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Schenectady rental inspection changes pulled for revision

Officials responding to concerns from landlords

Saturday, February 9, 2013
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— Just days before Monday’s public hearing, city officials have pulled their controversial legislation regarding rental inspections.

They now plan to rewrite portions of it and then hold a new public hearing at some point.

Assistant Corporation Counsel Carl Falotico said he decided to change the legislation after meeting with a landlords group, Schenectady Landlords Influencing Change.

The legislation was controversial because it sharply increased the cost of mandatory rental inspections. But landlords had welcomed a provision in the legislation that would allow them to do minor plumbing and electrical repairs at their properties without a professional license, just as homeowners are allowed to.

And some landlords liked a provision that would guarantee just one inspection a year, rather than an inspection every time a tenant moved out.

But others complained that the new proposal unfairly punished them for their excellent facilities. They said their buildings were in such good shape that tenants stayed for years. They rarely had to have an inspection under the current rules, which call for inspections only when tenants move out.

Falotico said he wanted to reconsider the legislation in the wake of their complaints.

“They raised concerns we want to make sure we take into account,” he said. But, he added, “I’m not saying we’ll do everything.”

The changes have not yet been drafted, but he plans to present the new legislation at the Feb. 19 council committee meeting. That meeting was moved from Feb. 18 because that is President’s Day.

Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo said she was pleased that Falotico was willing to tweak his legislation.

“Although some things are non-negotiable, because of the safety of the tenants, we want to get as close as possible [to what the landlords want] so our property owners — which essentially are business owners in our city — are not unduly burdened,” she said.

Landlords have argued that their properties should not be subject to inspections at all, but city officials won’t budge on that.

“The issue at heart was we’ve got some properties that aren’t maintained well enough,” Councilman Carl Erikson said.

He added that landlords with poorly maintained buildings probably hate inspections because of the repairs they must make after each visit from code enforcers. But he doesn’t want to help that landlord stay in business by offering less burdensome rules.

“That guy is going to get irritated, but we don’t need that guy,” Erikson said.

Erikson wants to offer payment options for landlords so that they can pick the cheapest inspection method. Those who have little turnover could pay per inspection, while those with a lot of turnover might find it cheaper to pay per year, he said.

SLIC organizer Chris Morris said she was “thrilled” to hear that the legislation would be changed.

“We’re very happy to speak and be listened to because there is reasoning on both sides,” she said.

She added that if the inspection price were “reasonable,” landlords might be persuaded to cooperate. Currently, most landlords refuse to apply for an inspection certificate, flouting the law.

“We will work from within,” Morris said. “I’ve even heard people say, ‘If that was $25, I’d do it, I’d comply.’ And that’s what we want.”

 
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