The COVID-19 pandemic has Americans on the move, and cities have taken notice. Some are even starting rental registries -- or beefing up existing ones -- hoping to attract these migrants and expanding their populations.
Huntington, West Virginia, is just one such example. The city recently reallocated its budget to hire new code enforcement inspectors in hopes of better enforcing its rental registry. Bowling Green, Ohio, is still in the planning stages of its registry, as is Florence, South Carolina, whose city council passed a registry ordinance in October.
These moves are an attempt to improve the quality and safety of local rental properties, which would, ideally, attract potential renters to the area. But what do these registries mean for landlords? And what should you do if one pops up in your market? Here's what you need to know.
What is a rental registry?
Rental registries give cities more insight into the rental industry within their borders. They require landlords to register their property, along with their contact information, and they often come with regular building code inspections as well.
In some areas, rental registries are optional, while in others, they're required, acting as a form of licensing. Sometimes, there may be a small fee, either at sign up or annually, to register a property, and in places where registration is required, there may also be a penalty charged for landlords who fail to sign up.
To see if your city requires registration, check with your local housing department. You may be able to register online in some areas.
Should you register your property?
If registering your property isn't required, you may want to consider it anyway. First, registration levels the playing field -- at least in areas where it's widespread. It ensures all property owners are operating by the same standards, and it cuts down the number of landlords who can undercut you on rent due to poor maintenance habits.
Another perk? It makes your property more attractive in the eyes of renters -- especially those unfamiliar with the area. Choosing a registered property gives potential tenants confidence that your unit is safe, habitable, and well-cared for, not to mention worth the price you're asking for it.
Finally, a registry can also serve as a form of advertising. It's yet another way potential renters can find you, as well as your properties.
On the downside, there are costs, including fees to register, and you'll need to stay on top of your maintenance and repairs. These can both mean higher overhead costs and fewer profits in the long run. (Keep in mind, though, you may be able to offset those by increasing your rent).
The bottom line
Not every city has a rental registry. Check with your local housing department to see if there's one in your market, and if there is, whether it's required. If not, consider registering your property anyway. The widespread adoption of rental registries can help ensure a level playing field among landlords, as well as increase your property value overall.