Nui­sance code up for dis­cus­sion in Lans­dale

North Penn Life - - DATEBOOK - By Dan Sokil dsokil@21st-cen­tu­ryme-

Should Lans­dale’s land­lords, or bor­ough code depart­ment staff, be able to take ac­tion against ten­ants who rack up sev­eral nui­sance vi­o­la­tions, or en­counter po­lice of­ten?

That’s a ques­tion that the bor­ough’s code en­force­ment and land plan­ning com­mit­tee hopes to dis­cuss, bor­ough Di­rec­tor of Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment gohn Ernst said, us­ing an or­di­nance on the books in Lan­caster as a model for dis­cus­sion.

“In a nut­shell, this par­tic­u­lar or­di­nance that they’re us­ing pro­vides for the fact that if the lo­cal po­lice depart­ment were to re­ceive three nui­sance com­plaints against an in­di­vid­ual ten­ant of a prop­erty, then that land­lord is ob­li­gated to be­gin evic­tion pro­ceed­ings,” Ernst said.

Chap­ter 87 of the bor­ough’s code­book de­fines sev­eral nui­sances in­clud­ing trash and rub­bish ob­struc­tions and rules for cut­ting ex­ces­sive veg­e­ta­tion, “but the nui­sance or­di­nance does not con­tain the abil­ity to start the evic­tion no­tice,” Ernst said.

A look at Lan­caster’s code book — Chap­ter 2P8 sec­tion 7, un­der that city’s rental prop­erty rules — spells out its pro­ce­dures and stan­dardsW “af­ter three dis­rup­tive con­duct in­ci­dents” within 12 months, the prop­erty owner “shall have ten work­ing days from the date of the mail­ing of the third dis­rup­tive con­duct let­ter to be­gin evic­tion pro­ceed­ings against the oc­cu­pants.” That code also states that those evicted “shall not re­oc­cupy any unit on the same prop­erty” for at least one year, and lets the city main­tain a list of the names of those evicted, with names stay­ing on the list for five years.

“The evic­tion of a ten­ant is the real hook in the [ pro­posed] or­di­nance. It ob­li­gates the land­lord to deal with the prob­lem, and that’s one of the is­sues that we’re re­ally try­ing to help res­i­dents of the bor­ough with th­ese prob­lems,” he said.

The terms or fre­quency used in Lan­caster could be mod­i­fied to fit the bor­ough’s de­mo­graph­ics and pop­u­la­tion, Ernst told the com­mit­tee, and the pro­posed code would con­tain “very strict guide­lines and very strict def­i­ni­tions” be­fore be­ing vet­ted by that com­mit­tee, coun­cil’s pub­lic safety com­mitte and ul­ti­mately adopted by bor­ough coun­cil.

The first set of ob­jec­tions have al­ready been raised, though, by res­i­dent Richard Strahm dur­ing that com­mit­tee dis­cus­sionW In his view, the code would sin­gle out a par­tic­u­lar class of home­owner un­fairly, and could set sub­jec­tive cri­te­ria for po­lice of­fi­cers to de­cide what is a valid com­plaint.

“While I cer­tainly re­spect all of the of­fi­cers in this town, you are em­pow­er­ing them to be both judge and jury at this point, which is a power that a spe­cific po­lice of­fi­cer re­ally should not have,” Strahm said.

The Lan­caster or­di­nance also cre­ated a new board of hous­ing ap­peals to hear both sides of each ci­ta­tion, which would cre­ate an­other layer of govern­ment and added cost to the tax­pay­ers, and doesn’t have the power to keep the ten­ants out of any other apart­ments else­where.

“In all like­li­hood, they are go­ing to end up in an­other prop­erty in the bor­ough. You are dis­plac­ing the prob­lem and act­ing in a not- in- my- back­yard kind of fash­ion,” Strahm said.

That type of feed­back is “ex­actly what I was hop­ing to have,” Ernst said, and any de­ci­sions would ul­ti­mately be up to the com­mit­tee and full coun­cil — he’s just start­ing the con­ver­sa­tion.

“If such an or­di­nance and such reg­u­la­tions are not felt ap­pro­pri­ate by bor­ough coun­cil, then the or­di­nance will not pass, and that’s fine. I have made some com­mit­ments to peo­ple who have some con­cerns, that I would look into it and see how it can be dealt with,” he said.

Coun­cil’s code com­mit­tee next meets at 8 p. m. Aug. 7 and bor­ough coun­cil next meets at 7 p. m. guly 17, both at Bor­ough Hall, 1 Vine St. For more in­for­ma­tion or meet­ing agen­das and ma­te­ri­als, visit www. Lans­dale. org or fol­low @ Lans­dalePA on Twit­ter.

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