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Kittanning andlords vow legal action against proposed fees

| Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

Landlords packed council's meeting room on Monday to object to a plan to raise fees on residential rental properties.

Last month, as council looked for ways to trim the 2013 budget, members discussed raising the annual license rental fees and inspection fees which landlords are required to pay. A rental license is currently $50 for the first rental unit and $5 for each additional unit. Landlords also are charged a $25 inspection fee whenever a renter moves out.

Council has not decided what the increases would amount to but have suggested raising the additional unit fee from $5 to $25.

The group of landlords brought a signed petition to council saying they would seek legal action against the borough should the fees be increased. Several spoke up and said they felt it was unfair to single out a select group.

From a show of hands, of the 20 or so landlords present at the meeting, seven were borough residents.

President Chris Schiano argued that increasing fees was not unreasonable.

“If we don't do this we'll have to raise garbage fees and taxes again,” said Councilwoman Kim Fox, adding that there have been cuts in funds for streets, codes enforcement and police departments to prevent any tax hike.

Some of the landlords argued that it was more a matter of principle and less about paying a fee increase. Several spoke up and said they felt it was unfair to single out one group.

Comments became heated as the discussion veered into how to tackle blighted rental properties and how difficult renters and irresponsible landlords should be held accountable.

Some agreement was reached when landlord John Kunst suggested that rather than single out landlords, council should look into asking all borough businesses to pay an annual fee.

“Raise them on all businesses,” said Kunst.

He said that many landlords are struggling to break even.

Councilman Mike Rosenberger agreed that Kunst presented a good solution.

“It may look like we're picking on you,” he said, and mentioned the current budget constraints.

“We're not out of trouble yet,” said Rosenberger.

Schiano thanked the group of landlords for coming to the meeting.

“We understand how you feel,” he said. “We have not adopted the ordinance yet.”

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or bbeatty@tribweb.com.

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