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LANDLORDS CONSIDERING COURT ACTION AGAINST HARRISBURG’S “DISRUPTIVE PROPERTIES” BILL

A recently passed law cracking down on disruptive rental properties in Harrisburg has landlords fuming and considering court action.

Under the law, if the city issues two disruptive conduct reports for tenants at the same rental property within 12 months, the landlord’s residential  rental  permit for the individual apartment will immediately be revoked.

Should the landlord not begin eviction proceedings against anyone living in the rental within 15 days of receiving notice of the permit revocation, the apartment would be considered unfit for occupancy.

Harrisburg is cracking down on “disruptive” people in rental properties.

The law, which goes into effect on Dec. 4, considers disruptive conduct any violation of any city law that can “reasonably” be deemed to disrupt the peace of neighbors or cause damage to neighboring properties.

It will not shut down an entire multiple-unit rental property. Bill 12 only affects the rental housing disruptive tenants. And after a landlord evicts problem tenants from a unit, they again can rent the space.

City Council members and Mayor Linda Thompson said the law protects property owners from disruptive neighbors, will drive away slum landlords and help preserve property values.

But the Capital Area Rental Property Owners Association says the bill is an overreach and unfairly targets landlords and tenants. It will hit investors in the wallet when they can least afford it in the down economy, said Arthur Sullivan, CARPOA president.

“Is City Council setting up a double standard? People who rent homes are still citizens of the city, and as such, all the [same] laws and regulations also apply to them. What I am asking City Council to do is to apply the laws currently on the book,” Sullivan said. “CARPOA is researching the possibility of taking court action to oppose the enforcement of this new bill.”

If property owners rent to quality tenants, they have no reason to worry about the law, Thompson said. She said the bill was drafted in her office and is part of her three-prong fight against blight.

“I would find it difficult to believe that a responsible landlord would reject this legislation,” Thompson said. “[Landlords] wouldn’t want [disruptive neighbors] in their neighborhoods, so how dare [they] expect us to have it in our neighborhood.

“This legislation should have been enacted years ago,” she said. “This does not affect the good landlord. We are going to run the bad guys out. This is the toughest slum landlord action taken in recent city history.”

Violations of Harrisburg’s property maintenance code is considered disruptive conduct under the law.

And should property owners notified of maintenance code violations not take corrective action within the time allotted to them in notices, the city is able to perform repair work on its own, charge owners for work and materials and tack on an additional 10 percent of repair costs.

It affects your whole life when you are next to a house with disrespectful neighbors. … You become a prisoner in your own house.”

Councilwoman Patty Kim, who is set to leave the board to become Harrisburg’s state representative, said she hopes the law acts as a deterant.

Kim said she personally knows how it feels to live next to disruptive neighbors.

She had hoped the bill would impose a more-lenient four-strikes-and-your-out mandate against landlords instead of two. But she said protecting residents from unruly neighbors was a top priority.

“It affects your whole life when you are next to a house with disrespectful neighbors. You feel like your house is a refuge, and then you become a prisoner in your own house,” Kim said. “I am trying to fight for those residents who invested in their house and deserve peace and quiet in their own homes.”

Kim is a landlord herself and said she “goes to great lengths to find quality tenants.” Too many landlords rent properties to tenants without conducting background checks simply to get a monthly rent check, she said.

The law might be perceived as unfair by landlords, but Kim agreed that it would not affect responsible rental property owners.

Larry Hatter disagrees.

Council may have the right intent at heart, but by adopting the law, it has unwittingly pushed a police responsibility onto the backs of landlords, said Hatter, chairman of the Greater Harrisburg Association of Realtors’ Government Affairs Committee.

The law likely will force landlords to evict tenants who, even though they were loud on occasion, pay their rent and haven’t broken leases, Hatter said.

“The purpose for government is to provide protection and the first thing [council did] was cede the responsibility of protection to the landlord,” he said. “It infringes on private property rights without a doubt. That is the first issue when you get down to the constitutional issue of the matter here.”

