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September 24, 2008 - 2:00pm

Fixing up the Neighborhoods: Part One

posted by Philip Anselmo in community, city council, Neighborhoods.

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?

See above..


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.

Dean Betz
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n-e-i-g-h-b-o-r-h-o-o-d-s.
Gabor Deutsch
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WHY DONT YOU SHOW SOME OF THE CRAPPY LOOKING PLACES AND CALL THE "LANDLORDS" OR "TENANTS" OUT ON IT ?
Philip Anselmo
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Thanks for the heads-up, Dean.
Gabor Deutsch
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What if landlords and certain tenants are to blame ? Take a pic of 11 Dellinger Ave and try to blame One Person. You make the outside look too good then your property assesment goes up ergo your taxes. You rent out your place to low income as a favor and the tenants mess stuff up. Good luck with that. Do you know how much it costs anyone to throw big broken items out ? Five to ten dollars an item. Dont blame me, i am good tenant that has no control.
Katie Elia
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Perhaps this is a bit off topic, but I couldn't help but read this and wonder about the value of street picnics and gatherings. Our street apparently used to have them yearly. We have been here about 6 years and have been to two, with the last being very poorly attended. I can't help but to think that making an effort to bring neighbors face to face a bit more often would facilitate more of a community effort in making beneficial property changes. Think it's possible that we could ever have a traditional, "neighbors helping neighbors" set up?Similar to Habitat for Humanity but a bit more localized to individual streets. Everyone has their strengths. Mine is not landscaping :), however I love to paint. Exchange strengths? I would love that. How to begin? I have no idea.
lazario Ladou
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I think the real problem behind "laziness" is the idea of PRIVATE PROPERTY itself Therefore things will never change But Forget the homes and properties Focus on the people Get to know what's going on with them that leads to these "undesirable behaviors" Find the or an equitable solution Good Luck With That I think Charlie gets himself into trouble when he mentions Balance Life takes all kinds we should enjoy everyone not merely put up with If the property doesn't pose a REAL threat to anyone Leave em alone I don't know if other people will agree with me but it seems Charlie lets the rental owners skate -quite- a bit in his comments especially in contrast to the tenants he speaks of When he does directly speak of the "rotten apples" he quickly follows with a BUT Never says anything about tenants taking care of property etc etc like he does the owner ? Renters pay in advance in case they damage the place already being suspected Owners give nothing tangible as a guarantee of services except for a sheet of paper I rent I'm a pretty damn good renter. I take pride in where I live and leave it better *much better* than how I found it I do this not only for my own enjoyment but for the renters coming in after me I want to give people a chance to live somewhere they otherwise perhaps couldn't Place where they can feel as though they are respected Not just their money wanted I rent from good people. These owners are not always the best at fixing/replacing things or doing/seeing the cosmetic changes that NEED to be made But they -as good people- allow me to make changes they wouldn't and usually will pay for a good amount of materials once they see the changes I can make to a place Hopefuly these units aren't jacked up in price to the degree that the people I'm truly working for can't afford to live there ...but living in Batavia minimizes this chance I trust the owner/s to not take advantage of me I trust the new tenants to respect us for the care we both have helped provide I think this works Its the same as Katies idea, which I obviously like People have to take care of people More owners need to stop thinking of properties as investments and begin thinking more of the families they host as being the investments Higher standards for all involved Adequate is not good enough! Go above and beyond and you will get more than you expected in return If you do not You have likely influenced -someones- life in a positive way a child, neighbor, friend of If you are a good person and care about others You absorb the loss and give it another go In the end you'll very likely come out on top I've checked out many properties and more times than not around here they appear to have been rather unchanged since the 70's while they price according to todays market Renters People do not respect this treatment They trash the joint and I can see why It's depressing and demoralizing
Anne Barone
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Anyone with concerns about their neighborhood or the Batavia community in general should consider attending the Neighborhood Improvement Committee meetings. They meet the 1st Wednesday of the month at 6:30pm in city council chambers. It's open to everyone who has a stake in the city and you have the opportunity to voice your concerns at the beginning of the meeting. The members of this committee represent each ward of the city as well as some "at-large" members. Next meeting is October 1. Please attend, hear and be heard.
John Roach
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Maybe one of our Council members can answer this. Did the Public Nuisance law (Slum lord control) that was “tabled” or ‘failed” as the city told the Batavian, have a provision to license landlords who owned a certain number of properties, or where absentee landlords? I know we are told that State law has all the requirements needed, but did this local law have some tougher language? Why can’t it be brought back up so we can see what was buried away? Wouldn’t even tougher standards help the neighborhoods?
Brenda Ranney
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Thank you Ann, for the information on the Neighborhood Improvement Committee Meetings. Hopefully in the near future I will be able to attend. On a side note that painted lady on Walnut was an act of difiance by the previous owner who was out of commpliance with city code laws regarding the sad state of his home. City told him to paint so he painted. Painted over rotten wood. Painted over windows. Painted. Gotta love civil disobedience when done with a flair.

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