The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

January 19, 2013

Landlords don’t like it

City boosts fee by 233 percent

SHARON — Sharon council officially upped the city’s rental license fee by 233 percent after being grilled by a handful of landlords.

Council members voted unanimously Thursday to raise the rate to $50 every two years for inspection and licensing of rental units.

The increase works out to an additional $1.46 per month per property, though the fee schedule changes depending on the number of units a landlord owns.

Stan Lefes, who is the president of the Sharon Area Landlord Association, said he didn’t see how city officials could justify such a big jump.

City Manager Scott Andrejchak said the fee helps the city recoup the cost of everything involved with inspecting and licensing the more than 1,300 rental properties in the city.

An analysis of the time involved in conducting the program shows the city spends a total of $58.24 for labor and materials on each inspection, Code Director and firefighter Bob Fiscus said.

The city’s firefighters handle the inspections and, along with members of the code department, the paperwork associated with them.

Anthony Delgros called the hike “outrageous” and questioned why the city needs to be reimbursed for administering the program with employees who’d be getting paid anyway.

The program was put in place in 2004 for the health, welfare and safety of citizens and council President Victor Heutsche, who was on the board at the time, said it started with a nominal fee of $3. That fee was raised to $15 in 2010.

Tenants are supposed to be registered with the city and currently council members Bill James and Tom Burke are going through the lists of licensed properties and reconciling them with the tax rolls to try and find folks who might be skirting the law. Fiscus said people can report such landlords to the code office to look into, as well.

Homes not properly licensed are posted as uninhabitable and charges are filed at the district judge. Fiscus said more than 30 such cases have been filed in the last few months.

Heutsche said the costs of everything are going up and noted that government entities charge fees for other things while tax money also goes toward paying employee salaries.

“We’re also small businessmen. We understand the bottom line,” Lefes said.

Lefes said just because it’s a normal practice doesn’t make it right.

“What do you think the fee ought to be?” Andrejchak asked.

Lefes said he didn’t know and Delgros said he didn’t think people would complain if it went from $15 to $20.

But $20 doesn’t even cover the labor costs for one firefighter to do the inspection and documentation related to it, Fiscus said. It costs the city $23.67 in labor costs for one firefighter (two go out for safety reasons but only one is figured in the cost analysis), $15.12 for clerical labor, $17 for transportation in a department pickup and $2.45 for supplies.

That’s for each inspection and Fiscus said those figures are “very conservative.”

“We’re not going to burden you unnecessarily,” Andrejchak said.

Delgros also said people don’t like that sometimes the city’s fire trucks are used for inspections but officials said they only take them out when there’s a shortage of staff and they might need to go directly to a fire call.

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