During Tuesday's meeting of the Common Council of the City of Brazil, Karen Meister addressed some of the issues she, along with other renters, have faced with landlords unwilling to fulfill obligations.
"I've been requesting repairs for more than a year and was told that if I wanted the work done, I would have to do it myself," Meister told the council. "It states in our rental agreement that major repairs would be done by the landlord, and since they haven't, we are getting some utility bills in excess of $500 a month."
She suggested the creation of an ordinance or public policy which would put more pressure on landlords to make repairs and hold them to what is listed in renter's agreements.
"Maybe an escrow account could be created in which renters could pay their rent into, and the landlords would not be able to receive payment until the work is done and reviewed by a building inspector," Meister said. "Now I'm not talking about simple, nit-picky things like peeling linoleum, it should be for major repairs like broken windows, plumbing and electrical issues."
City Attorney Bob Pell said the idea itself was not a bad one, but was unsure of some of its aspects.
"Creating an escrow account seems incredibly complicated to administer, but it's not a bad idea," Pell said. "We would have to also create something to differentiate between minor and major repairs."
Council member Brad Deal chimed in with his own feelings about "deadbeat" landlords.
"There is nothing better I'd like to see than to have some of them live in the homes they are renting out," Deal said. "Some of these homes are in such bad condition it is ridiculous."
"This is to give tenants better rights, but it should be fair to the landlords at the same time," she said. "When we as tenants live up to our end of the rental agreement and landlords do not, it creates bad situations. Plus, with the city's efforts to rehabilitate and stabilize homes in the area, it could keep the landlords on their toes to not only make the homes better, but rent to more responsible individuals."
The council agreed to look into the issue further and research how similar processes have worked in other areas.
Meanwhile, the council had its first look at the Clay County Pre-Disaster Mitigation Plan.
West Central Indiana Economic Development District Economic Development Planner Terry Jones presented the plan, along with a resolution, which would provide Brazil additional opportunities to apply for grant money.
"What the plan does is outline various options to improve infrastructure to minimize potential damage from natural disasters, as well as plans of action for if one should occur," Jones said. "Passing the resolution would be at no financial obligation to the city because it is just a planning document."
Jones explained work on the mitigation plan began in September 2006 and was submitted to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in February 2008. However, FEMA did not look at the plan until after the June 2008 floods, but it has since been approved.
"The Clay County Commissioners have already signed off on the plan and now we are going to the other communities so they have the opportunity to adopt it as well," he said. "It opens another door to grant opportunities, but the available monies vary each year based on the amount of declared disasters from the previous year."
Since it was the first time the council had viewed the 180-plus page plan, they voted to table the matter to allow time to review it themselves.
In other business during Monday's meeting, the Common Council of the City of Brazil:
* Approved the placement of a handicapped parking space in front of 315 S. Chicago St., on the first reading with suspended rules. A stipulation was added that the space would revert back to normal status once the need for a handicapped spot was no longer warranted,
* Discussed a concern from residents Jim and Connie Wells about noise issues in early morning hours (midnight-6 a.m.), and stronger enforcement of curfew. Brazil City Police Chief Dave Archer said he would look into the matter further to see what could be done, and
* Heard concerns from City Insurance Administrator Judy Branham regarding HIPPA laws and potential security issues surrounding employees' private health information.
The next meeting of the Common Council of the City of Brazil will be 7 p.m., May 12, in the Council Chambers of City Hall.