Anniston ordinance gets landlord's ire

By Dixon Hayes

ANNISTON, AL (WBRC) - A new ordinance in Anniston is drawing bad reviews from a landlord who rents out more than a hundred properties.
On Tuesday, the council voted 4-0 to require landlords get an inspection of a property before it can be rented out.  The inspection costs $50.  If something is found wrong with the apartment or house, it has to be brought up to code before it can be rented.
Attorney Arthur Fite rents out more than a hundred properties and calls the new law a "nightmare" and a "bureaucratic hassle."  He says before the law passed, he could show an apartment one afternoon and the city could have the water turned on in that apartment the next day. Now, he is not so sure.
"What's going to happen is, some lady's going to come here on a Thursday and want to rent an apartment," says Fite.  "I'm going to have to have it inspected, they'll not be able to move in when they want to, and I'm sure the inspector will call and say 'Guess what?  We can't look at it until late next week.'"
Mayor Gene Robinson denies that assertion, saying the longest delay will likely be 24 hours.  He says the new law is fair to renters and landlords alike.
Robinson, who is one of the four yes votes, says the law is meant to weed out "slumlords," and let them know the city will monitor them and "make sure the houses are safe for the renters."
He also has a message for the renters:
"If you destroy a house, we're going to help the landlords and in some cases we'll even go to court with the landlords to prove that the house was in immaculate condition before," Robinson says.
Several residents spoke in favor of the ordinance at Tuesday's council meeting.  So did Joan Thompson, one of Arthur Fite's own tenants, who broke with her own landlord and thinks it is a good idea.  Thompson rented from Fite for 22-years and says he has always taken good care of her.
Council member Ben Little, who was not present at Tuesday's meeting, says he may bring the measure up for a reconsideration vote at the next Anniston City Council meeting.  That meeting is scheduled for July 13th.

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