MADEIRA BEACH — If landlords want to continue renting their properties here, they must be licensed and their properties must pass a rigorous city safety inspection.
"We are trying to make properties safe and class up Madeira Beach," City Manager Shane Crawford said Friday.
A continuing problem of deteriorating properties and neighborhood disturbances in some areas prompted the City Commission to unanimously put a new regulation into effect last week that it hopes will solve the problem.
The new rules were initially suggested by Commissioner Elaine Poe, who wanted to "hold property owners responsible" for ensuring their units meet building codes and do not create a nuisance or safety issue.
The new ordinance, which affects only single-family homes and multifamily structures of four or less units, states that properties must meet "minimum standards for the health, safety and welfare of the public.''
Technically it goes into effect immediately, but enforcement by the city's special magistrate will not happen right away, according to Crawford.
The required inspections, which will focus on both fire and building codes, will be conducted under the supervision of the city's new building official, who will not be on board until mid January.
Inspections can be performed now, Crawford stressed, if a property owner is renting property for the first time and needs a license.
For most rental properties, the city will require owners to get their rental licenses and inspections at the same time as they renew their business tax licenses.
"I want to assure residents that these inspections are for public safety only," Crawford said. "We are not coming in to make sure a property is pristine or beautiful. It has nothing to do with that."
In addition to requiring an inspection, property owners must give the city complete contact information including their address and telephone numbers or that of their agent, as well as information about the rental property itself and their tenants.
The city must be notified of any changes in that information within 15 days.
Once a rental license is granted, it must be renewed each year, but the inspections are only required every two years.
The initial license costs $40, with an annual renewal fee of $15. The inspections will cost $50 per unit initially plus a $68 annual inspection assessment.
If a structure or unit fails an inspection, each reinspection will cost an additional $100.
Owners are required to keep a list of tenants, including name, date of birth, and copy of identification and signature. The city may request that list at any time, as well as in the event of a medical or law enforcement emergency.
Both criminal activity and nuisances are considered potential violations that could result in license revocation.
Violations of the rental license and inspection ordinance could result in a civil penalty of up to $500. Code violations involve other penalties that can total up to $250 a day.
Landlords will not be penalized if violations are caused by their tenants and they are in the process of evicting those tenants.
Several residents protested the new ordinance, but it was passed by the commission with virtually no comment.
"This code allows the government to go into private property and residences for no overt purpose other than annual inspection," Dick Lewis said.
He called it "intrusive, expensive and absolutely unnecessary."
Jim Madden, a resident and former city manager for the city, said many rental units "date back to 1932," and said if they are required to meet current building codes, "they cannot be rented."