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Ford City eyes increased fees for landlords

A proposed increase in fees landlords pay to have rental properties in Ford City has some council members worried that the financial boost would hurt more than help the borough.

The proposed change in the landlord-tenant ordinance would increase to $50 the fee landlords pay for each apartment in the buildings they own. The current fee is $50 for one apartment and $15 for each additional unit owned by the landlord. That means a landlord who had a four-apartment building would pay $200 instead of $95 a year, Borough Manager Eden Ratliff said.

Such an increase is too much in the eyes of Councilman Josh Abernathy.

“If you have a triplex, that’s $50 times three a year. It’s going to drive people out,” Abernathy said Tuesday.

Abernathy said the higher fee could bring more absentee landlords, who, without a stake in the community, would have little incentive to maintain the properties.

“We’re not attracting local landlords,” he said. “All it would do is drive property values down.”

He and Council President Kathy Bartuccio at a Monday meeting voted against advertising the proposed fee increase — a step needed before the ordinance can be changed by the board. Council at the meeting voted 3-2, with Councilman Scott Gaiser absent, to place the advertisement announcing the proposed change.

Ford City in 2010 adopted the landlord-tenant ordinance that established the fee and required landlords to register each of their rental units. The ordinance was put in place to regulate rental properties, which by 2009 were estimated to have grown in number to 500, or about a third of all homes in the borough.

But Abernathy, who owns rental properties outside the borough, said increasing fees in the regulation would leave landlords unlikely to absorb the added cost.

“In other municipalities, properties get sucked up by landlords because they don’t have these restrictions,” he said. “A house has to break even for it to be a viable option. You can’t pass the increase onto a tenant because they just won’t rent your house.”

Tracey Rowley, rental manager for Altman Real Estate in Kittanning, said she doesn’t think Abernathy’s fears are warranted.

“It’s not a considerable jump,” she said. “I think local landlords would be OK with the increase.”

Rowley thinks increasing the fee may even encourage landlords to become more responsible for their properties.

“They may take a little more care in finding the right tenant … not just putting in a tenant to have a tenant,” she said.

Julie E. Martin is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1315 or [email protected].


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