Bridgeport Addresses Issue Of ‘Amateur Landlords’

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

BRIDGEPORT, PA — Over the past year, many residents and landlords have complained at borough council meetings about overcrowding of and conditions at rental properties.

In response to these complaints, borough council has provided funds in the 2014 budget for a program to help resolve the issue of amateur landlords.

At its Feb. 11 meeting, council discussed hiring a third-party inspector to handle rental properties in the borough.

Read more: http://www.timesherald.com/general-news/20140214/bridgeport-addresses-issue-of-amateur-landlords

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Scranton Landlords, Homeowners And Renters Brace For Tax Hikes

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

University of Scranton students Bridget McVeigh and Ashley Opalka are apartment hunting with two criteria in mind: proximity to campus and lower prices than the university’s dorms.

The pair were alarmed city landlords are poised to hike rents in response to a proposed 2014 Scranton budget that would raise property taxes 56.7 percent, garbage fees 68.5 percent and rental registration fees from $50 to $150 per structure and $15 to $50 per unit.

Landlord Carol Smurl said she tries “to be compassionate to the tenants because they’re on a fixed income,” but she and her husband cannot afford to absorb that kind of increase.

Normally, Mrs. Smurl waits until tenants move out to raise the rent or tries to delay passing increased costs on for two to three years at her nine properties.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/scranton-landlords-homeowners-and-renters-brace-for-tax-hikes-1.1590772

Wilkes-Barre Council OKs ‘One-Strike’ Rental Ordinance

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE — One strike.  Two readings.  Three speakers.

Mayor Tom Leighton’s plan to crack down on problem rental properties in Wilkes-Barre passed a second and final reading during a special council session Thursday night attended by a handful of residents, of whom only three spoke about the “one-strike” amendment to the city’s rental ordinance.

The ordinance will allow officials to shut down a property for six months if landlords and tenants know of criminal activity on the premises and fail to alert authorities.  It will take effect Sept. 1.

“The intent is not to penalize landlords, but to increase dialogue,” said assistant city solicitor William E. Vinsko Jr., who drafted the legislation, which he called “another tool to curb drug activity and violence.”

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/article/20130823/NEWS/130829985

Landlords question Wilkes-Barre’s ‘One-Strike’ Rental Policy

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE — A proposed ordinance to “get tough” on crime by targeting problem rental properties passed the first reading by City Council on Tuesday night, and drew a mixed response from residents and landlords.

The amendment that sets a “one-strike” limit for landlords or tenants who know of gun and drug crimes committed on the property still needs a second reading at council’s Sept. 12 meeting before it can be enacted 10 days later.

But landlord Chris Puma of Ashley cautioned against proceeding with the amendment and suggested that instead of “punishing the landlord” the city hire more police and code enforcement officers.

He presented a scenario in which the six-month shutdown of a property as stated in the amendment cuts off the revenue for a landlord who has no knowledge of his tenant’s criminal activity.  From there, the landlord conceivably can’t pay the taxes, the property ends up at a sheriff’s sale and the city loses tax revenue.

Read more: http://www.timesleader.com/news/local-news/752677/Landlords-question-one-strike

Scranton Apartment Building Partially Owned By State Rep At Center Of Controversy

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An apartment building owned in part by state Rep. Marty Flynn has been the center of controversy, neighbor complaints, multiple police calls and finger-pointing among city agencies.

An agreement to allow an inspection at the request of neighbors of 1401 Prospect Ave., Scranton, fell through when Mr. Flynn and his partner reversed positions and said they would not consent to the inspection, accusing the director of the city Department of Licensing Inspections and Permits, Mark Seitzinger, of playing politics and wanting to run against Mr. Flynn for the 113th Legislative District seat.

Mr. Seitzinger originally considered seeking a court order to inspect the property after continuous complaints from neighbors Ann and Mark Wadika, but backed down.  After consulting with an attorney, he said the department has no right to inspect the six-unit building.  He denied wanting to run against Mr. Flynn for office or of having any other political motivation.

Mr. Flynn and his partner, Greg Hunt of Moscow, registered the building under the city’s 2012 rental ordinance after being questioned by a Times-Tribune reporter.  The ordinance entitles the city inspector to conduct a limited “safety” inspection of the building.

Read more:  http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/apartment-building-partially-owned-by-state-rep-at-center-of-controversy-1.1520374

Conshohocken Residential Rental License Ordinance Adopted Over Landlord, Realtor Objections

Location of Conshohocken in Montgomery County

Location of Conshohocken in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

CONSHOHOCKEN ­­— A revised Conshohocken Residential Rental License Permit ordinance was unanimously adopted by Borough Council Wednesday night despite the objections from a Realtor association representative, a Conshohocken landlord and a Realtor.

The ordinance established permit fees and inspection fees for each apartment, required landlords to have a resident agent within 12 miles of the leased building and provided penalties for landlords if tenants violate a detailed list of conduct.

“Council has been considering the revised rental ordinance for more than a year.  It creates different classes of licenses and provides for a biannual inspection,” said Solicitor Michael Savona.  “We have a requirement that landlords have a designated rental agent.  Conshohocken will have a very comprehensive and cutting-edge rental license ordinance.”

Borough Manager Fran Marabella said there were more than 2,000 rental apartments in the borough.

