LEWISTON — With registrations lagging, the deadline for landlords to register multi-unit buildings with the city will likely be pushed back.

The City Council is set to vote Tuesday to extend the deadline from March 1 to April 1, meaning previously-announced fines for landlords failing to register buildings would not kick in until then.

According to city officials, the registration process has been slow going ever since the city rolled it out in late January.

The program, created after a lengthy and at times heated subcommittee process, requires landlords to register each building that has three or more units online or via mail. There is no registration fee.

As of Wednesday, the city had received 360 registration forms out of the roughly 1,000 expected, City Adminstrator Ed Barrett said.

“We’re giving people a little more time to get buildings registered,” he said.

Barrett said some owners are still finding out about the requirement, while other large-scale property management companies have come forward with concerns.

According to the City Council memo for Tuesday, the city has recently been contacted by “a large property management firm that expressed concern over the amount of time required to register all of the buildings it is responsible for given the short registration window.”

Barrett said owners with multiple properties only have to fill out one corporate form, but need individual forms for each building. He said that means property management firms have to “do some poking around” to get info from different owners.

For many people involved in the rental registration subcommittee process, requiring up-to-date info from large property management companies is the point.

During subcommittee discussions for creating the program, many pointed to life safety concerns, including specific events in Lewiston that highlighted the need for such a program. That included a string of devastating fires in the spring of 2013. While all three fires were deemed arson, officials struggled to contact the building owners.

The registration program was created with the goal of obtaining “accurate, up-to-date, and complete ownership, management, and contact information for every multi-family building; an accurate inventory of dwelling unit quantity and configuration; and an accurate assessment of certain items that impact the health and safety of dwelling units.”

The council memo states that since the program is new, “it seems reasonable to extend the period in which buildings must be registered to avoid a fine by an additional month.”

The initial fine of $50 would not apply until April. The subsequent penalty increases beginning in May. After that, the fine goes to $100 per month through six months, and $200 per month through 12 months.

Landlords are required to register annually.

“We’re feeling our way through this because it’s new for us as well,” Barrett said Wednesday. “We’ll continue to keep an eye on it.”

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 established by the council.

The City Council also approved a minor update to the program in January intended to simplify the registration process. Now, the form asks property owners to report the number of floors, number of units by number of bedrooms, and the number of vacant units.

Also on Tuesday, the city, along with Healthy Homeworks and Healthy Androscoggin, will host a workshop for landlords to learn more about the rental registration program as well as property improvement loan and grant opportunities.

According to a city news release, the 4 p.m. workshop at City Hall is a chance for property owners to “have their questions answered and to follow up informally with city staff, other multi-family owners, and other organizations interested in quality housing.”

In addition, the release states, landlords can register buildings with “on-site assistance.”


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