Mt. Lebanon rental registry plan raises concerns
Mt. Lebanon officials are concerned about a proposed rental property registration and inspection program, and cited issues such as costs to landlords and privacy for tenants as reasons for postponing a vote on it.
Commissioners on Monday generally agreed they need to take more time to develop the proposal, which would require landlords to register all rented townhouses, duplexes, condominiums and apartments with the municipality. Each unit would be inspected every three years.
Commissioner Dave Brumfield wanted to narrow municipal inspectors' duties to ensuring that each home is safe to live in, with features such as working smoke detectors and wiring in good repair.
The most recent draft of the ordinance would allow inspectors to cite landlords for flaking paint, crumbling drywall, leaky windows or faucets, missing handrails on stairs or poorly ventilated bathrooms.
Mt. Lebanon has about 3,500 rental housing units.
“I talked to landlords who said, ‘If you limit (inspections) to truly just the safety issues, we could live with it,'” Brumfield said.
“As long as we're inspecting for those things, we're protecting you from your neighbor. ... If that's what it takes to get everyone on the same page, that would be all right.”
After hearing of tenants whose leases weren't renewed when they submitted complaints to the Allegheny County Health Department, commissioners Kristin Linfante and Kelly Fraasch said there should be a way to submit anonymous complaints that wouldn't invite retaliation from landlords.
Currently, a complaint to the health department is the only way to get an inspector to check inside a rental unit without some sort of fire or police emergency.
Commissioner John Bendel said the proposal in its entirety perhaps was too heavy-handed, and needed re-examination so the commission could target its goals.
“I wonder, are we trying to kill a fly with a sledgehammer?” Bendel said. “We're going from nothing to inspecting every (rental) property once every three years.”
Mt. Lebanon would pay for a new part-time building inspector through the fees it collects.
Joe Berkley, chief building inspector for the municipality, said his department would do whatever the commissioners want, but emphasized that he thought the inspections were necessary for safety and something landlords and tenants could learn to live with.
“If you live in Pennsylvania and want to drive a car, you have to have the car inspected. If you don't want it inspected, you move to Ohio,” he said.
Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or email@example.com.
Add Matthew Santoni to your Google+ circles.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.