If you’re someone who believes city hall is all about protecting neighborhoods and enforcing the law, you’ll like this latest idea — council members could soon require a $50 registration fee and annual attendance at a "Safe Complex Symposium" for people who own rental houses, even if they’re renting the house to a relative.

The idea is being sold to council members as a win-win-win for everyone, according to information posted by Robert Wilonsky with the Dallas Observer. According to the city’s briefing, Renters win because they’ll be able to live in safer homes inspected by the city (rental homes typically aren’t inspected now), home owners benefit because the city promises to help stick it to unruly tenants, and of course the city wins by generating a couple million in new fees.

It’s worth reading the briefing, because it’s clearly written to butter-up people who own the rented homes; it even talks about how code enforcement is going to help crack down on tenants who litter, park cars on the lawn and "forget" to mow the lawn. And since the home owners are the constituency that will object to this, the buttering is well-placed: Council members probably know all of these local guys by nickname since I suspect they dole out political contributions from time to time.

Bottom line: I don’t see how involving the city in the relationship between a property owner and a tenant is going to facilitate anything but trouble, because — and correct me if I’m wrong here — the city already can hand out citations for all kinds of sloppy home maintenance. Local owners generally pay attention to their problems, because they care about the assets — the $50 annual fee and the forced annual classroom time (or the $600 fine for failing to attend) is nothing more than a new tax.

But if the registered owner of a property is Amalgmated Home Renters, LLC, of Portland, Ore., is the city any closer to cracking down on disinterested, money-grubbing property owners just because they don’t have to look up who owns the property online?

I’m all for cleaning up our neighborhoods, and I’m all for code enforcement cracking down on people who don’t follow the rules because they don’t feel like following the rules. But this is clearly a fee grab by a cash-strapped city government rather than an honest, effective attempt to make the city a better place to live.

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