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Council discusses renters' issues

| Thursday, Sept. 22, 2005

Scottdale officials are not in favor of enacting an ordinance that would attempt to regulate rental units in the borough.

Resident Jim Williams has attended council meetings for three months, hoping to have council find a way to alleviate problems he's had with renters who occupy properties in his neighborhood.

Williams said he has found children from neighboring rental properties in his swimming pool -- without permission. Fireworks have damaged his property, and there is other disruptive behavior throughout the night in the neighborhood -- much of which he associates with those renting properties.

Calling the police hasn't helped, he said, since officers cannot cite or arrest anyone unless the incident is witnessed by police.

Last month, Williams supplied council with an ordinance enacted by Jeannette that holds landlords responsible for tenants' actions and requires an occupancy permit.

Scottdale council was not in favor of the ordinance.

"Some members of council feel this is in violation of a person's civil rights," Council President Thomas Ermine said. "How can you tell people where they can or cannot live• And landlords can't tell at the time they rent the apartment that those tenants will have a party every night."

Williams argued that the Jeannette ordinance holds the landlord responsible for the actions of the tenants. He added that he was looking at the Jeannette ordinance as an example.

"What we need to do is hold public meetings and get feedback from residents," Williams said. "The Jeannette ordinance isn't set in stone. Some revisions could be made. We just need to take the next step to have something in place that we could go to when nothing can legally be done by the police.

"All I've done was come to council for three months to get some kind of help from council, but it seems that you're unwilling to act on this," he added. "It's just not a good idea when the problem is contained to my block, but as sure as I'm sitting here, you'll see the problem throughout the borough in the future."

Bryce King, a landlord in Scottdale, questioned the Jeannette ordinance and the idea of holding landlords responsible for tenants.

"When you start making landlords accountable is when you start stepping on toes," King said. "You can't expect me or anyone as a landlord to be held accountable."

King added that he once had a Section 8 tenant that he had no problems with; on the other hand, a tenant that came with good references didn't pay the rent and was growing marijuana plants in a small, plastic child's swimming pool.

Councilman Andy Pinskey suggested Williams contact Joan Brown, who is currently trying to resurrect the crime watch program in Scottdale, which has been dormant for a number of years.

"The neighborhood watch is an organized group to watch out for their property and their neighbors," Pinskey said. "I think it's one of the better fundamental ways to approach your problem."

He added that as a government body, the borough is helpless. "We just really have to be careful about what we do because of the potential of violating people's rights."

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