Landlords will now be responsible to annually register and meet inspection requirements for rental properties or face a penalty after an ordinance was passed at the regular meeting of the West Orange City Council on April 13.

The approval was unanimous by the council.

The agenda item read, “An ordinance of the city of West Orange, Texas establishing annual registration and inspection requirements for owners of residential rental property; providing for a penalty for the violation of this ordinance; providing for repealing, savings and severability clauses; providing for an effective date of this ordinance.”

Before the vote was taken, Councilman Mike Shugart asked if a committee was formed to research the issue.

Mayor Roy McDonald answered a committee composed of council members, landlords and city officials was formed last year to study the issue.

Shugart then asked if the item should be tabled for further discussion. Councilman Dale Dardeau said there has already been four council meetings on the topic and it was time to act.

“These houses need inspecting so they can be decent to live in,” he said.

Dardeau added it’s up to the landlords to contact the city if they’re having a problem meeting the ordinance’s requirements.

Also passed was an ordinance regulating garbage disposal in the city and providing a penalty for violations.

Shugart asked if the same committee researched this ordinance. McDonald answered yes.

McDonald said of the 134 letters for sanitation violations sent out this month, 96 were rental properties.

As of March 15, 74 were rental properties of the 110 notices sent out.

“The majority of the delinquencies in sanitation are rentals. They are left vacant for 30, 60, and 90 days. It is a problem,” he said.

Pete Amy, a rental property owner and also president of the West Orange-Cove CISD, said during the public comments portion of the meeting he didn’t agree with this ordinance and the ordinance on the agenda regulating garbage disposal.

He said requiring landlords to inspect properties will initially cost them $50 and an additional $25 for a re-inspection if necessary.

Amy also said the city didn’t give sufficient notice to the public that these ordinances were on the agenda. He believes if the landlords knew about the ordinances on the agenda, the council chambers would be full.

“What if homeowners are not in order? I don’t think it’s fair to landlords,” Amy said.

He added landlords will now have to pay for garbage pickup as well.

Amy reminded the council they held a public hearing on these matters during the Fall of 2014 and no one spoke in favor of the ordinances.

“I urge the council not to pass any of these,” he said.

After the meeting adjourned, Amy added these ordinances are forcing landlords to become a collection agency for the city.

McDonald replied landlords can increase their rents to cover the collection fees.

Amy said it’s the tenants’ garbage, not his, and these ordinances would lead to landlords being water, gas, and electricity collectors.

“It’s never going to stop,” he said. “This is discouraging people to fix up West Orange because of this $50 the landlords have to pay. You’re putting an extra burden on the homeowners. Soon, there will only be the donut shop and Walmart in West Orange. You’re punishing a select group of people because there’s a problem.”

Amy believes the city should follow a 30-day notice policy and the resident is penalized if they do not meet the deadline.

McDonald said the ordinances are a solution to the problem.

Amy concluded by saying there will need to be a petition circulated with enough signatures to repeal the ordinances by referendum.

“I don’t think all of the options were looked at,” Amy said.

McDonald said all of the options were looked at.

In other council business, Amy’s rental properties at 801 and 803 Boston Street were taken off the substandard housing list after meeting code.

McDonald said Amy spent a lot of time and money getting the houses back up to standard.

McDonald announced there will be a West Orange Spring Clean-Up from April 17-18.

Dumpsters will be available behind the West Orange Fire Station, 2702 Austin Ave., from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday, April 17 and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 18.

Residents may bring their debris during those days and hours. Proof of residency and photo identification will be required at the drop site.

The city will provide assistance with unloading trucks/trailers of debris.

No hazardous materials, tires, batteries, paint, etc. will be accepted.

Normal household waste will not be accepted.

Any items containing Freon must be drained of said Freon and tagged by an individual certified to do such work.

Appliances, furniture, metal and green waste will be accepted, but it must be brought to the drop site.

The city will be unable to make arrangements for any “special pickups.”

The South East Texas Regional Planning Commission will also host a free household hazardous waste and scrap tire collection event from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 18 at the Robert A. (Bob) Bowers Civic Center parking lot, 3401 Cultural Center Drive in Port Arthur.

The event is open to all Southeast Texas residents.

The SETPRC will accept household hazardous items including: paints, cleaners, antifreeze, car batteries, used oil, insecticides, swimming pool chemicals and much more. They will also collect scrap tires at no charge for the first eight tires. A cash disposal fee of $1 is required for each additional tire. Over sized tires are not accepted.

Materials not accepted during this event include electronics, appliances, over sized tires, explosives, ammunition, garbage, scrap metal, mercury, smoke detectors, exit signs, medical waste and medications/pharmaceuticals.

The council discussed the city hosting the Texas Municipal League Region 16 quarterly meeting.

McDonald said the meeting could be scheduled this quarter or in the third quarter.

Councilwoman Shirley Bonin said the city has hosted a TML meeting before and things went well though it was “a lot of work” preparing for it.

McDonald said the TML asked for the city to RSVP and there is a fee charged for attending.

The city will also be responsible for giving door prizes.

The council said they would let the mayor know of their decision in the next two or three days.