Apollo proposes wide-ranging ordinance on rental properties

| Thursday, April 17, 2014, 1:46 a.m.

Apollo Council is proposing a property rental ordinance that would hold landlords and renters in the borough more accountable for the upkeep of their properties.

Council is holding a public hearing Thursday to discuss the proposal, which calls for annual licensing, stricter code enforcement and additional maintenance responsibilities for renters and owners.

The hearing, Councilwoman Cheryl Swank said, allows residents to weigh in before council votes to finalize the ordinance next month.

If it does, it will be the first rental ordinance put in place since 1991, she said.

“We have a situation in this town where more than 50 percent of the homes are rented,” Swank said, “so we clearly have a business here, but it's gotten out of control. This is a step in the right direction to make sure our properties are properly maintained.”

The borough's current ordinance only requires landlords to have their properties inspected before a unit is occupied.

Under the proposed ordinance, landlords would be required to renew the licenses for each of their rental properties annually at a cost of $50.

In addition, landlords would need to seek a rental occupancy permit every time a new tenant moves into their units.

That permit would come with a $45 fee. It would only be granted after the borough's rental inspection officer approves the unit and the landlord submits to the borough the names, addresses and occupations of the new tenants.

“This gives the borough more control over the state of our rental units and who is living in them,” Swank said. “We want renters to be more responsible. And right now, there's nothing in place to make them want to follow the law.”

For each day that landlords rent their units without the proper licensing, they'll be fined $500.

The borough also would impose a $100 fine on landlords for their first offense against the ordinance. That, too, would be issued every day that the owner fails to bring the property into compliance.

The borough would follow the same procedure for the second offense, but with a $500 fine. The third offense also would carry a $500 daily fine and revocation of the owner's rental license for at least six weeks.

Swank said the borough will funnel all of its revenue from the fees and fines into its general fund for varied purposes.

“There's a lot that needs to be done,” Swank said. “We're working to build up our police department and there are a lot of streets that need to be fixed. (The money) would benefit the people of the town.”

The proposed ordinance also states that every property owner who doesn't live in or within 15 miles of the borough must hire someone who does to oversee the property.

Renters and owners would be responsible for maintaining the premises to comply with borough codes.

Renters would be barred from engaging in violent behavior, making unreasonable noise and creating “a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose.”

Councilman Mark Greenawalt believes the ordinance will boost Apollo property values.

“It's going to make things safer and a lot better to look at,” he said. “It's a step forward to making Apollo a better place to live.”

Other board members could not be reached for comment.

Braden Ashe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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