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Schenectady rental certificates face fight by landlords

Wednesday, November 14, 2012
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— Schenectady landlords are organizing to fight the planned enforcement of city rental certificate regulations next year.

Several landlords spoke at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, laying out proposals that run counter to what the council has planned.

Council members responded by saying they would be happy to work with the landlords. But they voted to keep their budget, which adds an employee to focus solely on rental unit inspections.

So landlords are gearing up for a long fight.

They object to every inspection, whether in owner-occupied small houses or large apartment buildings. It is a violation of their constitutional right to be free from searches without a warrant, they said, adding that the $50 inspection fee could push them over the edge to financial insolvency, particularly since taxes and the garbage fee are increasing next year.

But mostly they said inspections won’t force bad landlords to get better, and aren’t necessary for good landlords.

Forcing inspections on decent landlords is offensive, they said.

“There are good landlords in the city!” said landlord Bob Bridges. “They aren’t all bad landlords!”

He added, “I love this city, truly. I want to see things get better.”

Other landlords suggested that the city too often takes the side of the tenant.

Chris Morris, who organized Schenectady Landlords Influencing Change, said city officials should call the landlord first when a tenant calls the city to complain about a problem.

The city should give the landlord a chance to resolve the issue, she said.

“Those are really tenant-landlord issues,” she said.

Some Guyanese landlords submitted a letter saying they felt that code enforcers weren’t consistent in their inspections. They said they suspected some enforcers judged them more harshly because of their race.

Other landlords said they had not encountered racial bias but didn’t feel that inspectors treated them fairly.

Both groups said they wanted a housing standards board that could mediate disputes between the inspectors and the landlords. They said at least two of the five members on the board should be landlords.

Landlord Julie Horn said the city should cut the fee to $25, and not charge a re-inspection fee if the apartment fails on the first visit.

She said the plan to enforce the inspection requirement would be a financial drain, particularly since taxes and the garbage fee are going up.

“Schenectady is becoming an undesirable place,” she said.

Others said the inspections are unconstitutional.

“Opening their properties to inspection will only violate their constitutional right,” said landlord Mohammed Hafez. He added that inspecting every apartment in the city is “impractical.”

He suggested that the city instead work only with landlords who voluntarily submit to inspection.

 
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