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Fixing up the Neighborhoods: Part Four: Another Councilman weighs in...

By Philip Anselmo

Another member of the Batavia City Council has answered our questions on the topic of neighborhood improvement. Sam Barone sent us his responses earlier this week. We still have yet to hear back from several other members of Council.

Follow these links to access the previous three posts in this series:

Answers from Sam Barone:

How do you define a problem property?

A problem property is one that is constantly in the news for negative reasons, such as, it's a drug house, it attracts large crowds, litter is present, the yard is unkept, etc.

When is it decided that a property owner has been given enough warnings? Is that threshold defined? What action then follows? What action ought to follow?

Presently, the city has a procedure for addressing chronic problem homes by issuing three warning letters over a period of 15 days and then a possible court action. This procedure works but is too lengthy. We need a policy with a shorter span of time. I think a citation followed by a fine within two weeks would work. If the owner or tenant is responsive and shows cooperaion, the fine could be lifted. If the owner or tenant is unresponsive, fine them a second and third time; then court.

What are the best ways to take preventive action against absentee landlordism?

The best preventive action is twofold. It involves continued inspections and cooperation among various agencies. The city inspectors have to be on the same page with agencies, such as, DSS, HUD, Section 8 and others involved in placing people in homes. For example, everytime a tenant leaves a rental property, the city inspector should visit looking for code violations, such as, lack of smoke or fire alarms. Another example is a house listed under city properties as a three bedroom home. The city inspectors and dss should be aware of that to prevent overcrowding. I am aware of a three bedroom house where dss placed an adult with eight children in that home. The inside was a disaster.  Fortunately the occupants were finally remove after a city inspector was able to enter the home.

What is the difference between a slum lord and a lazy tenant or homeowner? Is there a difference if the outcome is the same? Ought they to be treated differently?

A lazy tenant can be educated and trained by city inspectors and landlords. A slumlord needs to be fined after every infraction.

When should a tenant and not the landlord be held responsible for the condition of a property, if ever?

The tenant should be held responsible for the rental but only after the landlord has explained to the tenant what the codes are both written and verbally.

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