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Revised St. Louis County rental bill will prohibit evictions for domestic violence incidents

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CLAYTON • A revised bill requiring owners of single-family rental properties to obtain St. Louis County licensing will reappear on the County Council agenda Tuesday night.

The legislation now contains an amendment that explicitly prohibits the eviction of any tenant involved in a domestic violence dispute.

Councilman Michael O’Mara, the bill sponsor, said Monday the measure was reconfigured to address the concerns raised by the Missouri Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and other opponents.

The legislation now includes a clause preventing the revocation of a rental license for “any activities connected with or related to domestic violence, including the making of emergency 911 calls relating to such incidents.”

The bill — which is limited to single-family housing units in unincorporated sections of the county — is otherwise unchanged from earlier versions presented to the council.

O’Mara said he expects county lawmakers to grant preliminary approval to the proposed ordinance Tuesday night and formally enact the legislation on Oct. 13.

A representative of a group of landlords opposed to the legislation vowed Monday to continue pressing O’Mara for further changes in the proposal.

Landlords and property managers object to a provision in the bill that will hold them accountable for tenant behavior.

The ordinance threatens property owners with the loss of the rental license, fines and jail time if a tenant is cited three times over a 12-month period for “nuisance” violations.

Those violations can include infractions for ticket scalping or the illegal operation of an off-the-road vehicle.

The ACLU charged that the earlier version of the bill placed domestic violence victims at risk of eviction if the third violation or 911 call involved call for spousal abuse.

O’Mara’s legislation still contains language that threatens to revoke a rental license if a landlord signs a lease with an individual recently convicted of gun charges, narcotics and other felonies.

“The whole approach is holding landlords responsible for criminal and social issues,” said Jerry Hopping, a spokesman for the landlords and the owner of several rental units in Glasgow Village.

The condition of dilapidated property in Glasgow Village, a North County subdivision, prompted O’Mara to seek adoption of legislation requiring landlords to obtain a “residential rental property” license.

O’Mara emphasized Monday that the target of the ordinance is neglectful landlords and not those who maintain adequate housing units.

“I know everybody is not going to be happy with (the bill),” the councilman said. “But if you or your business take care of your property there won’t be any problems.”

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Steve Giegerich is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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