SCHENECTADY COUNTY — The Schenectady County Legislature will vote Tuesday to reduce the amount of time a landlord has to store items left behind by evicted tenants.
The current county law requires that tenants’ belongings be stored for up to six months, or until claimed by the tenant. The proposal being voted on would amend that to make the mandatory storage period just 30 days for landlords who participate in the city of Schenectady’s rental certificate program, which requires inspections of apartments between tenants.
“We’re trying to encourage landlords to get rental certificates so that landlords will maintain their properties better,” said County Attorney Christopher Gardner.
The change is being made in response to a request from Schenectady Landlords Influencing Change, which came to the Legislature in November to say the requirement to store belongings for six months, which has been in place since 1999, was costly and onerous for landlords.
During a public hearing on the proposed local law held last Monday, SLIC president Chris Morris said the proposed changes don’t go far enough.
“We do not find much of a change in the landlord responsibilities, timelines and directives,” she said at the hearing.
The majority of Schenectady County’s rental housing is in the city, where there are about 3,000 evictions a year, according to Gardner. He said the county is trying to strike a balance between the rights of landlords and the rights of tenants.
The landlords group has told stories of tenants leaving essentially all their furniture and belongings behind, to which the common solution is to lock the items in the apartment, which then can’t be rerented until the six-month storage requirement has been met.
Under the proposed law, any items left behind would need to be stored for 30 days, instead of the current six months — except for apartments that don’t go through the reinspection. However, if the matter is addressed in the lease, the lease’s terms govern.
If an evicted tenant claims their property, the landlord could charge them for any “reasonable” storage costs. If property isn’t claimed after the mandatory storage period, landlords are free to dispose of it.
“We feel this is a good compromise,” Gardner said.
Gardner said extenuating circumstances can cause an eviction, and the county wants to be sure the rights of tenants, as well as landlords, are protected.
“We want to make sure there are no consequences that might affect a good tenant who has had a little adversity,” he said.
Morris said SLIC was disappointed not to see its changes included in the final law. SLIC had wanted the six-month storage requirement eliminated entirely.
“We were disappointed to see what we saw to begin with, so if they are not going to change it, we will be disappointed, but we will focus on the key clause that says in the contractual rental agreement,” she said.
She said “money and behavior” and the two big reasons tenants are evicted.