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Legislation to hold absentee landlords accountable introduced

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Councilmember Jacklyn Ortiz presents new legislation Wednesday that will hold absentee landlords accountable. (Gino Fanelli)

A new code amendment from Mayor Lovely Warren stands as an opportunity to force accountability and transparency for absentee landlords.

Presented at a press conference on Wednesday, the amendment to Section 90-20 of the City of Rochester Municipal Code will prevent landlords who live out of state from allowing properties to fall into disrepair by requiring streamlined avenues for community input. Specifically, all residential property owners will be required to provide a name and contact information for the property manager. If the owner lives outside Monroe County, a local maintenance person or manager must be listed. Likewise, a publicly available business number must be listed for all rental properties.

Set to go to vote on Tuesday, Aug. 15, a violation of the amendment, set as a medium violation outlined in 13A-11D(1)(b) of the municipal code, will carry a penalty of $75 for a first offense, $150 for a second and $300 on a third, the fee doubling with a default.

Part of the City’s Nuisance Abatement Program, Warren outlined the purpose of the new legislation as a means of protecting the people living in high-rental property areas.

“It is our objective and our duty to protect the property and residents of the city,” Warren said. “People who have to live in the areas of these rental properties suffer the consequences, and the city suffers the consequences.”

A fellow sponsor of the amendment, councilmember Jacklyn Ortiz said the potential impact of holding absentee landlords responsible is closure and safety for city residents.

“I’ve heard too many times ‘I wish I knew what was going on with that property across the street,’” Ortiz said. “Requiring a business name, address and phone is a small change, but it will be a powerful one.”

According to Director of Buildings and Zoning Gary Kirkmire, the number of rental properties in Rochester comes in at approximately 25,000. Of those, he estimated, 30 percent are owned by absentee landlords or LLCs.

The new code amendment is not alone in new city policies which aim to hold landlords accountable and keep a watchful eye on nuisance properties. On Tuesday, July 11, the city introduced a new mapping system which allows the public to report and view nuisance reports for properties throughout the city. Nuisances can include anything from noise complaints, properties in disrepair or reports of controlled substance violations, or generally anything considered a detriment for the quality of life for neighbors.

“This is one more example of keeping the city government transparent,” Warren said. “Whether a nuisance warning has taken place or a building has closed down, we will centralize all that data into one area.”

In September, the map is also set to add analytical tools for management of vacant and abandoned properties.

“This program allows us to develop relationships that would otherwise not be possible,” Ortiz said. “We all feel the City of Rochester should be a place people want to live.”

(c) 2017 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-363-7269 or email madams@bridgetowermedia.com.

2 comments

  1. This is not a very good idea. It is another factor, added on top of many, which will discourage people and companies from being landlords in the city. As the number of landlords dwindles away the property values will decrease even more, justifying even less expenditure on maintenance and upgrades.

    Why not do something that will help landlords and make them glad that they own properties in the city? For, example, make it easier to pursue evictions. Reduce regulations and/or revise them to make them less costly to comply.

    But, it’s an election year, so we get this.

  2. I can understand the reasoning behind the change request. However, there needs to be some way for landlords to be able to hold tenant accountable for the damages as well. Most times the tenants are causing a majority of the damages and there is no way to hold them responsible. Agencies who assist with the paying of rents do not have a stipulation to hold tenants accountable as well it then falls on the landlord to handle. Objectionable tenancy evictions are most of the time laughed out of court. Without having a way legally to help property owners hold tenants accountable for the occupied properties the properties become a money pit. The turn over rates can be every few months. Most property owners do not have thousands to drop into a property every few months for the same things over and over.

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