A city of Beaufort staff proposal to charge a $100 inspection fee each time a new tenant occupies a long-term rental unit looks like a solution in search of a problem.
It also looks like government intrusion into private transactions and a revenue grab.
The proposal, discussed briefly at a City Council workshop April 19, is still preliminary and met immediate resistance from some officials -- and for good reason. The proposal has potential problems and unintended consequences. Here are a few:
But the most compelling reason to take a pass on this idea: Renters tend to favor living in a place that is attractive and safe, so owners have an incentive to make their properties attractive and safe. This is how the free market operates, and it usually governs private transactions well -- at least until government fouls the system of incentives and disincentives in the name of protection.
Of course, it is true that some owners do not properly maintain their properties. It also is true that some renters let their lawns go to seed and foist unsightly messes upon their neighbors. But there already is recourse for both situations -- through state law and the courts in the case of improperly maintained properties and through city nuisance codes in the case of unsightly property.
Unfortunately, the city has a spotty record on code enforcement. That does not inspire confidence that more rules will offer a solution.