Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Controversial Bill Targeting Problem Tenants Passes St. Louis County Council

Posted By on Wed, Oct 21, 2015 at 9:32 AM

The St. Louis County Council passed a landlord licensing bill with a one-vote margin. - GOOGLE MAPS
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  • The St. Louis County Council passed a landlord licensing bill with a one-vote margin.

When a controversial bill aimed at addressing problem properties in St. Louis County failed to pass the county council earlier this month, many hoped it would stay dead. The bill sought to create a license system for landlords renting properties with four or fewer units in unincorporated St. Louis County, but it also included provisions that critics said would disproportionately affect poor and minority tenants and could even harm victims of domestic violence

There was also the matter of tenants convicted of crimes in the past year. The proposed bill would allow the county to force landlords into evicting tenants convicted of felonies, misdemeanors and even ordinance violations in the past year. Landlords would risk losing their license if they did not go through with the evictions within 30 days. 

Opposition to the bill came from both landlords' groups and civil rights advocates, and even after the bill was amended to protect domestic violence victims, it was voted down during an October 6 meeting. However, the bill was further amended and reintroduced a week later. At last night's council meeting, it passed with a 4-3 vote. 

The bill's passing has, not surprisingly, pissed off some landlords.

In fact, it will likely result in litigation.

“I don’t know what the big rush was on this, but it happened,” Councilman Mark Harder, who voted against the bill, said in an interview with St. Louis Public Radio (KWMU 90.7).  “The county taxpayers are going to pay for this. We’re going to spend a lot of money with our legal team upstairs on the ninth floor.”

The bill that passed last night does have some significant differences from the version its sponsor, Councilman Mike O'Mara, initially proposed. Now, a landlord can be forced to evict a tenant only if he or she commits a felony on the property itself. 

For more background on the bill and its controversial path to the St. Louis County law-books, check out our previous coverage: 

— See also: St. Louis County Could Force Eviction of Tenants With Misdemeanors Under New Plan
See also: Law Targeting Tenants With Minor Convictions is Rejected by St. Louis County Council

Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at Danny.Wicentowski@RiverfrontTimes.com

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