A proposed city ordinance that requires landlords, residential property owners and tenants to register names and addresses at the city Codes Department may face some heat as it goes before City Council's various committees.
"Guarantees can't be made whether the information given to the city is subject to the state right-to-know or open records laws," said Jason Weimann, an attorney working on the draft ordinance. "We're doing our due diligence to protect that information."
A copy of the pending legislation shows responsibilities are on owners of rental properties and landlords to disclose their addresses, telephone numbers and emergency contacts, such as those for a designated property manager, in case a property owner lives in another state.
A condemned property at 744 Park Ave. is pictured on Friday afternoon.
Should there be no manager one must be designated and must live within a reasonable distance. In the draft, the distance is listed at 5 miles from the city - which is subject to change, according to city Police Capt. Timothy Miller, who also is working on the proposed ordinance.
The proposed ordinance also requires the
address and the number of rental units and the name and address of tenants, including the number of occupants per rental unit.
Such information is key for firefighters scrambling to battle a blaze in the early-morning hours at a rental property and not knowing who is accounted for, according to city Bureau of Fire Chief C. Dean Heinbach.
Rental properties account for about 70 percent of all the code violations the codes enforcement officers have responded to in the city each year, according to Joseph Gerardi, city codes administrator.
"We're asking landlords and tenants to help us by being the first line of defense against crime and code violations," Miller said.
"This ordinance will pose no threat to responsible landlords and honest tenants."
Tenants, too, face requirements under the proposed legislation.
Within 45 days (a time that may be adjusted) the tenant must register with codes by providing two forms of identification. The forms of identification may be a photo driver's license or state-issued identification card. If no photograph is available, the tenant can present a passport, certificate of citizenship or naturalization to meet the photograph requirement.
In absence of either form of identification, the tenant may present a state-issued birth certificate, military identification card, Social Security card, utility bill showing present address, with the exception of a cellular phone bill; or a voter registration card, a school identification with picture, employer identification card, or a pay stub with a name and address.
"The city won't maintain a record of the Social Security number, driver's license or photograph identification number, date of birth, passport number or any similar information," Miller said. "It is information that will be reviewed solely to verify identity."
For owners and landlords, upon notification that a tenant or occupant has violated what's described as "peacefully enjoyment" of neighbors or is disruptive, the property owner/landlord is required to submit a corrective action report and give it to the codes office stating what actions were taken to remedy the situation.
Tenants, meanwhile, can't break the law or disrupt the peace and must be responsible for the conduct of anyone at their place, including guests or a pet on the premises, with their permission. They also must comply with the rental agreement, a copy of which will be given to them by the landlord.
The proposed ordinance has penalties for non-compliance.
Any violation of the ordinance by a landlord or property owner is a summary offense and may be punishable by a fine not to exceed $600 plus cost of prosecution or a term of imprisonment not to exceed 30 days.
Upon receiving notice from codes official of a third conviction of a tenant for violations of their duties, the owner must begin eviction proceedings, according to the legislation, and failure would result in a $1,000 fine, upon conviction.
Tenants' penalties include a fine of not more than $100 for the first offense, a fine of not more than $300 for the second offense, a fine of not more than $500 - upon conviction - for the third offense. After three strikes, the owner must begin the eviction process.
In response, Council President Bill Hall said he doesn't fault the administration or police for trying to improve neighborhoods and welcomes reviewing the proposed ordinance once it's ready to see at the committee level.
The legislation won't go forward until it is thoroughly reviewed by the solicitor, said Councilman N. Clifford "Skip" Smith, chairman of the city Public Safety Committee.
Smith recently said drug-related crime is returning with a vengeance and much of it is related to city officials not knowing who lives here.
"Our legislation does not require landlords to absolutely prevent bad behavior, however, it requires that they take reasonable steps to attempt to prevent it," Miller said. "It's not meant to ask landlords or tenants to become junior narcotics agents. We're merely emphasizing their responsibility to work with police and neighbors to keep drugs and other illegal activities out of rental properties."
"The danger of not moving forward is waiting for enough evidence to make a criminal arrest often results in a solution that arrives too late to preserve community livability," Miller said.