SPRINGFIELD, Mo. Springfield city leaders want keep neighborhoods clean and safe. One way to start doing that is by making sure they know exactly who owns every rental home in town.
Monday night, city council heard the first reading of a registration program for rental properties.
They also heard from plenty of property owners for and against the idea.
"The penalties for doing that and making the landlord responsible for what goes on at the house is just wrong," said one property owner.
Another owner said, "I don't plan on registering my properties.
"We understand the problems. You understand the problems. Let's go ahead and thread the needle. Let's go ahead and have the city council approve the safe housing program and rental registration," one man said addressing council members.
The director of building services, Chris Straw, says it's a way his office can hold property owners accountable.
"There may be a name but that doesn't necessarily mean, from what I understand or what I've encountered, are the responsible party," he said.
This doesn't that mean inspectors will just go inside people's homes when they want.
Straw said, "We will go on the property and do the necessary clean up but it is all exterior to the structure. We cannot enter the structure unless we have probable cause."
Complaints filed with code enforcement will still follow a structured timeline and due process.
Registering the rental properties will help the city keep up with who the current owners are.
"It's free. It's online. It's no cost. Everybody says well what if you don't register? Well, there's a couple of ways of looking at that. If you don't register technically it's a violation," explained Straw.
Landlords and property owners could face legal action if they don't comply.
"If I can get that initial contact with a property owner, the quicker I can get there, the better off we are," Straw said.
City leaders say the rental registration program will also help fire officials keep tabs on properties if there's an emergency.
If changes to the ordinance passes in two weeks, the registration would begin next fall.