PORTERDALE -- Landlords in Porterdale aired concerns about the city's water account deposit policy Monday night, saying the high dollar amounts are a deterrent to finding good tenants.
The City Council was scheduled to have its first regular meeting of the month Monday, but due to lack of a quorum the council could not hold an official meeting. However, because more than half a dozen landlords were present, the council continued with an impromptu discussion of their concerns. The majority of single-family residences in Porterdale are rental houses.
Landlord Sharon Sims, speaking on behalf of the Porterdale Landlords Association, asked why the city is requiring a water deposit of up to $900 for tenants whose credit fails to meet certain criteria.
Sims pointed out that due to the economy more and more people who would make good tenants have blemishes on their credit.
"We don't want undesirables," she said, " ... but (credit requirements) are catching good people who through no fault of their own, their credit is in the Dumpster."
Mayor Arline Chapman told the landlords that the city's policy on deposits and credit checks is designed to create more stability in the rental market and improve the city's quality of life overall.
"We have dealt just in the past few weeks with appalling situations with -- collectively -- your tenants," she said. "I won't call out specifically what those problems are. We want Porterdale to be a better place; we want it to be a friendly place for families; we want the houses to be seen as a place where better people will come."
City officials pointed out that Porterdale has had to write off $147,000 in bad debt on water accounts in the past, and the city's current liability on water accounts is $60,000.
Chapman asked why the landlords don't put the water accounts in their names if tenants can't afford the deposits.
"The simple solution and the compassionate solution for the landlord is for the landlord to put the water in your name," she said.
That suggestion was rejected by most of the landlords present.
"That is the absolute No. 1 rule in landlording that you never do," said landlord Connie Malone.
In addition to the high deposits, landlords complained about a city policy that allows tenants with a deposit on file to move a water account from one residence to another for a $25 transfer fee. Landlords pointed out that this policy allows tenants to skip out on the rent while paying their water bill.
"We're going to be getting gigged good, but the water bill will be getting paid," said one landlord.
Councilman Lowell Chambers suggested that the landlords consider paying a portion of the deposit if they feel they have a good potential tenant who can't afford a high deposit. The tenant could reimburse the landlord over time, he said.
The council agreed to review its credit parameters that require greater deposits and its policy on transfer fees. The city also plans to look at other ways to help landlords identify bad tenants who move from one rental house to another.
Chapman praised the landlords who were at the meeting, saying they are among the best rental property owners in Porterdale.
"But we are having to deal with historical fact here," Chapman continued. "The history of this town is that we have had a very bad relationship with landlords. They have not cared about anything but driving by and picking up their checks. This is what we are trying to change."
Landlord Malone said the city's Landlords Association has been beneficial to landlords who have joined and thanked the council for establishing the group. The Landlords Association is scheduled to meet on Saturday, Sept. 22, 10 a.m. at City Hall.