Read more:  http://www.timesherald.com/article/20130621/NEWS01/130629915/conshohocken-residential-rental-license-ordinance-adopted-over-landlord-realtor-objections

ACLU Sues Norristown Over Landlord Ordinance

Location of Norristown in Montgomery County

Location of Norristown in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NORRISTOWN — A federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a Norristown ordinance that penalizes landlords for the alleged behavior of their tenants was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

The Norristown ordinance penalized landlords and encouraged them to evict their tenants when the police are called to a property three times in four months for “disorderly behavior,” including responding to incidents of domestic violence.

The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Pennsylvania, and the law firm of Pepper Hamilton LLP against the municipality, former Municipal Administrator David Forrest, Interim Municipal Administrator Robert Glisson, former Police Chief Russell Bono, Interim Police Chief Willie Richet and Code Enforcement Manager Joseph Januzelli.

“We are planning to file a motion for preliminary injunction to prevent Norristown from enforcing the December 2012 ordinance while the case is pending,” said Sara Rose, a staff attorney for the ACLU of Pennsylvania.  “We hope we will have a hearing soon.  We hope this will be resolved quickly.”

Read more:  http://www.timesherald.com/article/20130424/NEWS01/130429765/aclu-sues-norristown-over-landlord-ordinance#full_story

TriCounty Landlords Breakfast

Presented by the TCN Homeless Services Program

 

Thursday, February 21, 8:30 am – 10:00 am

 

(Snow Date Thursday, February 28 same time and location)

Zion United Church of Christ

209 Chestnut Street, Pottstown

(Corner of Hanover & Chestnut Streets)

Informative Speakers; Networking Opportunities; Connections to Social Service Agencies in the Community; Information to Help Make Your Job Easier

For more information contact TriCounty Community Network at (610) 705-3301

www.TCNetwork.org

For Shame, Lousy Landlords

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  Thumbs UP!

That’s what they’re doing in Pittsburgh.

City council voted recently to reinstate a public-shaming program aimed at irresponsible landlords.

The new law requires the city’s Bureau of Building Inspection to identify the 10 most dilapidated structures and the Department of Public Works to put up signs with the owners’ names, addresses and phone numbers.

Under the “Operation Red” program, the signs will say, “Don’t Come Here.  Don’t Invest Here.”

The signs are intended to shame landlords, but some critics predict they will embarrass tenants more.  Other critics say the signs may hasten the demise of particular streets or neighborhoods.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/796288_For-shame–lousy-landlords.html#ixzz2Fz0gnkXC

Pottstown Borough Authority Adopts New Policy In Wake Of Water Theft Case

POTTSTOWN,PA — If a silver lining could be said to exist in the case of the landlord accused of stealing borough water at multiple properties, it could be said that it brought the problem to the attention of the authorities.

Or, in this case, the Pottstown Borough Authority.

In June, landlord Frank McLaughlin of East Coventry was arrested  by Pottstown police and charged with theft of services after devices designed to by-pass water meters were found inside multiple properties he owned.

That case is still working its way through the courts, but the borough authority’s board wasted no time in acting at its Nov. 27 meeting and adopting a policy designed to minimize the loss once such a by-pass device has been discovered.

Read more:  http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20121202/NEWS01/121209923/pottstown-borough-authority-adopts-new-policy-in-wake-of-water-theft-case#full_story

An Open Letter From Ronald C. Downie To Pottstown Residents And Leadership

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Pox On Our Town

A plague has descended on Pottstown.  Its symptoms can be tracked by “For Sale” signs whose lettering is fading from being posted so very long.  This type of a malady take a long time to become a full blown plague which has or will touch all property owners in the town.

For example: Up my street an elderly widow recently passed away and her estate just put her house up for sale.  They listed the well appointed house with a new roof, a large rear sunroom, three bedrooms, on a pleasant lot in the North End for $129,900.00.  I imagine that’s close to the appraised value.  But, when the sales agent was asked by me, “What would this house be listed for if it were situated in Limerick or Collegeville?”  His reply was, “Up to, maybe, $100,000.00 more.”  “Why?” I asked.

He gave me that puzzled look while telling me about the ills of properties with Pottstown addresses.  School tax was the biggest factor, then the reputation of the town, on and he went with negatives even though he is an investor in rental properties here himself.  The only way to make out owning a property in Pottstown, he advised, was to be a landlord.

We have lived in our home since 1974 which is 38 years.  We’ve raised three children here.  I had hoped to die while still living here.  One time our house was worth upwards to $200,000.00 but is now less than three quarters that, probably much less.  It’s not the weight of the bales of straw which broke the camel’s back but it was the weight of the final strand of straw which did the camel in when added to the load.

It is impossible to be on a limited retirement income and still own a home in Pottstown.  The power to tax property is the virus propelling the plague which has demeaned our town.

Kind of like the feelings those in the 1940′s European ghettos had when they were afraid to speak out as the Gestapo rounded up certain groups to be shipped off to concentration camps.  Finally, then, they came for those who had remained silent and as they were being herded away they looked around for someone to speak on their behalf and, low and behold, no one else was left to speak for them.

Our State Legislators have, in my mind, failed us.  As a whole, they slop at the trough of special interests pandering to the desires of those who profit from inaction, the status quo. For too long, we, including me, have been silent while those who did speak out were marginalized and silenced. The field of grain is planted that will grow the stalks which could be that last straw which could break your back just like mine is fractured.

Who speaks for us now?  Best you raise your voices loudly and clearly while you still can.  Next they will be coming for you!

Ronald C. Downie