The use of regulations to protect citizens and create a prosperous community is absolutely necessary and among the greater duties charged to government. Yet, regulations can often be spurious and have to be clearly evaluated and understood to make sure they are not wasteful or unnecessarily costly and restrictive. The City of Coral Springs, though, has proposed an unnecessary and burdensome Landlord Registration Program which they have named “Enhanced Neighborhood Preservation Program.” The proposal can be found in the City Commission agenda from the 8/23/11 meeting here: 2011-08-23 City Commission – Full Agenda-1211.
The gist of the program is that the city wants to compile a database of landlords and renters. To do so, they will require every landlord to register and pass inspections, in addition to paying the fees. The purpose, taken directly from the proposal, is three-fold:
- To enhance the the Neighborhood Preservation Program with a Landlord Registration which will provide the city with a current, accurate database of rental properties
- Rental property database will be utilized to contact the property owners or designated agent in case of health, safety violations or in case of emergency
- Database to be shared with Police Department for use in criminal activity
The proposal goes on to list the requirements of the program but egregiously leaves out the “why” of this proposal. There’s a cursory mention of health, safety violations and emergencies but it does not dare explore how a new database is justifiably better than the status quo. A closer examination shows the frivolity of the stated purposes.
On first glance the idea of a landlord registration may sound appealing, until you realize that a database of every property currently exists and can be accessed by anybody with an interest, including the City of Coral Springs. The Broward County Appraiser’s Office maintains all the property records in the county and is easily accessible at www.bcpa.net. So the City of Coral Springs is stating that they want to require landlords to voluntarily submit information, at an expense to themselves and the city, to provide the city with information that already is compiled and accessible. Quite absurd, right?
It sounds so absurd that the city must explain why it’s own database is indispensable and necessary. Again though, Coral Springs only makes a vague reference to “health, safety violations, or in case of emergency,” all noble purposes. In fact, noble enough that it makes one wonder why this is only applicable to landlords and renters. The fact that homeowners are not compiled by the City of Coral Springs is curious. Do they not merit concern with the above stated issues? Of course, that’s tongue in cheek and the obvious answer is that homeowners would realize the absurdity of such a database and never allow such frivolous action take place. Unfortunately, renters and landlords do not carry the weight of the homeowner majority and are particularly vulnerable to these types of overreaching regulations.
Finally, the database is to be shared with the police for criminal activities. This is the most curious stated purpose and it’s hard to decipher what is meant by that. Are we to believe that the lack of a current registration is somehow preventing police from arresting criminals? Any competent police force should be able to acquire any information the proposed registration would provide with very little effort. Statements of purpose like the above are concerning because most citizens are apt to give police a benefit of the doubt even on such vaguely stated premises. This proposal makes no attempt to flesh out any justification over what is currently available and, therefore, should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.
Finally, it must be noted that the program specifically uses the wording “Enhanced” because this is a regulatory proposal on top of already existing regulation, the city’s Codes and Ordinances. The programs requirements are all redundant! Essentially the requirements made of landlords with regards to code remain unchanged, as does enforcement. Except, now, the City will need added enforcement and bureaucracy for the required registration aspect.
The city’s proposal for Landlord Registration is redundant, unnecessary, costly, and will have the unintended consequence of making housing less affordable in the City of Coral Springs. The cost of compiling the database and enforcing the registration must come from someone, either the taxpayers or the landlords, which means it will be money spent on poor, unneeded regulation rather than a tangible or evident good. What’s galling is that the City of Coral Springs, in the same meeting, makes a wonderful proposal to enhance the city’s entrance way and make aesthetic improvements all over the city, yet wants the taxpayer to accept a tax increase. Personally, I was willing to do so and was actually looking it over when I ran across the Landlord Registration Program which exemplifies wasteful and unneeded government regulation. Citizens should not be asked to pay more taxes while at the same time the City of Coral Springs is pushing through poorly thought out but “feel good” regulation.
The problem is that in many cases it really is a “this or that” situation in governmental budgeting. Trees, parks, capital improvements or regulations and enforcement. Each proposal has to be well thought out and the benefits must outweigh the costs. However, there is a bias in any type of government to regulate and control regardless of cost. This penchant for regulation must be monitored very closely by the government, in this case the Commission, and the citizens to make sure it is effective, necessary, and justifiable.
** Additional Reading: The following study in Scotland provides data showing the ineffectiveness of the Landlord Registration http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2011/07/13111732/3