Since the city rental ordinance passed in the fall by City Council went into effect Jan. 1, the administrator in charge of the city Bureau of Codes said his enforcement officers have begun a regular daily routine of responding to complaints sent into the office.
Enforcement officers are issuing citations and shutting down properties in violation of the new law, according to Joseph Gerardi, city codes administrator, who provided an update Monday.
The city issued 17 citations - for failure to hold a license and failure to have properties inspected - since Jan. 1, Gerardi said.
Two properties were shut down, one at 627 First Ave. on Jan. 2, but that property was re-opened the next day, he said.
Another property at 646 Braine St. was ordered closed Jan. 16. The owner never had it inspected, and when checked, the building had no heat, it had sanitation issues and an unregistered and unlicensed vehicle parked outside, Gerardi said. Two renters lost their place of residence in the closure, he said.
The ordinance requires landlords and owners of rental properties to register addresses and the number of occupants in each building with codes. It gives broader powers to codes officers, enabling them to shut down a property upon issuance of three successive building code violations or one single firearms or felony drug arrest for up to six months, also taking the license of the landlord away for a period of time.
Asked about the success of the registration process, Gerardi said about 90 percent of the properties have been registered.
Asked about the kind of enforcement actions, Gerardi said the department isn't picking on people, but is responding to complaints it has received.
"We get a complaint about garbage collecting outside a property and we will respond," he said.
Some property owners with multiple apartments and rental buildings have not registered the properties, or obtained license or inspection, he said. At least two recently were dealt with by citation and were ordered to make the proper code violation repairs, he said.
Once a complaint is received by Gerardi's office, the enforcement officer goes out and does an inspection. Should a violation notice be given, the building owner and/or landlord has time to correct the problem, Gerardi said.
The department has posted the following notice on the rental properties where complaints have been investigated: "Being the owner of this rental property, the city is notifying you that three violations of any of the city's codified ordinance within a six-month period of time will result in the rental unit being shut down for a period of three months. Upon receiving a closure notice you as the owner have a right to appeal the closure notice to the Housing Appeals Board. The appeal must be submitted in writing within 10 days of the closure notice."
Mayor Gabriel J. Campana said the city continues to collect a list of "shameful" properties of landlords and owners who have ignored repeated warnings to make repairs.
Gerardi said his department can cross-reference what county deed records show and issue the citations to the proper owner of the building.
"The county has 24-hour updates on property owners," he said. "I believe the ordinance is doing what it was intended to do," Gerardi said. "We are responding to complaints and doing the inspections of the properties and will continue to enforce the new law."