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Rehoboth approves rental ordinance

Cape Gazette of Lewes, Delaware

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Mills: Law will resolve conflicts before they happen

Rental property owners will have a new set of rules to play by this summer in Rehoboth Beach after city officials passed an ordinance that includes self-inspections, requires a local contact person who will be available at all times to handle complaints and in January 2017, occupancy limits.

The measure was unanimously passed by the city commissioners April 4.

The last remaining sticking point the commissioners had to work out at an April 4 special meeting was for how long a rental property could have an exception from occupancy limits. The commissioners debated whether the exception should be renewed on an annual basis or in perpetuity.

Susan Gay, 316 Country Club Drive, favored an annual renewal because, she said, the use of the house can change from year to year. Lake Avenue resident Judy Griffing said favored exceptions in perpetuity because the rental and the noise ordinances have mechanisms in place to rein in any unruly houses.

The commissioners decided to let an exception run for two years before the property owner must renew.

Starting Jan. 1, the city will require rentals to follow a two-plus-two formula for occupancy, meaning each rental home will be allowed two renters plus two people for each bedroom. By that measure, a four-bedroom house can have 10 people. Children under age 6 will not count toward the limit.

Existing rentals can seek an exception from the occupancy limit if the property owner can demonstrate that the unit has been occupied by the amount requested for at least 20 days between Jan. 1, 2015 and April 4. City officials would verify the previous occupancy through previous rental agreements.

An exception requires determination by the building inspector and the city manager that the home has adequate accommodations and safety features and does not adversely affect the surrounding neighborhood. The building inspector could require an inspection to verify that a home's safety features are adequate before an exception is granted.

Property owners seeking an exception must apply by July 1 when rental license renewals are typically due.

For this year, residential rental property owners will have to include a local contact person on their license renewal forms. The local contact person would be available 24/7 and the contact person's name, email and phone number must be posted within the rental unit.

Existing rentals will also receive a self-inspection form, verifying that the home is structurally sound and has working safety equipment. New rentals or rentals that have not been licensed in the last two years will be subject to a full inspection by building and licensing.

The rental ordinance has been debated for more than a year at 10 meetings.

Commissioner Stan Mills said, "I'm proud of where we've come. I think it will resolve conflicts before they happen and allow the city to deal with problem-child properties. I think all together, the beneficiaries will be oui neighborhoods that have had problems."

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Original Publication Date: April 8, 2016

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