Denison has been conducting meetings with a number of landlords and city representatives since June regarding a proposed rental inspection program. Now some landlords are claiming the city is shutting them out.


Pam Barrier and Jeff N. Barrier are two property owners who have been communicating with other landlords about the proposed rental registration and inspection program that the city tabled discussion on after a heated public forum back in June.


Pam Barrier said the concern she has is over the mandatory nature of the program. She claims it is a violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution which regulates illegal searches of property, and she is among a group of landlords who are preparing to take legal action to block the city from implementing the program.


Her chief concern, aside from the mandatory aspect of the program, is that it will drive costs up on rentals and drive out lower income renters from the market.


Jeff N. Barrier said he is frustrated with the city over the proposals because the cost would be detrimental to his ability to operate a profitable rental venture.


The couple were among a large number of individuals who spoke out at a public forum the city hosted last June. Since then city officials have been holding meetings with a group of stakeholders to gather feedback. The most recent meeting was set for Nov. 7. That meeting was not held.


According to Pam Barrier an email was sent by the city stating the meeting had been rescheduled to allow the city more time to solicit input.


Rex said in an emailed statement that the city was looking at garnering input from stakeholders from the community to develop the best program possible. He confirmed the Nov. 7 meeting had been cancelled to allow city staff additional time to address feedback provided by the stakeholders at the Oct. 17 meeting. He said it would be rescheduled but did not provide a date.


“I cannot speak for property owners and their preference on a voluntary versus mandatory program,” Rex said in an email. “The purpose of gathering together those involved in rental housing is to engage community stakeholders in developing policies and procedures that will ensure rental property in Denison meets basic health and safety standards. To that end, the team has explored both mandatory and voluntary options. Since a decision has not been made, to say that the city insists on a mandatory program is not accurate.”


Rex insisted the claim the city had threatened any sort of retaliation was completely false, and the March 1, 2020 roll out was tentative and not a firm date at this time.


“The City has had a listening ear to rental property owners and tenants since we began discussing the topic,” Rex’s email said. “Between the public forum in June and subsequent stakeholder meetings, we have heard from dozens of rental property owners, tenants, and other interested parties. There is no place for retaliation of any kind in the city’s enforcement of codes or any other activities. The city has been welcoming to comments from the start and has left no space for fear of retaliation.”


Rex said the city has been working to gather as many perspectives as possible on the matter and is continuing to solicit feedback.


“The City has benefited greatly by bringing together those representing the rental property community and other community members,” Rex said said in the email. “The group has met three times since June and is planning another meeting before reporting back to the city council and community. We have all learned a lot about the challenges and opportunities Denison faces with regards to its vision of providing quality housing for all income levels. It is a complex issue that requires the perspective of everyone involved. We look forward to continuing to work with property owners, residents, and community leaders.”


The city began discussing the program during its preliminary 2019 budget process starting in April. At that time Denison Code Enforcement Manager Robert Lay presented the proposal to the City Council for consideration. The crux of the program relies on the owners of rental properties to register with the city to allow its code enforcement employees to enter properties to inspect those properties at each tenant change. Many landlords have objected to the proposal on the grounds it would be considered unconstitutional search of private property. The other concern is regarding the proposed need to increase rent to offset the costs of the program if implemented.


Those wishing to provide feedback to Jud Rex can send an email directly to jrex@cityofdenison.com. Code Enforcement Manager Robert Lay can be reached by sending email to rlay@cityofdenison.com.


What do you think of the city’s handling of the proposed rental inspection program? What are some of the concerns you wish the city to address? Let Denison area reporter Richard A. Todd know by sending him an email to rtodd@heralddemocrat.com. He can also be reached on Facebook and Twitter @RichardAToddHD.