Omaha council members eye La Vista plan for rental property regulation

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -- We're getting the first look at the city's plans to try and prevent another rental housing incident like what inspectors saw at Yale Park Apartments.

Nearly 100 families were evacuated from the complex last September after the city found thousands of code violations. At the time, the city said they would find a way to try and make sure it wouldn't happen again.

But time's up, according to a pair of city council members.

Councilman Ben Gray says the draft ordinance will be a carbon copy of the landlord registry and mandatory inspections that La Vista has had set up since 2010.

Councilman Chris Jerram it's a starting point. “Whether that in fact proposal of an ordinance in its form, which is to be modeled after La Vista, is what in fact in form crosses the finish line, remains to be seen."

The ordinance would require landlords to register their properties and have an inspection every year. Properties that pass inspection would get a two year grace period of no mandatory inspections.
Both councilmen acknowledge there's still a long way to go in passing a law.

Jerram said, “Probably knowing the process and how this works, to gain community consensus, with feedback from the departments, and colleagues, the mayor, and the citizenry — it may look like something else - and probably will, in fact, do that."

State Sen. Justin Wayne also feels the city is taking too long to come up with a law. The bill he introduced earlier this month passed through committee Wednesday and will now go to the floor of the legislature. If the bill passes into law it would force Omaha and Lincoln to set up a landlord registry and mandatory inspections.

Councilman Gray says it's a premature move by the state.

“I do recognize Senator Wayne's concern because we share portions of the same district and what he sees and what I see is very troubling. So the state taking up the issue is appropriate, but I think it's premature at this point in time."

It's important to note that at the public hearing on Senator Wayne's bill the mayor made clear in a letter that she is opposed to a landlord registry and mandatory inspections.

The city council would need five votes to override the mayor if she were to veto the council's plan.