By Emily Miller | Sun Sentinel
Boca Raton — For the first time, the city of Boca Raton is contemplating a program that would require landlords to register their properties and their tenants with the city.
Complaints about noise, excessive trash and parking led the city to consider the program, Mayor Susan Haynie said. Code enforcement officers interviewed the occupants of properties generating the complaints and determined a majority were student renters, she said.
Neighborhoods closest to Florida Atlantic University — namely those off Northwest 20th Street and Glades Road — have the most complaints, Haynie said.
"We're having so many issues in many of our neighborhoods [with] college students renting homes," she said.
In implementing a rental-registration program, the city will know "who we're dealing with," she said. "And if they have multiple code enforcement actions against them, we can limit [the landlord's] ability to rent."
Although the details of the proposed program have not yet been developed, it may be similar to ones that have been implemented successfully in other cities, said Chrissy Biagiotti, city spokeswoman.
"The intent of the city's proposed rental registration program is to enhance the quality of life in Boca Raton neighborhoods by reducing nuisance situations, including noise and lack of property maintenance, that sometimes afflict rental properties with absentee owners," Biagiotti said.
The impetus for creating the program was a combination of factors, including the downturn in the real estate market, which led to foreclosures and the demand for increased student housing, Biagiotti said.
"Both of these market changes led to increased single-family rentals and in some instances, increased nuisance complaints, particularly when the owners were absent and unable, or unwilling, to maintain the property to code," she said.
Boca's rules currently prohibit more than three unrelated adults living in the same single-family house. The idea is that rental registration will make the resident limits easier to police.
"Registering rental properties in [Boca] would keep the property owners involved and aware of code compliance issues, hopefully, before they become complaints," Biagiotti said. "Maintaining housing code compliance would also help keep property values stable."
Code compliance issues have been escalating for the last several years as FAU continues to grow, Haynie said.
"Several adjacent homes being rented to students is not conducive to single-family living," she said.
FAU students who rent houses in Caldwell Heights off of Northwest 20th Street say it makes sense for college students to live in the neighborhood because it's less than a mile from campus. They also admit that, in some cases, more than three unrelated students live in houses with four bedrooms.
"This neighborhood is not wild by any means," said Nathan Snitz, 23, an FAU student who has rented a home in Caldwell Heights for two years. "I don't think it's anything egregious. It just comes down to partying and parking."
Adam Faustini, 43, who lives in Caldwell Heights, welcomes the program, but is skeptical of how it will address complaints.
"I'm hoping that this program won't be implemented as more of a revenue generator, but will focus on the issues," he said.
Faustini said he has seen fights, men urinating on mailboxes and red plastic cups scattered across the neighborhood, where he's lived his whole life.
"It's disgusting," he said. "I'm at my wits' end."
There will be fees for the registration process to offset part of the costs of the program, but the amounts are undetermined so far, Biagiotti said.
Resources for the proposed rental registration program, including money and several new code compliance positions, were included in the 2015-16 budget if the City Council decides to move forward with the program, Biagiotti said.
According to a budget summary, the city has set aside $281,900 for the program and will create three new positions.
City Council members will give final approval of the budget at a meeting Thursday.
No start date for the program has been set. City Council members will discuss the program at a workshop in November.