a member of the State College Board, emphatically told city officials that municipal blight in any community is directly tied to a breakdown in building code enforcement and actual “eyes on the street” doing visual inspections of each neighborhood to address any property that begins to decline.
Some areas of Batesville have housing that Harrison, and others, believe are lowering the value of properties on entire streets and are safety hazards to those who are renters.
The aldermen made no decisions about tightening local rental codes or regulations, or enacting a privilege license for the owners of rental property, but listened to the Tupelo officials and local real estate owners.
All agreed that some housing in the city is sub-standard and that landlords are unlikely to make improvements unless prodded by city officials and new guidelines. Aldermen are expected to revisit the matter at their next meeting scheduled for July 3.
Most Batesville officials will be attending the 87th annual Mississippi Municipal League Conference on the Gulf Coast Monday through Wednesday next week.