Renting creates risks for city and residents

Families opt for renting instead of buying. / Jessica Fairley

The American dream for many once involved home ownership but now more and more families are opting out of buying and buying into renting. Officials say a high number of renters means risks for both the occupant and the city.

Out of the 29,000 homes in Albany, 52 percent or 17,000 are rental properties.

"At the end of the year, if you were to add that up into per household that could exceed over a million and something dollars in property tax," said Jon Howard, Albany Commissioner.

That's money that isn't going into the city's tax digest because although the owners of the facilities do pay property taxes, the renters that live on their land don't.

As city officials try to promote home ownership, code enforcement officials are battling the issue of substandard rental properties.

"We can go in upon request. If somebody complains that their landlord isn't fixing this or that but otherwise we can't proactively go in," said Mike Tilson, Albany-Dougherty Code Enforcement Director.

Tilson says local renters lease at their own risk. If the dwelling is subpar, they won't know because there aren't pre-move in inspections.

This is a Georgia law but he says in other states code enforcement agents are required to inspect before and after a lease is signed.

Local law officials have discussed going to the state so that at least Albany will be able to have pre-move in inspections.

"The only way you can do that you would have to have some type of state legislation to enforce those laws," said Jon Howard.

Howard says local officials want to protect their renters but continue to promote homeownership that will hopefully bring in funds for the city.