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Published: Friday, 11/3/2006

New state law on landlords starts slowly

BY GARY T. PAKULSKI
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

It isn't always easy for police, fire, and housing code enforcement officials to quickly find the owner of a rental unit in a crisis.

That is because property records sometimes list only the name of an obscure corporate owner without solid contact information.

But a new Ohio law aims to correct the problem.

It requires owners of rental housing - even one living unit - to register with the auditor of the county in which the dwelling is located. They must furnish the name of a company official along with an address and telephone number for the owner.

They are required to list and provide information about each property owned in the county. And out-of-state owners must identify a contact person who lives in Ohio.

But more than a month after the law took affect, few owners in northwest Ohio have registered, and some counties - including Lucas - don't have registration forms ready.

Still, people like Chris Ostrowski, president of the Wood County Apartment Association, argue that the new law will be beneficial.

"A lot of times, when you try to get hold of the landlord, you can't do it," he said. "A lot of times, property records will name the partnership or cor-poration, but don't give a contact name. And often, the address listed is the address of the property."

Members of the nonprofit Ohio Apartment Association, which represents landlords, supported the rule as a way to stave off a hodgepodge of sometimes duplicative registration requirements around the state, said Mr. Ostrowski, an apartment manger in Bowling Green who is involved in the state association.

About 25 landlords have registered in Wood County since the law took affect Sept. 28, said Michael Sibbersen, county auditor. Mr. Sibbersen notified 800 owners of duplexes and apartment buildings by mail, but has no way of knowing how many houses are being used as rental units.

In Ottawa County, which includes Port Clinton, 30 landlords have registered.

Nancy Yackee, auditor in Fulton County, is still preparing the registration form.

That is also the situation in Lucas County. Jerry German, director of the auditor's real estate division, said the form should be ready next week.

"We've had about two dozen inquiries and we're taking names and numbers," he said.

Although the county auditor is designated as the repository of the information, the law is silent on who is supposed to enforce it, Mr. German said.

Failure to register is a minor misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $100.

Several apartment managers contacted by The Blade said they were unfamiliar with the requirements.

Maria Hufford, manager of Preston Gardens at the Levis Commons development in Perrysburg, said her name and telephone number are on file with the local fire department.

"I don't have any problem with it," she said of the new law.

Contact Gary T. Pakulski at:

gpakulski@theblade.com

or 419-724-6082.



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