LEWISTON — The City Council passed a first reading Tuesday of an ordinance requiring all multi-family buildings to join a city registry starting in 2020.

Officials, voting unanimously, called the ordinance a compromise after years of discussions on a potential rental registration program in Lewiston, which supporters have said would provide the city with up-to-date contact information and other necessary data to boost communication with code enforcement and safety efforts.

A committee put in place by former Mayor Shane Bouchard spent 10 months studying such a program, finally recommending to the council that the city enact a non-fee-based registration requirement for all multi-family buildings.

When the city initially brought up the potential for a fee-based rental registration program, which would have funded additional Code Enforcement positions, it sparked pushback from several landlords.

Instead of a fee-based system, the committee recommended a series of measures, including the non-fee-based registry and a permanent housing committee, which was also recently passed by the council.

Councilor Michael Marcotte said Tuesday the final recommendation from the committee was unanimous, “despite differences” of opinion from its members, which showed a “good compromise.”

According to the ordinance language, the purpose of the registration requirement comes from the city’s large number of multi-family buildings, “many of which are older and present property owners and managers significant challenges regarding upkeep and maintenance while placing a significant burden on the city’s code enforcement efforts.”

The ordinance states that “the number of real estate proprietorships, partnerships, and corporations that own buildings in the city, sometimes managed through property management companies, creates challenges to the proper enforcement of the city’s fire, building, and property maintenance codes, all of which are designed to ensure the public safety and welfare of residents.”

Multi-family buildings are defined as having three or more dwelling units.

According to the ordinance, the owner, business operator or property manager will submit a registration application for each multi-family building before March 1 of each year.

Any person failing to register a multi-family building will be subject to a civil penalty enforced by the Code Enforcement office and a fine as established by the City Council.

Those fines have not yet been set, but a note from City Administrator Ed Barrett said the suggested fines of $50 per month for the first month and $100 per month for the next months up to the sixth month. It would then increase to $200 per month.

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