Council considers requiring property owners to foot garbage bill for tenants

Published 5:11 pm Thursday, September 14, 2017

The city of Selma is considering requiring property owners to have garbage service for their tenants.

The city council discussed the idea at last week’s work session and again during Tuesday’s meeting.

Councilwoman Miah Jackson said what the city is currently doing isn’t working. She provided information from Sea Coast Disposal that showed almost half of Selma residents don’t have current garbage service.

According to the numbers from Sea Coast, there are almost 3,200 residences with garbage service in Selma. There are an estimated 6,000 residences in the city.

“We may have half of our residents who don’t have garbage service,” Jackson said. “This is becoming more than a nuisance but a public health concern.

About 750 residents with Social Security as their only form of income are exempt for paying for garbage service.

Jackson wants the council to revisit whether the city should require property owners to pay for garbage service for properties they own.

Earlier this year, the city amended its ordinances to mandate landlords provide proof that tenants had garbage service before finalizing a lease.

Property owners were then to submit that information to the city; however, property owners were not responsible for footing the bill.

Only a fraction of landlords — six property owners totaling 138 tenants — complied with the ordinance. Jackson said census data shows between 50-60 percent of Selma residents rent.

“We tried it the other way. They are not following through,” Jackson said.

Jackson said requiring property owners to pay will simplify the process and hold someone accountable.

“We are not going to look at the person in the home but the person that owns the home,” Jackson said. “It should make code enforcement’s job easier because they are not trying to find the tenant that’s moved to the next home.”

The issue has been discussed repeatedly over the year. Most property owners are in favor of making tenants pay.

“We have had property owners come up here and raise mortal hell. [However], if we are going to clean up this town, we have got to make sure the garbage is being picked up,” said Councilwoman Susan Youngblood. “There are people who are not going to pay the garbage fee. I don’t care if it’s $5.”

City Attorney Jimmy Nunn said he would draft a new ordinance for the city to consider. Nunn said the language would have to consider that all properties — for instance unoccupied properties — aren’t required to have garbage service.

“Just having a dwelling on your property doesn’t mean you have to have garbage service. If I’ve got empty buildings on my property where people come in for three of four days, I’m not paying garbage service for four days and wouldn’t expect anyone else to,” Councilman Carl Bowline said.

City Councilwoman Angela Benjamin said renters are only part of the problem.

About 750 actual property owners don’t have service for their own homes.

Benjamin said she was surprised last year to see a list of property owners who weren’t paying for service.

“We had members of the city council. We had big time people. You’d be surprised,” Benjamin said.

Benjamin said illegal dumping is also an issue throughout the city.

“I have a lot of it in my ward. It comes from the county,” Benjamin said.