New Orleans landlords could soon face regular inspections to their rental properties. City Councilmembers LaToya Cantrell and Jason Williams are floating a measure to require many landlords to register their properties with the city and undergo code inspections.
Proponents say it's an overdue and necessary step to put more power in the hands of tenants. They claim Louisiana is one of the weakest states for tenant rights, and the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center has reported that more than 50 percent of rental properties in the city are not up to code.
Many landlords, however, are concerned the contemplated measure could be used to punish "good" property owners with strict enforcement and will not deter "bad" landlords who already are defying the law. Both sides agree enforcement of the current laws is the first step.
Landlords, tenants and fair housing advocates offered their suggestions for the measure at the New Orleans City Council's Community Development Committee meeting Feb. 11. "Fixing this problem is vital to the health of this city and the evolution of the city," Williams said. "We've ignored poverty and deplorable housing for a very long time. ... When slum landlords are forced to fix their property, it helps the rest of the neighborhood."
"It's not another burden on landlords in this community," said Loyola University College of Law professor Bill Quigley. "The idea that they're being crushed for regulation is just a total fantasy." But landlord Pat O'Brien told the council committee that while responsible property owners will have to comply with the law, it's "unlikely" that slumlords will, too.
Cantrell and Williams are working on a draft of a proposed ordinance, but there's no timeline for its introduction.
At Mayor Mitch Landrieu's year-end wrap in December 2014, Cantrell heralded 2015 as "the year of enforcement" — including the recently passed smoking ban, the anticipated rental inspection measure and the soon-to-resurface sound ordinance.