We often speak about property owners and tenants as opposing forces, as if what’s good for one group must be bad for the other. In cities with robust tenant protections, renters have the upper hand, while in markets that are more “landlord friendly” and less regulated, property owners have maximum freedom and control — or so the conventional wisdom goes.
But some common-sense solutions benefit everyone involved in the rental housing market, property owners included. Requiring that all rental properties be registered with a local housing agency is one example of a win-win housing policy. That’s because rental registries provide much-needed protection for renters, important information for city workers, and a slate of benefits for landlords too.
Here are a few ways a rental registry can benefit property owners in your community, while keeping renters safe and helping program managers do their jobs.
Rental registries level the playing field
It’s no secret that rental registries make it easier for local officials to enforce housing codes, without letting any units fall through the cracks. But an improved inspections and enforcement process has another effect: making rental markets fairer for responsible landlords.
The vast majority of property owners strive to keep their buildings up-to-code and to provide safe housing for their renters. Unfortunately, a few do not, and may fail to address health hazards like unabated lead paint, active rodent infestations, or toxic mold. Some property owners rent out illegally converted units, such as basements or cellars that don’t have the required light, ventilation, or means of egress in case of an emergency.
Aside from posing a safety threat to renters, allowing some property owners to skirt regulations is unfair to those who play by the rules. In markets without rental registries, where a certain number of units are bound to escape the notice of inspectors, law-abiding landlords are forced to compete with property owners who ignore local housing codes.
These less scrupulous landlords often have a competitive advantage — when renters see a cheap apartment listing, they don’t know if the owner is able to rent it at that price because he’s cutting corners. It may appear they’re getting a great deal, when in fact they’re passing up other rentals that are safe and well-maintained in favor of properties that put them at risk.
A rental registry with strong enforcement mechanisms ensures that all rental units are subject to the same minimum standards, erasing the advantage for irresponsible landlords and making it easier for law-abiding property owners to fill their units.
Rental registries lead to better communication and fewer surprises
One of the most basic functions of a rental registry is to make it easy for local officials to communicate with property owners. Not only does this help housing program managers do their jobs, it can be a huge benefit to landlords as well.
When a rental registry ordinance is supported by high-quality rental registry software, property owners are automatically updated about any changes to local laws that affect them. Information can be targeted to each individual landlord, cutting through the noise of ever-evolving housing codes and demystifying the city’s expectations. For example, if a new law only applies to buildings with three or more units, then only property owners with buildings that meet that criteria need to receive the notice.
Rental registries can also help property owners avoid big fines. When tenants violate local property standards, by not keeping up the yard, for example, or leaving bulky items at the curb, landlords are often stuck with a ticket. If the owner only learns about the issue after receiving a notice in their business mailbox, they’ll likely end up owing a lot more than if they could have fixed the problem right away. With a registry in place, landlords can learn about violations quickly, before a major fine accrues.
Rental registries help property owners tap into resources
There are a number of city and state programs that offer grants and low-interest loans to property owners to help them bring their buildings up to code, improve energy efficiency, or upgrade HVAC systems so renters can breathe easy. Rental registries keep landlords in the loop about all the resources available to them, so they can invest in their businesses, raise their property values, and avoid fines.
City officials can also use registries to notify tenants of any financial aid they may qualify for. This in turn allows property owners to collect the rent and avoid the eviction process, which costs about $3,500 on average, according to Transunion data.
Since the pandemic began, the federal government has set aside roughly $46 billion to help tenants avoid eviction. Only a fraction of those funds have reached renters so far, largely because, in places without rental registries, local governments have struggled to identify vulnerable tenants and make them aware the aid is available. With the funds sitting idle in state and local coffers, landlords have lost billions per month since the start of the pandemic. Roughly a quarter of small landlords have had to sell at least one property as of February 2021.
While we hope COVID is a once-in-a-lifetime crisis, the pandemic has made it clear that local officials need an open line of communication with both property owners and renters in case of an emergency.
Rental registries: more convenient for everyone
Good rental registry software offers more than a database. It creates a centralized hub where property owners can keep track of their communications between themselves and the city, including invoices, receipts, lease information, and forms. Inputting information into the registry takes just a few minutes, which will be more than offset by all the time-saving features an effective rental registry system provides. From their personalized, easy-to-use portals, landlords can make payments, request time extensions, schedule inspections, stay on top of local laws and housing codes, and much more.
Ready to learn more about how smart software solutions can benefit city workers, tenants, and property owners alike? Check out this guide.