Like most cities, Auburn has a heavy proportion of residents who live in rental properties. In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that Auburn's rented housing rate is 53.4 percent.
Consider that the city has more than 12,000 housing units, and that's a substantial number of properties in which the owner is not present. When emergencies arise or code issues surface, that can become a challenge for city officials.
And that can also mean trouble for the people living in those rented units, and for the neighbors of rental properties.
That's a big part of why it makes common sense for Auburn to move forward with the establishment of a rental property registry so the city has accurate and complete contact information for each rental property.
The concept is being discussed at city hall again, and the Cayuga County Landlords Association supports the idea as long as it doesn't create additional costs for property owners.
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City officials pointed to a variety of scenarios in which they've encountered problems because they could not track down the owner responsible for a rental property. For example, when a fire or some other type of property emergency requires the service of an electrician or plumber to restore service, the city is limited in what can be done if the owner cannot be tracked down.
A basic registry program that city hall can maintain, and that emergency services and code enforcement staff can access, should not be too difficult to establish. And it shouldn't be a large burden for property owners to provide that information and update it when changes take place.
We understand that for a large portion of the landlords and renters in the city, communication is not an issue. But there still is a sizeable number of absentee landlords in Auburn, and the struggle to get them on the phone or just deal with an issue on the ground is all too real.
There's some debate about whether to make an Auburn rental registry mandatory. We can't see how it would be effective without it being legally required and subject to a fine for failure to comply. The whole point is to get less responsible and/or harder-to-reach landlords in the loop, so it's doubtful they'll jump on board with registering if it's voluntary.
Rental registries are not uncommon in cities, so Auburn doesn't have to look to hard to come up with a model that should work effectively. It's well past time that the city commit to a pro-active approach to dealing with this challenge.