Codes, police officials press for proposed rental ordinance

The city’s top codes enforcement officer sees value in a proposed city rental registration ordinance requiring landlords to register their properties and list their occupants, meant to add the police element to what otherwise are civil actions filed by his department.

“I’m aboard with this proposed ordinance,” said Joseph Gerardi, city codes administrator. “We think we’re doing a great job cleaning up the outside of rental properties and issuing citations whenever there are conditions unfit for human habitation, but this proposed ordinance adds the police element,” he said. “The proposed ordinance combines the enforcement capabilities of codes and police and requires landlords to register their properties and names of their occupants.”

Gerardi said he’s heard arguments from landlords with large numbers of tenants at prior public meetings who claim some don’t live here more than 10 or 20 days before moving in, including gas workers.

“If their argument is they have people living there 30 days or less and aren’t able to keep up with their registry, then they are a hotel,” Gerardi said.

Gerardi said he gets upset when elected officials say the reason for the proposed ordinance is because the codes department can’t perform its duties.

“I admit, I thought it would put a burden on our department when it first came out,” Gerardi said. “But that’s not the reason for this proposed ordinance.”

“Until this proposed ordinance, codes and police acted as separate entities,” said city police Capt. Timothy Miller. “This proposed ordinance is an attempt to have us (codes and police) join forces to provide a stronger team for our citizens,” he said.

“The public may not understand that police can’t just make an arrest even if the department receives a report of drug activity or disruptive behavior,” Miller said.

Miller said research he’s done indicates the majority of the crime and police responses are to rental properties. He and police Chief Gregory A. Foresman said that more than 90 percent of the crime in the city is drug related.

The statistics and supportive information will be part of the package presented to the city public safety committee, Miller said.

Miller and Foresman also said many cities in the nation have similar ordinances.

“Why not Williamsport?” they asked.