Keeping landlords close by an option in New Kensington
New Kensington city officials continue to debate how they can best crack down on negligent landlords.
Council members and the city’s landlords association on Monday voiced support for an ordinance that would require property owners to live within a certain distance of New Kensington.
Officials believe landlords will take better care of their properties if they live locally, or at least have a local manager overseeing the land.
“We are all for it,” said Don Ryan, president of the landlords association.
However, city Solicitor James Kopelman questioned whether such a restriction would be legal.
“I have very grave reservations that an ordinance like that would stand a court test,” said Kopelman.
Kopelman said he would review a similar ordinance enacted by Verona and other communities researched by New Kensington’s Weed and Seed program.
“I would actually like to do this,” said Mayor Tom Guzzo. “We are in favor of property owners or managers living within a certain radius of the city.
Councilman John Regoli said there likely would need to be a grandfather clause excluding existing property owners from the restrictions. Additionally, he said officials would need to consider how to handle a situation in which a local owner dies and wills property to a non-local heir.
“I will try to figure out a way to do it,” said Kopelman. “But I think the courts would say we have building codes and should enforce them (to accomplish the proposed ordinance’s property maintenance goals).”
Ryan noted the difficulty the city’s code enforcement office has in tracking down out-of-state landlords.
That point was driven home earlier Monday evening when council met with the board of health with the intention of condemning a residential property at 337 and 337 1/2 Freeport Road.
Enforcement Officer Pat McGrath said a previous owner, located in London and using an unofficial representative in Ohio, had been granted an extension to repair the property when council previously considered condemnation.
Some minimal repairs were made, but McGrath said the foundation is still seriously damaged and feared the building is a safety hazard. He said the cost of the needed repairs exceed the building’s worth.
Since the extension was granted, the property was sold on eBay to another owner in Israel.
City Clerk Dennis Scarpiniti said the new owner has requested at least a 30-day extension to review the property.
Council was reluctant to delay condemning the property — Regoli said it’s at least the third time an extension has been granted.
“What if this guy is just trying to buy time until he can find another sucker to buy it?” Regoli asked, adding council would have to delay action again if the property is resold.
But Kopelman said the new owner needs to be properly notified and given a chance to rectify the situation. Council agreed to continue the hearing in December.
Regoli said council likely would only delay approving condemnation another 30 days from the December hearing.
Kopelman suggested requiring the owner to put up a bond to insure its intentions.