Northampton Press

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Delayed again

Wednesday, May 9, 2018 by AL RECKER Special to The Press in Local News

Borough council now expected to vote on rental ordinance May 17

A vote on the proposed rental property ordinance, which has its proponents and detractors, is now expected to be voted on by Northampton Borough Council at its May 17 meeting.

The council committee — Robert McHale, Judy Kutzler and Anthony Lopsonzski Sr. — has pared the legislation to 11 pages.

The new ordinance would require landlords to pay a registration fee for each unit, to allow a borough code officer to schedule inspections of the property, to pay inspection fees and to correct unsafe conditions.

Residents, including several landlords, gave their opinions during a May 2 hearing.

Councilman Ed Pany is firmly opposed to enacting the ordinance. Councilman Tony Pristash has expressed reservations regarding the legislation. Mayor Thomas Reenock, who can cast a vote only when a tie occurs, is also adamantly against its passage.

Council members Keith Piescien- ski and Kenneth Hall offered no opinion on the matter at the meeting nor did council President Anthony Lopsonz- ski Jr.

Landlords present, Pany and Reenock contend the borough has the tools to ensure compliance of existing borough codes and the necessary enforcement — such as building, zoning, fire, police, property maintenance and other personnel — to ensure the safety of tenants.

Pany asked if the next legislation would include inspections of private homes.

“My daughter lives in a 115-year-old house,” he said, asking if it would end up on the inspection list.

Pany said this is “another layer of bureaucracy on the taxpayer.”

“And this is only the beginning,” he surmised.

He also noted the town is not crumbling but said people are fleeing.

“We want a viable community,” Kutzler said, noting the ordinance addresses health and safety concerns via inspections.

There are approximately 1,465 rental units in the borough.

A representative from The Gin Mill & Grille, Main Street, said its management has a hotel license, and 16 units have to be registered and undergo strict inspection by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.

Kutzler said inspections ensure landlords comply with the inspections and codes.

“You have to stress moving permits,” retired Magisterial District Judge Joan Marinkovits, a landlord, told council.

Another resident said he has a very nice unit on Main Street. He posed a hypothetical situation — A neighbor, the owner of a single-family home, has a faulty electrical outlet that causes a fire and his rented apartment sustains damage. The homeowner does not need to be inspected. What if the apartment also did not get the inspection required by the proposed ordinance?

“We move on them,” Reenock said.

Relating his own experience regarding his residence, which would be affected if the legislation passes, Reenock said, “I’m going to have a lawyer to fight it. This is ridiculous.”