Carlisle neighborhood groups hopeful for rental ordinance

An article posted in the Sentinel today discusses a new attempt to implement a rental inspection program in Carlisle.  The program is designed to try to keep rental properties up to code through maintenance by the landlord but also will help landlords deal with tenants.  The articles is copied below but please post to the discussion on the Sentinel site to keep the dialog going on this issue.

From the Sentinel:

Almost exactly 15 years ago, Carlisle Borough Council scrapped plans for a rental inspection program when council members voted down a proposed ordinance to allow for the inspections.

History isn’t stopping determined members of a neighborhood group from having another go at getting a similar ordinance passed.

“Things have changed a lot since that time,” said Lynn Helding, co-founder and former president of the SoSo (South of South) Neighborhood Association.

Neighborhood associations have grown and become a more organized, vocal part of the community, she added, and one concern that many, if not all, have are rental properties in the borough.

Some problem properties, Helding said, are not maintained by landlords and could diminish the value of nearby properties and some unruly tenants disrupt neighborhoods.

The proposed ordinance – which is in a very preliminary stage – that Helding and other members of SoSo and members of other neighborhood groups will propose to council is not meant to regulate what color a landlord paints the outside of a property but would cover issues concerning “health, safety and the quality of life,” Helding said.

It would include the registration and inspection of all rental units and require that a license be issued for each unit.

Years in the making

Currently, the borough has a property maintenance ordinance in place, said Borough Manager Steve Hietsch.

Before borough officials can address a code violation, it has to be evident from a public place – such as a road or sidewalk- seen during a routine patrol or received in a complaint. Inspections of a dwelling’s interior are not permitted until a violation is seen or a complaint is filed.

Under the proposed ordinance, all residential rental units would have to be registered by landlords with the borough. Costs would range from $25 for a single or double unit at a property to $100 for multiple unit properties. Registration would be valid until a property is sold.

Also, a property owner or a designated agent must live within 25 miles of the borough.

Each unit will also have to be licensed at a cost of between $15 to $25 per unit depending on what kind it is.

A license would only be issued if the unit passes an inspection with no codes violations.

An inspection would be conducted every three years or sooner if a complaint is received, if a violation is detected, if the property changes hands, or if a new tenant moves in. Re-inspections due to codes violations would be paid by the property owner.

Before council takes up a vote on the matter, which likely won’t be for another couple of months, Hietsch said, borough staff will have some research on their hands.

“This is the kind of thing you have to have your ducks in a row,” he said.

Hietsch said he reviewed the proposed ordinance recently.

One goal of the borough’s comprehensive plan is to “attempt to achieve a workable program which will enhance the quality and code compliance of rental housing units.”

Officials with neighborhood associations said they’ll meet with Council President Sean Shultz in the near future to present the ordinance.

Shultz said he hasn’t seen it yet but added he has heard complaints from residents about rental properties in the past.

“I think it can be a good idea,” he said of the ordinance. “It worked in other communities.”

One of the few

Problem properties have been a topic of discussion with neighborhood group members for years, Helding said. About a year and a half ago, Helding and a committee comprised of SoSo members began to look into an ordinance fit for Carlisle.

In their research, Helding said, the committee discovered Carlisle is one of the few towns in the state without an ordinance regulating rental properties.

Mechanicsburg, Shippensburg, and Southampton Township (Franklin County) are just some of the area municipalities that inspect rental properties, Helding said.

“We’re really the minority now,” she said.

Members of the East Side Neighbors Association have also raised issues about problem properties, said association President Curtis Hetrick.

He supports the borough enacting the ordinance.

Some rental units within ESNA boundaries are deteriorating, he said, and the association has attempted to contact landlords about problems to no avail.

“It’s got to a point where we have to take action,” Hetrick said.

The ordinance would also likely benefit landlords, Helding added, who would then have a “tool” when dealing with disruptive tenants.

The ordinance has a points system to deal with violations.

Five or more points accumulated by a landlord within a 12-month period would result in a license suspension and five or more points racked up by tenants in the same time period would give cause for a landlord to begin eviction proceedings.

“I don’t think anybody is trying to single out landlords,” Hietsch said.

Full Story Here