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.”
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