Red Wing, Minn. rental license program

RED WING -- A new rental license program has been discussed by the city for a couple of years. The goal is to ensure that all rental properties in the community are safe and healthy. When the program is put into place, every rental unit will be inspected regularly — the proposal is once every three years. 

Due to COVID-19 and other variables, the proposed start date has been pushed back to Jan. 1, 2022. 

Basic summary 

The city’s “Basics Around Rental License Program” document explains the city “would issue annual rental property licenses each year to every rental property. The city would begin the program by issuing temporary licenses prior to passing the first inspection, and then operating licenses after passing the inspection. The license fee amount is still being discussed.” 

For this program the city will be divided into three zones. The city will inspect the rental properties in one zone each year, meaning that a property would be inspected once every three years. 

The City Council is still discussing this program, including its fee structure and how the city will work with the Housing & Redevelopment Authority, which already inspects its rental properties regularly. 

An April 26 report by Dan Rogness, the city’s community development director, and Michelle Leise, the community engagement facilitator, says of the inspection fees, “based on applying fees to all rental units, staff and the committee are supporting a fee of $40 a unit per year, which is a reduction from the previously proposed $45 a unit. This fee would fully support a rental licensing program on an annual basis.” 

The report also said that the Rental Ad Hoc Committee supports considering a reduction in fees (50%) for those housing units that are in one of two categories: rental housing units owned by the HRA and newly constructed rental units within the first three years of no inspections. 

Rental survey  

A tenant survey went out to all renters (roughly 2,000 individuals) in early October. The city’s summary of the results states in part: 

  • Only 6% of people who received surveys (123 of 2000) responded. 

  • The majority of respondents (64%) liked the idea of a rental license program.

  • The main reason people said they liked the program idea is there are properties in Red Wing that are not safe or healthy, and property owners should take more responsibility for maintaining them. Tenants deserve that. 

  • Of the respondents who did not want the program, 92% said they were already happy with their living situation and their landlord. 

  • The top two reasons people had concerns about the program were they were afraid their landlord would raise their rent because of license fees, and because their apartment is inspected due to state requirements or some other reason. 

  • Another top issue respondents shared was their concern about the lack of affordable housing in Red Wing. This did not pertain specifically to the program, but it was a concern among each group of respondents.  

Information has gone out in City Beat, Channel 6, and social media to let people know about the proposed program and the current, ongoing complaint-based system that can help tenants right now in Red Wing. 

What’s next 

City staff will hold a virtual public meeting 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 20. The whole community is invited to attend. The meeting will cover and have time for feedback on the general overview of the proposed license and inspection program, items that will be included on the inspection checklist, inspection schedules, frequency and zoning and annual fees for property owners. 

In April the city updated the timeline for the rental license program: 

  • June 14: City staff will present almost final details of the program during a City Council meeting. The meeting will also include a public forum. 

  • July 12: The City Council could consider the first reading of the rental license program ordinance. 

  • July 26: The City Council could consider the second reading of the ordinance. 

  • July 27: If the council has approved the program, letters would be sent to property owners and renters with information about the program. 

  • Jan. 1, 2022: Proposed official start date for the program. License fees will be due on the same day. Inspections will begin in January or February. 

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