Slowing down would create a better result

The landlord-tenant relationship is not always ideal. To state it simply, the problem involves money, and not just tenants who fail to pay their rent. Some landlords do not do a great job creating and maintaining rental properties. Many tenants do not have the means to afford a better place to live or to pressure their landlords into giving them more for less. And if landlords are not collecting much in terms of rent, why kill themselves to fix a place up?

People need places to live, and it can be difficult to find something if you have a low income. Some of those with low incomes are former criminals, who, having served their sentences, have paid their debt to society. They now need to work, eat and have a place to sleep. Where they choose to do so is up to them. That’s called freedom.

Not everyone likes this. They would like to exert more control over landlords or even shut out the ex-cons. Or at least put some serious chains of regulation on the whole process. This appears to be what is behind a new proposal in Fairmont. An amendment to the city’s rental ordinance flew under the radar at the council meeting this week because there were so many other fireworks. The amendment would shorten the licensing requirement for landlords from three years to two, boost inspections and require landlords to conduct criminal background checks on prospective tenants.

We do not have a problem with the city wanting to ensure that rental properties are not run-down slums. Every property owner — landlord or not — faces some basic rules about upkeep. But how far is too far?

We believe the first essential ingredient in this matter is the start of a discussion. Among City Council members, city staff, police, landlords, renters and the general public. The city has scheduled a hearing on the proposed amendment for July 22. It is possible a vote could follow, but that would be way too fast. A slower, more thoughtful process would yield better results and may even build consensus.

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