City accounting of tenants should be left with landlords

We appreciate the spirit behind a proposed landlord-tenant ordinance due to go before City Council this week.

Mayor Gabriel J. Campana says the law would give guidelines to landlords and tenants and assist emergency personnel, including police officers, firefighters and codes officials.

That’s a worthy goal.

But there’s another side. For instance, people who have had domestic abuse in their lives won’t be comfortable registering their names and addresses with the city, as the ordinance calls for.

And tracking people down to determine where they are living is a lot more bureaucracy than the city is equipped to handle.

In our view, it’s fine for landlords to give tenants a copy of the city’s rules and regulations for living in an apartment. But making the tenants register their name and address with the city has a Big Brother feel to it. For that reason, ordinances of this sort have been legally challenged in other cities.

The keeping track of how many people are living in an apartment should be the responsibility of landlords. After all, there are tenant limits according to zoning and size of the building, so the landlord should want to keep track of who is living there.

We would suggest that it’s legitimate for the city to want and maintain a census of renting residents in Williamsport. However, we do not believe a registry should reside in City Hall.

If a question about a specific property or resident is asked, it should be directed to the landlord. It is the landlord’s responsibility to maintain his or her records.

This method would make landlords more accountable, especially those who live out of the area and rarely visit their properties. The city could get the information it needs with less bureaucracy and the privacy rights of tenants would be preserved.

We appreciate the accountability city officials are looking for. We think they should work on a system with landlords if something like it isn’t already in place to get that accountability.