Gunnison faces opposition to Good Landlord Program
Regulations are costly and offer nothing in return, landlords say
GUNNISON—During the recent Gunnison City Council meeting, a number of residents spoke out passionately in opposition to the prospect of the Good Landlord Program being implemented in Gunnison.
The Nov. 16 meeting was meant to be the beginning of a dialogue about the program, an option created by the Utah Legislature to minimize criminal activity and blight in rentals.
Residents from both Gunnison and Centerfield came out in force to share their negative opinions about and experiences with the program.
“I’ve been renting houses out for about 30 years,” said Fred Harris, who owns rentals in Gunnison. “I’ve never had a problem the whole time, and I usually put the money I make back into the house so it keeps getting nicer and attracts even better renters.
“When someone starts telling me how I am supposed to handle my own rentals, it really bothers me. I’d just as soon sell them all off. I have worked hard on them, invested money in them, borrowed money to buy some, but I don’t want someone else telling me what to do with them.
“I’ve screwed up once or twice and brought in a bad renter, and so does everybody else, but who pays for that? Me. But now you want me to pay someone else on top of that? I’m not trying to be ornery, but I just can’t get into that.”
Another opponent was Albert Parks of Gunnison. “I put a lot of work into my rental property,” Parks said. “It’s twice the house it was before I bought it. It’s just bad business if you bring this program in because no one is going to want to have rentals.
Parks continued, “I think if you drive around Gunnison and look for the 10 biggest eyesores, I’d be surprised if one of them will be a rental. It’s good business to take care of a rental because then the people in it will take good care of it, and if they don’t you can kick them out.
“Centerfield did this, and I didn’t care,” Parks said. “I wish I would have gone to their meetings now because I think it’s bad business and bad for the community.”
Councilman Andy Hill reminded the public in attendance that the meeting was an attempt to open a discussion about the program.
“In my opinion, there needs to be something in place,” Hill said, “whether it’s our regulation or a Good Landlord Program. We’re are not going to vote on anything tonight. We just wanted to start a dialogue.”
Centerfield resident Michelle Dally told the council she had rental properties in Gunnison and was strongly opposed to Gunnison enacting the same program her own town had.
Dally also told the council her husband, Dan Dally, was a councilman in Centerfield and that ousting the Good Landlord Program was part of his election platform. He was elected “pretty much to get rid of the Good Landlord Program there,” she said.
“It’s been a cancer,” Dally said. “It has split the city [Centerfield]. I know of several people who had rental properties in Centerfield that aren’t renting anymore. They couldn’t afford the Good Landlord Program, and it offered them nothing in return that they couldn’t have done themselves. Many of them put their rentals up for sale and left.”
“We police our own properties,” Dally said. “We make the (tenants) keep up the rentals like they should. I don’t think we should be forced to do background checks on anyone if we are already comfortable renting to them.”
Dally told the council that the Good Landlord Program could be a detriment to staffing at the Central Utah Correctional Facility. “If the program puts the few rentals you have out of business, people who want to rent in Gunnison while they work at the prison won’t be able to,” Dally said. “And if they can’t get a rental, they’ll never buy a house here to settle down for good.”
Jay Clayton, who owns a business in Centerfield, said, “This program has not worked in Centerfield. It’s a bad, bad program that does not help renters or business owners. The only people it helped was the police force.
“This is like when the mafia comes in looking for protection money. They call it extortion, but Utah calls it the Good Landlord Program. It’s the lesser of the two extortions, but don’t go into this blindly.”
After listening to the comments, Mayor Bruce Blackham said, “I’m getting a strong sense from the opinions in this room that this program might not be a good fit for Gunnison.”
Councilman Hill asked the public in attendance if there was anything the city could help them with that they wouldn’t feel was the city meddling in their business.
“If this program isn’t helpful, is there something out there that would help you?” he said. “Obviously you’re passionate about this. We don’t want to stifle growth at all. If there is something we can do to help you as a group, we want to know.”
Gunnison resident Terry Madsen said, “How about a tax incentive for the real good landlords that do keep things good with their rentals?”
Councilman Thayne Carlisle spoke up, saying, “We won’t go into this blindly, I assure you. I believe Salina was the first to start this in our area and then came Centerfield, but that does not mean Gunnison has to. We want to hear and look at both sides of the matter.
“Andy (Hill) has already addressed this, but we do not want to hamper growth here,” Carlisle said. “We want good people to move here and we want the city to grow. It’s not something we are going to rush into, and we are very grateful that you guys have come here to express your opinions. This is awesome.”
Officer Tyler Donaldson of the Gunnison City Police Department said Centerfield started the program because of crime problems among tenants in the community.
“We don’t really have a crime problem in our rentals here in Gunnison. In the four years I have been here now, I would not say there has been a disproportionate number of calls to rentals. I know the council will take factors like this into account, and although I am not a landlord, so this doesn’t affect me, I do know Gunnison is not Centerfield, and so does the council.”
The council decided to table the idea until members could educate themselves further on how the Good Landlord Program has impacted other cities and how it might impact Gunnison.