Huntingburg officials reach out to landlords

Herald Staff Writer

HUNTINGBURG — The City of Huntingburg is reaching out to landlords to broaden its communications with them.

Steve Collett, code enforcement officer, initiated a meeting between city officials and landlords.
That meeting took place Tuesday with about 25 landlords in attendance as well as Mayor Denny Spinner and Planning Director Rich Hazlewood.

“I just wanted to meet with them and get to know them better, and try to find out what some of the issues might be and questions they might have,” Collett said. “We’re trying to figure out how we can better help one another.”

The city addressed common code enforcement problems, such as tall grass, and the city’s expectations of all property owners in the city. For rental properties, Collett said he will in most cases address the property owner as opposed to the tenant when a violation occurs.

“They are ultimately responsible for that property,” he said. “I told them going in that I would deal directly one-on-one with them.”

Hazlewood noted that landlords have been appreciative of that approach as they are often unaware of problems at their rental properties.

“They don’t go by their places daily,” he said. “So we’re notifying them and they’re getting things taken care of and that helps them keep track of things.”

But code enforcement wasn’t the only topic addressed at the meeting. Landlords posed questions about issues like limb and trash collection as well as utility transfers and shut-offs.

Spinner said there is sometimes a difference between what a landlord is told will be a tenant’s last day at a property and when the city is told to transfer or shut off utilities, which could be a problem depending on factors like weather.

“Verifying that information is something we need to make sure we’re doing,” Spinner said. “We want everything taken care of in the proper way.”

Spinner emphasized that the city is not trying to single out rental properties but is aware that dealing with those properties sometimes requires extra steps because of the landlord-tenant arrangement.

“There seemed to be a lot of very open dialogue and, a lot of times, the property owners were able to answer questions or provide advice for another landlord,” he said. “They bounced a lot of ideas around among themselves and with the city.”

Collett said the city is considering holding such meetings annually to touch base with the landlords while providing information and sharing ideas and concerns. He noted that all but a handful of the landlords he called to invite to Tuesday’s meeting attended.

“I was greatly appreciative of them taking the time to come to that meeting,” he said. “They were very responsive and we had a lot of good back-and-forth.”

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