City-parish government is eyeing a rental property inspection program to address complaints about absentee landlords who some residents say care little about the condition of their homes in Lafayette.
“We have folks from out of town who are buying property, some of whom have never visited Lafayette,” said City-Parish Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux.
At Tuesday’s council meeting, Boudreaux called for tougher enforcement of existing regulations on junky yards and high grass and for the formation of a new committee to explore an inspection program to ensure rental properties meet regulations for safety and upkeep.
The councilman said he hopes the end result will be a tool to fight “slum lords who do nothing but come in and destroy the community.”
About 30 residents from neighborhoods in the northside area that Boudreaux represents came to Tuesday’s meeting seeking action.
Nathaniel Andrews told council members a rent house near his Summit Drive residence of two decades “has bushes that look like trees” and a yard rarely visited by a lawn mower.
“There is junk all over,” he said. “Someone needs to be held responsible.”
Marie Annette Chapman said the Moss Street neighborhood where she lives is slowly giving way to crime, a problem she blames in part on poorly managed rent houses.
“You see property values going down around you,” she said.
Boudreaux said some neighborhoods in his council district have rental rates as high as 80 percent.
He said the problem is not necessarily rental properties, which he sees as a useful and necessary part of the real estate market, but rather run-down homes with unkempt yards — an issue he blames largely on out-of-town landlords.
“I have found that the rental properties are the most detrimental when you don’t have a connection to the community,” Boudreaux said.
There have been serious discussions of a rental property inspection program before in Lafayette, first in 2002 and again in 2006.
“It really never took off,” Boudreaux said.
Other council members on Tuesday seemed generally supportive of doing something to address the issue, but there also was concern about subjecting good landlords who are doing nothing wrong to new regulations and possibly new fees to support an inspection program.
“This is difficult in that we don’t want to ensnare the landlords that are doing what they are supposed to do,” said Councilman William Theriot.
At the very least, Boudreaux said, he would like to see better enforcement of existing regulations on the condition of homes and the appearance of yards.
“We do well, but I’m going to ask that we do better than we do,” Boudreaux said.
City-Parish Chief Administrative Officer Dee Stanley said the difficulty in the past has been in engaging out-of-town landlords to address property issues short of costly and often complicated litigation.
“I think that certainly the administration supports whatever it takes to put teeth in an ordinance,” Stanley said. “There has to be a way to do more.”
There is no timeline for formation of the committee.
Boudreaux said he envisions the group including landlords, community members and representatives from the city-parish administration.