Nuisance code up for discussion in Lansdale
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.