Hatter added that “[The law] is not within the landlord/tenant laws. How can I evict somebody when they are in compliance with their lease?”

Often, Harrisburg rental property owners are “mom-and-pop” investors with two to 10 properties in the city, Sullivan said.

Much of the housing stock they buy and rent in Harrisburg is old and takes significant financial and “blood, sweat and tears” investment, he said.

The new law will make it less attractive for those investors to do business in the city going forward because they could easily lose their rental permits through no fault of their own, Sullivan said.

Jason Lucas owns 20 rental properties in Harrisburg and 20 others within 40 minutes of the city.

With council adopting the new law, Lucas said he will not buy another rental property in the city, where it already is hard to attract tenants because of Harrisburg’s debt crisis, crime and poverty rate, poorly performing schools and high utility costs.

“I have so many problems being a landlord in a bankrupt city,” Lucas said. “I can’t believe I have to be responsible for my tenants’ actions and evict people because the government tells me to.

“You only rent to people who live in that neighborhood,” he said. “And if you try to rent to people better than that neighborhood you screw yourself because they will move out after a few months.

“We deal with the pool of people the city attracts,” he said. “They attract the demographics that live there and we have to live with them.”

 

To read more, visit http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2012/11/harrisburg_rental_properties_l.html

LANDLORD REFUSES TO TERMINATE LEASE OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE VICTIM

 Since 2007, Arizona has had a law allowing domestic-violence victims to terminate their leases early and move, without penalty, to protect their   safety.

But that hasn’t helped Anne Koshinski, who said her landlord refused to return her security deposit and threatened to collect the remaining four months’ rent due on her lease when she moved out after her abusive former boyfriend moved in across the street.

Koshinski isn’t alone, said Anthony Young, executive director of Southern Arizona Legal Aid.

Sometimes, landlords don’t know about the law, and, in some cases, he said, landlords try to intimidate tenants or keep them in the dark about their rights, Young said.

Koshinski’s ex-boyfriend was evicted from the Monterey Gardens Apartments, 1039 N. Alamo Ave., where both lived in separate apartments.

The relationship was stormy, Koshinski said, including domestic violence and culminating in her filing an order of protection with Tucson police. She doesn’t want to leave the Monterey Gardens but doesn’t feel safe with her ex living across the street, she said.

The Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act allows tenants to terminate a lease when domestic violence is involved without being liable for security deposits or future rent, if they present the landlord with a protective order or a police report. But when she submitted her order of protection and request to end her lease on Sept. 27, Koshinski said, Northpoint Asset Management, which manages the complex, refused.

David Walsh, Northpoint’s president and chief marketing officer, said his firm has received legal counsel on Koshinski’s case and is not in violation of the law, but he would not comment further.

“Well, the landlord is just wrong,” Young, from Southern Arizona Legal Aid, said. He said about half the people coming to his office state they are victims of domestic violence, and an order of protection alone is enough to get tenants out of a lease.

Young advises domestic-violence victims who must move to present the landlord with the law and relevant documents such as an order of protection, and if they don’t comply, to seek legal help from offices like his. He said it is especially important for people with a Section 8 low-income housing subsidy to follow the letter of the law because a lawsuit could result in losing assistance.

“A huge dynamic of domestic violence is displacement,” said Stephanie Noriega, who works with housing issues at Emerge Center Against Domestic Abuse. She estimates 150 people each month look for help with relocation from Emerge, with requests ranging from a place to stay for the night to permanent relocation resources.

Economic issues are the biggest reason victims struggle to get away from abusers and the places abusers can easily find them, Noriega said. But, she added, victims often don’t know about the statute that could ease those concerns.

The Arizona Multi-Housing Association, which was involved in passage of the law, referred questions to Becky Noel, Crime Free Multi-Housing Officer with the Tucson Police Department, which just completed its final training session of the year on Arizona tenant law for landlords and property managers.

The protection of the law is twofold – it helps victims move, and it allows landlords to remove suspects from leases and avoid incidents on their properties, Noel said. “It’s a win-win,” she said, good for everyone’s safety.

