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May 15, 2014

Landlords express opposition to city’s three-persons unrelated law

NORMAN — Opponents of the three-persons unrelated law say it unfairly discriminates based on familial relationships and is not adequate to protect families.

The City Council Oversight Committee delved into two controversial topics this week — the city’s long-standing three-persons unrelated ordinance and safety of oil and gas drilling operations.

Attorney Sean Rieger said he represents property owners who feel the ordinance is unfair and that renters should not have to reveal whether they are related by marriage or blood. But research by city staff indicates that other college towns have similar laws on the books.

Oxford House establishments where people with addictions live in a group setting while they are getting back on their feet are protected by federal law, which makes those houses exempt from rules like the three-persons unrelated law.

Council member Greg Heiple said neighbors were originally concerned about having an Oxford House in the neighborhoods but have learned those establishments can be good neighbors and there are solutions for other rental properties, as well.

“No one meeting is going to solve the problem,” Heiple said. “We’ve got to have a conversation about this.”

The three-persons law is not enforced unless a neighbor complains, and in many cases, neighbors have to help the city prove there has been a violation.

“If you’re that serious about this, add a compliance officer to the budget,” Council member Robert Castleberry said. “Our budget reflects our priorities. I think it’s ridiculous that I, as a neighbor, have to rat on my neighbors. Enforcement of laws is up to the city.”

Mayor Cindy Rosenthal said it would take more than one code enforcement officer to deal with the problems that impact the quality of life of families created when multiple people — often college students — reside in a single-family residence.

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