Penalty for rental violations increased

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Houghton City Manager Eric Waara discusses a change to the city’s rental housing ordinance. The City Council unanimously approved an increase to $500 for first violations, and $750 for subsequent violations.

HOUGHTON — Violations of the city’s rental housing ordinance will now carry a stiffer fine.

The Houghton City Council approved an amendment that raised fines to $500 for the first violation and $750 for subsequent violations. The fine had previously been $50.

Violations include renting without a license or renting to a greater number of people in a house than permitted.

Resident Doug Terrell suggested instead of raising the fine for the second offense, the council should consider revoking both the license and, where applicable, the property’s non-conforming status.

“It seems to me, especially if it’s renting to too many students, that’s a safety issue,” he said.

City Manager Eric Waara said under the terms of the ordinance, the owner also has to correct the issue that prompted the fine. Under the ordinance, a property owner who doesn’t correct the deficiency is ineligible for renewal of a license at the start of the next year.

“Looking at a wholesale revocation is another kettle of fish, which would be a bit broader change to the overall ordinance because we have to have those mechanisms in here and trigger points to revoke that license,” he said.

Waara said said if the council wants to include language about revocation, he would meet with the city attorney to find a “defensible and logical” way to do that, he said.

“We’re at a point right now where we want to start making moves toward that, and if the council and planning commission and the public wants to do something to make the penalty more severe, we can absolutely look at that, but it’s going to have to be based on the recommendation of the city,” he said.