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Public Post is a community reporting initiative using digital tools to report on cities and towns across Vermont.Public Post is the only resource that lets you browse and search documents across dozens of Vermont municipal websites in one place.Follow reporter Amy Kolb Noyes and #PublicPost on Twitter and read news from the Post below.

Springfield Voters Reject Landlord Ordinance

Voters in Springfield have repealed a rental registry ordinance adopted by the Springfield select board this spring.

In a town wide ballot, residents rejected the ordinance by a 37-vote margin.  The ordinance would have required landlords to register all rental properties and pass a fire and safety inspection every five years.

A group led by local landlords objected to the mandatory inspections and petitioned to have the ordinance recalled.

At a public hearing this week, opponents said the measure would cost the town money and ultimately lead to higher rents.  Apartment owner Alan Bruce said the inspections would force even conscientious landlords to make costly repairs.

“They’re going to come in and they’re going to say okay you need to put sheetrock up because that doesn’t look like it’s thick enough,” Bruce said. “Some of the things that need to be fixed in a lot of these buildings aren’t going to cost you fifteen-hundred dollars;  they’re going to cost you tens of thousands. And as landlords, this isn’t coming out of our pockets. This is coming out of our tenants’ pockets.”

Opponents said the ordinance was unnecessary because state law already authorizes the Vermont Division of Fire Safety to inspect rental properties.

But Springfield Select board chairman Kristi Morris, who supported the ordinance, says those inspections only happen when property changes hands or the owner applies for a building permit.

Morris says there is unsafe, substandard housing in town that doesn’t get inspected.

“There’s rental units that the land lords may be from out of town, or just looking at receiving an income and do not keep their buildings up to the standards of some of the other buildings around town,” says Morris. “And those are the ones we’re kind of targeting as far as making sure that all our rental units met the same safety codes.”

The landlords mounted an aggressive campaign that included printed lawn signs around town. Morris says some tenants were told their rents would increase if the measure stayed in place.

Some landlords have said they’d agree to a rental registry that would provide information -- and help firefighters locate tenants more easily and more safely during a fire.

David Yesman, a select board member and landlord who advocated for the repeal, says he’ll urge the board to work on a rental registry that doesn’t involve mandates or penalties.

Susan Keese was VPR's southern Vermont reporter, based at the VPR studio in Manchester at Burr & Burton Academy. After many years as a print journalist and magazine writer, Susan started producing stories for VPR in 2002. From 2007-2009, she worked as a producer, helping to launch the noontime show Vermont Edition. Susan has won numerous journalism awards, including two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for her reporting on VPR. She wrote a column for the Sunday Rutland Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus. Her work has appeared in Vermont Life, the Boston Globe Magazine, The New York Times and other publications, as well as on NPR.
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