Vandergrift to vote on tougher rules for landlords, tenants
By Braden Ashe
Published: Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013, 1:41 a.m.
Vandergrift Council will vote next month on an ordinance that places more stringent regulations on landlords and their tenants.
If enacted, the ordinance would require landlords who don't live within 15 miles of the borough to hire someone who does to manage their properties.
Otherwise, the borough won't renew their occupancy license. The same stipulations apply for corporations and partnerships that own property in the borough.
Of the 83 landlords who own property in Vandergrift, between 15 and 20 live outside the proposed ordinance's 15-mile radius, Councilman James Rametta said.
Rametta said none of those landlords have voiced concerns to council since the ordinance was discussed on Dec. 2.
“Beside that, the only thing really changing is the enforcement aspect,” Rametta said. “We just want to make landlords more responsible for their properties and tenants. We want to make Vandergrift a better place to live.”
Councilman Lenny Collini said the 15-mile provision is intended to combat what he said was a recent increase of rental properties that are blighted by neglect.
Under the current ordinance, he said, outside “slumlords” are able to buy up Vandergrift properties and rent them at below market prices.
Many of these transactions are done over the Internet, according to Collini, with some of the landlords never visiting the properties in person.
“They're not there overseeing it, and a lot of the renters let the properties go because there are no consequences,” he said.
“Getting a manager within that radius would help reverse that problem.”
The proposed ordinance, dubbed the Landlord Registration and Nuisance Protection Ordinance, calls for more frequent inspections of rental properties.
The borough inspects rental units only whenever its tenants move in or out.
With the proposed ordinance, rental units in Vandergrift would be inspected every five years at the landlord's expense, in addition to whenever renters move in.
The fees likely will be set at $65 for the initial inspection and $45 for each return visit if the unit's not in compliance, Rametta said.
It would be a $20 increase for the initial inspection from the fees charged by the borough.
“There are times when people rent from the same unit for eight years, and no one is inspecting it,” Rametta said. “The properties fall apart. When they finally change hands, we're paying for four or five inspections sometimes because they can't get it together.”
Landlords would be required to furnish new renters with the most recent inspection report by borough code officials.
They would need to apply for their licenses annually.
Council is scheduled to vote on the ordinance on Jan. 6.
Rametta said the cutoff date to apply for licensure would be determined once the ordinance is enacted.
Landlords under the new ordinance would pay a $500 fine for each violation of the ordinance, which includes operating without a license. Each day that the violation is not amended after a 60-day grace period would represent an additional offense, with each day carrying another $500 fine.
Renters would be under stricter regulations under the proposed ordinance. The Landlord Registration and Nuisance Protection Ordinance includes the Disruptive Conduct Ordinance.
That will allow the code enforcement officer to record instances of property renters engaging in “disruptive conduct.”
The borough defines disruptive conduct as anything that is “so loud, untimely, offensive, riotous or that otherwise disrupts other persons of reasonable sensibility in their peaceful enjoyment of their premises such that a report is made to police and/or the Code Enforcement Officer.”
First offenses would carry for renters a $100 fine and second offenses $300. All subsequent offenses would each carry $500 fines.
Solicitor Larry Lopertifo was unavailable on Monday for comment. Council members Brian Carricato, Vernon Sciullo, Kathy Chvala, Frank Moliterno and Christine Wilson were unavailable.
The proposed ordinance is available for public viewing at the Vandergrift Municipal Building along Grant Avenue.
Braden Ashe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4673 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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