The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

December 11, 2013

Landlords weigh in on proposal

SHARPSVILLE — Some landlords aren’t happy about a proposed revision of the rental inspection ordinance. But most of the eight who talked it over Monday with Sharpsville council said they can live with the plan to tighten building safety procedures in the borough.

Several in the group said, however, that landlords who maintain rentals properly shouldn’t be overregulated because of problems caused by other landlords who don’t.

Under the borough’s ordinance, landlords are required to have rentals checked by a state-certified inspector when tenants change or once every three years. It allows them to use the inspector designated by the borough or their own, Borough Manager Ken Robertson said.

There are about 70 landlords registered to do business in Sharpsville, he said.

Jeff Richardson, of Richardson Inspections, Volant, charges $45 for the inspections paid for by the building owners.

Until this year, council allowed landlords to do their own inspections and avoid the inspection fee although that isn’t in the ordinance. Under that arrangement, they paid the borough $3 for a permit.

“Some on council thought self-inspection wasn’t working, so earlier this year, we went back to what the ordinance says, requiring a state-certified inspector,” Robertson said.

Landlords complained about that because of the fee, and some on council thought the borough should charge a higher permit fee, Robertson said, so a public safety committee made up of council members Tom Patton, Chris Combine and Jack Cardwell came up with another approach.

Units being rented for the first time would have to be checked by a certified inspector. For other units, landlords could pay an inspector for the work or do their own inspections if they followed a checklist based on state and borough codes that govern building safety. They would pay the borough $10 a unit to do their own inspection.

Landlords would have to certify to both the borough and the tenant that the unit met safety standards, including such things as having a properly working smoke detector, safe “ground fault interrupter” electrical outlets, and handrails, doors and windows in good working order.

They and tenants would sign a form kept by the borough to certify a proper inspection had been done and that tenants knew how to report code violations.

Worry that self-inspections would be discontinued wasn’t the only complaint about the planned revision.

Requiring inspections after every change in tenants was unnecessarily costly and burdensome, Mike Wilson said. He suggested that every three years should be enough.

“Why not concentrate on the landlords who don’t maintain their properties like most of us do,” Ray Andel asked. The owner of 23 rental units said the borough could “create a top 10 list of landlords – or owner-occupants, for that matter – who don’t maintain their properties and hammer them. That’s the way to raise the safety bar.”

Robertson said the revision will be advertised in The Herald when it’s finished and that the ordinance wouldn’t be ready for a vote until early next year.

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