Bemidji City Council Reviews “Three Strike” System in Rental Ordinance
The Bemidji City Council debated Monday on whether to end the Three Strike Policy for the ongoing rental ordinance. The last time the city council updated the rental ordinance was in 2011.
Along with the Rental Committee, the council took a closer look at certain aspects of the ordinance, including the aforementioned policy and landlord notifications and how it is currently enforced.
Councilors opened the discussion about the crime-free, drug-free housing strike system. Asking for clarification on certain points, the conversation centered around how Bemidji currently uses the system and how it possibly affects specific groups of people like victims of abuse or people of color.
The system gives landlords three “strikes” on a rental unit if law enforcement issues a citation or conducts an arrest at the residence.
“Is the ordinance working, overall? Yes, I think the answer is yes, the ordinance works very, very well. We accomplished a lot when we rewrote this,” said landlord Kathy Guess. “But everything should be revisited at least once a decade if it needs a little tweaking here and there. And so there’s … language issues, there’s clarification issues that we can work through and get over.”
During the meeting, it was said that landlords often choose to evict or move a resident to a different unit after a second strike. City Attorney Alan Felix even states that the common practice of eviction causes people to lose housing. Bemidji Rental Inspector Ben Hein says that the strike system allows for a conversation to open between the city and the landlord.
However, some councilors still questioned the viability of the system.
“I see that this regulation, of regulating people could cause a lot of problems, and I kind of feel like we should move away from it if we can,” said Ward 4 council member Emilie Rivera.
The discussion ended with no major actions taken. While there’s a split among council members on the strike system, the common consensus is that data is is required to take the next step in whether or not to continue it.