Anchorage officials propose changes to rental property laws

ANCHORAGE — Anchorage officials are considering changes to city laws that set expectations for landlords and tenants for the first time in four decades.

An ordinance addressing the issues pertaining to rental properties is being introduced Tuesday by Anchorage Assembly members Dick Traini, Elvi Gray-Jackson and Ernie Hall, and Mayor Ethan Berkowitz. Current city code has not been updated since it was written in the 1970s and officials say it’s time for a change, The Alaska Dispatch News reported.

“It’s bringing a 40-year-old section of code into the 21st century,” said city ombudsman Darrel Hess, whose office has been leading efforts behind the legislation.

The proposed ordinance prohibits space heaters from being the only sources of heat inside an apartment and includes harsher penalties for landlords who fail to meet minimum quality-of-life standards. It also outlines fees for repeated violations of the regulations.

A new fine schedule is not included in the proposal, but officials said they are working on raising the $75 fine for each violation to encourage compliance.

Other cities fine up to $1,000 for violations under similar codes, said Jeremy Baker, director of the fair housing enforcement project for Alaska Legal Services, an organization active in promoting tenant rights.

“This housing and occupancy code ensures a minimum standard for safe and healthy housing for everyone,” Baker said. “It’s really a public health issue, and a social justice issue.”

Hess said most of the changes will bring the city in line with the most recent national requirements adopted in 1986. Making changes to the code will also help ensure that complaints by both landlords and tenants are addressed and that the necessary action is taken, he said.

A public hearing on the ordinance will be held April 26.

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