Some Landlords Still Need SAFE-CR Training, Risk Major Fees

By Forrest Saunders

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Thousands of dollars in fees and evicted tenants, that’s what officials said could happen to Cedar Rapids landlords who don’t complete a city-mandated training course before July first.

The training is part of SAFE-CR, a program that began last October. The goal, reducing service calls to nuisance properties by requiring landlords to fix the issues or face fees for excessive service calls.

Landlord, Ryan Koller was one of about 300 people inside the Hotel at Kirkwood Center for the second to last training session, Friday. Koller was a little reluctant to be there.

“Anytime something is mandatory you think you’re going to sit in something for four and a half hours and just, you know, play on your phone,” said Koller.

The course teaches tips on tenant screening, tenant rights, and rental agreements, plus how to deal with things like drugs, gang activity, and graffiti.

The vast majority of Cedar Rapids rental properties have had either a landlord or a representative attend one of the six sessions. But officials estimate about five percent have yet to sign up for the last session in coming weeks. Those who don’t attend face a hefty penalty come next month.

“They will not be able to register their rental units and they could be charged a fee of $1,000 per unit, per month,” said Amanda Grieder, the city’s nuisance property abatement coordinator.

Landlords critical of the SAFE-CR program have said they shouldn’t face new fees and shouldn’t be responsible for misbehaving tenants. In 2011, Landlords of Linn County went to court and defeated an earlier version of the city’s nuisance abatement effort.

Still, city officials tout the new program and the required training.

“SAFE-CR is about livable, clean, safe neighborhoods. So it’s very important to our vitality and important to our city, especially our residents as a whole,” said City Council Member Susie Weinacht.

After about four and a half hours of listening and learning, landlord Koller completed his training. Despite his initial reservations, he said the required course taught him quite a bit.

“There are a few new procedures that are going to prevent, you know, several problems in the future,” Koller said. “That’s what they’re trying to do.”

The final training session will be on June 30th at the Cedar Rapids Public Library. Landlords can sign up by calling the Cedar Rapids Building Services at 319-286-5831.

l Comments: (319) 368-8610; forrest.saunders@kcrg.com

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