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Manchester lowers rental housing fee increase after hearing complaints from landlords

Manchester’s mayor and council lowered a recent rental housing fee increase after landlords were critical of the sudden spike.

The new fee was announced at the Town Council meeting on Tuesday. Landlords will pay $100 per rental unit every two years as their rental housing fee. The fee for paying between one and 30 days late would be $125, 31 to 60 days late would be $150, and anything beyond would be $200. Continued tardiness could result in revocation of rental licenses.

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The change was made after council members and landlords met twice informally to discuss a steeper increase that was approved in September.

“This is really how government and community participation is supposed to work,” council member David Richardson said.

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Jessica Smith, a property manager and member of Carroll the County Landlord Association, thanked the mayor and council members for meeting with landlords on the fee increase.

“And I hope that meeting and all the meetings we have will be a better communication between the town and the landlords because we do want to help you guys make the town beautiful,” she said at Tuesday’s council meeting.

Before Sept. 14, landlords were charged $20 per rental unit every two years if the fee was paid by Dec. 31. The fee went up to $30 if that deadline was missed and paid before Jan. 31. It went up to $50 if paid after Jan. 31.

The council voted unanimously Sept. 14 to increase the housing rental fee from $20 to $200. The mayor and Richardson said the increase was needed to pay for upgrades to Main Street and other parts of town.

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A few landlords shared their concerns with the increase during the council’s Oct. 12 meeting. One said the fee increase should have been phased in instead of implemented all at once. Another said raising the fee would force them to raise rents. And one of the landlords said the higher fee would hit hard after landlords lost thousands of dollars from not being allowed to evict tenants during the pandemic.

A landlord suggested the council and landlords form a committee to find a solution and Richardson agreed.

Steven Miller, the town administrator, said an informal meeting was held Oct. 28 with him, approximately eight landlords, Richardson and council member Chris Cuneo, along with Manchester Police Chief Jon Hess and Planning and Zoning Administrator Michelle Wilder. He called the meeting informative.

The committee met again on Tuesday and Richardson said later that day at the Town Council meeting they came up with a compromise.

“We had some passionate debate back and forth,” he said. “I think we really came up with a good proposal.”

Along with reducing the per-unit fee, the committee also agreed to establish a property improvement task force next year with responsibilities that include setting standards for violations, conducting external assessments of properties, improving the appearance of building exteriors along the Main Street corridor and in the community, and creating a process for imposing fines and penalties for habitual offenders.

“I really think this compromise is really indicative to what we’re supposed to do in a community,” Richardson said. “We really need to work together.”

The council voted unanimously to replace the $200 rental fee resolution with the $100 rental fee.

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