While losing income might be a concern for landlords, Noel said she believes that the statute is rarely used.

The law also provides property owners the right to seek compensation for losses from the person cited in an order of protection.

In a case like Koshinski’s, that is the ex-boyfriend, according to Young.

For her part, Koshinski is going ahead with her move even though her hopes of getting her $150 deposit back are slim.

“I hope it all works out,” she said, “but at least I can walk away knowing I did the right thing.”

 

To read more, visit: http://azstarnet.com/news/local/arizona-law-can-help-victims-of-domestic-violence-to-safety/article_a31060f9-e71e-5cc5-bed8-3d1cf8a2ba93.html

EFFECTIVE JANUARY 1ST, CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS MANDATORY IN THE STATE OF WASHINGTON

TRI-CITIES, Wash. — Effective January 1st, state law says landlords have to install carbon monoxide detectors on their properties.

When most people think of Carbon monoxide, they think of boating accidents, or people running the car in their garage. Well gas-fueled homes are on the increase in Washington and so is CO poisoning. Effective January 1st, state law says landlords have to install carbon monoxide detectors on their properties.

Greg Crawford owns 12 apartments along Birch Avenue in Richland.
He’s been a landlord here for more than a decade. None of his properties have carbon monoxide detectors right now.

“I don’t think a lot of people are aware. I haven’t had any tenants mention it, that they would like to have them.. carbon monoxide detectors,” Greg tells KEPR.

As of January First, every rental, hotel, apartment and remodel will have to have the detectors on each level of the home.

Greg says, “Mount them either in the ceiling or down low.”

Homes built after 2009, already have them. They weren’t required before that. Firefighters wish they were a requirement for every home. They’ve seen more cases of carbon monoxide poisoning over the years, which can come from a natural gas leak.

Batallion Chief Tod Kreutz explains, “More people are putting in gas.. we’re having more and more activations.”

In Washington, more people were hospitalized for C-O poisoning in recent years. From just 50 in 2008, to three times that last year.

Carbon Monoxide poisoning can be fatal, but it’s rare. It’s most common when there’s a power outage that lasts for a few days.This is what happened in Grant County back in 2007. A generator was brought inside a home for heat and three kids under age eight died from the fumes. It’s one more reason why firefighters say this is a cheap way to keep your family safe.

Tod continues, “It’s a minimal investment, to have some security in your home. The prices have gone down tremendously in the last few years for Carbon monoxide detectors.”

You can pick up an alarm at any general hardware store, costing anywhere from on sale here for about $25 up to $50.

Eventually, any homes sold will have to have C-O detectors, but laws are still in the works for that.

Another thing you should know, don’t save a buck by purchasing a combination smoke and carbon monoxide detector. Smoke detectors last ten years, and carbon monoxide only six. Investing in them separately might save you in the end.

 

To read more, visit http://www.keprtv.com/news/local/New-state-laws-making-carbon-monoxide-detectors-mandatory-176348691.html

WASHINGTON STATE GOVERNOR SIGNS FAIR TENANT SCREENING BILL

Washington has laws like the landlord – tenant act that address housing discrimination. But some landlords find ways to get around the mandates, until now.

On Thursday, Governor Christine Gregoire signed the ‘Fair Tenant Screening Act.’ It forces landlords to make public details about potential tenants collected in screening reports.

The reports could be misleading about an applicants past, such as their income, disability or domestic violence.

“We see that barrier frequently for the clients were working with for the victims of domestic violence, being able to find safe affordable housing is essential for their family safety,” explains Erinn Gailey of the Domestic Violence Center of Benton and Franklin Counties.

One example the Domestic Violence Center has heard is clients being evicted for breaking a past lease to avoid an abuser. Gailey adds the center has advocates to help victims and educate landlords. The measure goes into effect June 7th.

To read more, visit http://www.kndo.com/story/17170926/governor-sign-fair-tenant-screening-bill