Fixing up the Neighborhoods: Part One
We said yesterday that we'd be working on a series of posts related to neighborhood improvement issues. For the first part of our series—not that we've yet flesh out a second part—we would like to focus on problem properties, in particular: what they are and how to deal with them. We've already sent out questions on that topic and left messages with a couple members of the City Council. We expect to hit up a couple more. Council President Charlie Mallow was kind enough to get right back to us, and we have his answers below. He's got some real insights into the issue. Check out his comments.
We're also hoping to hear from you. When does a neighboring home turn from annoyance to nuisance to real problem? How should the city handle its problem properties? When should people be left alone?
Please be sure to check back with the site in the coming days and weeks. We hope to get up many more posts on this issue, which we're sure is an important one for this community.
Answers from Charlie Mallow:
How do you define a problem property?
A problem property is one that isn’t adding to the balance of a neighborhood. It’s the sore thumb of the area. Its owner is not keeping up with maintenance or its residents are causing disturbances. There also has to be some intent to avoid doing routine maintenance or create disturbances routinely. Since anyone could have health problems that keep them from being able to keep up with property maintenance from time to time.
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?
These thresholds are found in our code and state code. They are pretty ineffective; I would like to see some changes. I would like to see a property given notice and asked to respond, and then I would like to see a follow-up some time later, where a court appearance ticket is issued with a fine. We have been too easy in the past and people know how to work the system at this point.
What are the best ways to take preventive action against absentee landlordism?
Tough question. I believe you need to make it easier for people to own their own home. That’s easier said than done in our current mortgage crisis. Proper property maintenance inspections by city staff will take care of most of the problem. Our cities real issue is that we have not enforced the laws on the books for years. We have been understaffed and this has never been a priority of city government.
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?
Right now there is no punishment for being a lazy or bad tenant. The landlord gets left holding the bag. There is another side to the problem. Most landlords are good people who care about and for their properties. There are some rotten apples but, we can’t keep beating on landlords and cast them all in a bad light. We need to find a way of punishing the right person. How? That is something we in the NIC (Neighborhood Improvement Committee) have talked about over and over again and can’t seem to find an answer for.
When should a tenant and not the landlord be held responsible for the condition of a property, if ever?
In the photo above is a neat home on Walnut Street. Batavia has many such colorful and interesting residences. We can only hope that the residents do their best to take care of them.