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Leechburg landlords protest ordinance

| Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Nearly 100 landlords crammed into council chambers and spilled out onto the borough building's porch Monday night to dispute a new landlord ordinance council passed last month.

The ordinance states that all landlords must participate in an inspection program, registration and licensing of their rental properties due to some neglected rental units and the growing number of disturbances. Landlords would pay $100 for inspection of each rental property per year, under the ordinance.

"Some residents have 20 to 30 rental homes," said Steve Langton, a Lower Burrell attorney and the attorney for the Allegheny Valley Landlords Association. "When you are looking at $100 per home inspection per year, you are going to run some out of business."

Every property owner must keep their rental units up to code and ordinance; keep and maintain all premises in good and safe condition; maintain a residential rental license for each rental unit; and provide the borough within 10 days of occupancy the names and address of all tenants.

The ordinance also states if a landlord doesn't comply with the ordinance they could be fined between $500 and $1,000 following a 30-day notice.

Jim McGee, who owns rental units in the borough, said he feels that the new ordinance is about policing.

"How many rentals were there with no problems?" he asked. "The habitual rental units are one thing, but why are you making a lot of good people jump through hoops?"

Councilwoman Bonnie Sherbondy said the borough has 366 rental properties not including the high-rise buildings.

However, Sherbondy was unable to tell landlords how many of the 366 rental properties were involved in disturbances compared to homeowners.

Councilman Brian Scott said the borough fashioned the ordinance after one set forth in Elizabethtown, Lancaster County.

"We reviewed theirs and felt it was the most comprehensive," he said.

Scott said the borough has no clue who lives in the rental units in town, and the people don't pay income and local wage taxes, and have unpaid sewage fees.

"We don't know who these people are," he said.

"To solve the problem, the good guys have to pay for the bad guys," said one landlord from the crowd.

"It's not fair," yelled another.

With many landlords yelling and voicing their opinions out of turn, council voted 4 to 3 to suspend the enforcement of the ordinance until council members are able to meet with landlords.

Council will have a special meeting at 7 p.m. May 1 at the Leechburg Volunteer Fire Hall to hear the opinions of landlords and the Allegheny Valley Landlords Association.

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