Landlord Registration: The Law of Unintended Consequences

Legislation passed in Troy, New York back in 2008 requiring all landlords to fill out a 'landlord registration form' provides a perfect illustration of the law of unintended consequences. 

The City of Troy had concerns about the number of absentee landlords in its city; arguably a legitimate concern as a high percentage of rental properties in a city, particularly ones where the landlord is not around to keep the property in good condition and repair, can result in deteriorating housing stock and it goes downhill for a city from there.

The solution that the Troy city council had was to require all landlords to register with the city by completing a Landlord Registration Form. Absentee landlords, i.e., those whose home residence is more than 20 miles from the city limits, would be required to hire or appoint a property manager to deal with the city on any property management matter. The legislation imposed fines and imprisonment on any landlord that failed to register the property (i.e., criminalizing the failure to complete paperwork).  

The registration form goes beyond identifying absentee landlords, and requires from all landlords detailed information including contact information for their insurance agent and requirements to notify the city of every significant change to the property. As is typical with many ordinances and regulations, the definition of a 'significant change' is broadly worded.

The controversy 'du jour' with this ordinance relates to the requirement that all owners of multi-unit homes must complete the form even if they don't rent out any of the units. If the unit is owner-occupied, the owner must still complete the registration form with all of the intrusive information requests and also provide a sworn statement proving his or her home ownership.

When the law passed, the city sent out the registration forms with no explanation or instructions. Big surprise, many of the owners didn't return the form and are now faced with large fines added to their property tax bill.

The unintended consequence?  Because of the city's poor implementation and overreach, many owner occupants and owners who do not rent out units are being assessed significant fines because they couldn't complete the form and/or didn't think it applied to them. Many of those targeted with fines are senior citizens who own duplexes and share it with family members. 

So much for tracking absentee landlords.  But granny better not let her grandson live in her duplex with notifying the City of Troy or there will be hell to pay!


George E. Bourguignon, Jr. Attorney at Law said...

Sounds like a very strict regulation to begin with, and the intent was not well implemented if the scope of the application is so broad.

apartment for rent in makati said...

There should be regulations imposed. This is to provide fair ruling in properties.

new york condos said...

City of Troy is not the only one that has absentee landlords. I know a few cities that have the same problem and its common that landlords don’t pay attention to their properties if it’s still in good condition.