MERRILLVILLE | An ordinance that would charge an annual registration fee for each residential rental unit in town cleared a hurdle Tuesday night, but the decision attracted plenty of opposition.
The council approved the first reading of the ordinance with a 4-2 vote. Councilmen Richard Hardaway and Ron Widing cast the votes against it.
The measure would require landlords to register each rental unit they own. The town would charge an annual $100 registration fee for each unit.
Funds generated would go to the Police Department, town leaders said.
Hardaway said he understands the need for more police officers, but he thinks charging the $100 fee could "run apartment owners out of business."
Councilwoman Carol Miano thinks the funds generated would be well spent. She said half of the calls for service the Police Department receives come from apartments.
She said she has received multiple complaints from residents about vandalism and other crimes at apartments.
Some councilmen said the fee could be passed on to renters.
Mark Conover, director of public relations and local government affairs at the Indiana Apartment Association, said it isn't that simple.
"You can only charge what your market can bear," he said.
He also said some rental housing has a maximum rent that can be charged.
The ordinance also establishes procedure for the town to inspect rental units if Merrillville receives complaints about them.
Councilman Don Spann said he thinks there are some apartment buildings in "deplorable" conditions and the ordinance would help correct the issue.
"We don't want ghetto apartment buildings," Spann said.
Alyssa Jordan, a regional manager of the JVM Realty Corp., said her apartment management company and other management companies that attended the meeting aren't "slum lords." JVM is the management company for Broadmoor Country Club Apartments.
Jordan said the companies take preventative measures to ensure they provide quality housing. She thinks it's unfair to penalize them for mistakes other apartment complexes made.
The council will consider adopting the ordinance at its July 10 meeting.