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What you need to know for 10/19/2017

Schenectady City Council delays amendments on rental inspections

Schenectady City Council delays amendments on rental inspections

The Schenectady City Council took another stab at amending the rental inspection system Monday, but

The Schenectady City Council took another stab at amending the rental inspection system Monday, but tabled the issue in the face of vehement opposition from landlords.

Council members said they hope to vote on amendments to the existing inspection law in two weeks.

Still up for debate is whether the council should lower the inspection fee. Currently it is $50 per unit, every time a tenant moves out, and $25 for re-inspection if the unit fails on the first inspection.

City officials proposed a new payment structure for buildings with at least six units, in which they would pay one lump sum per year based on the number of units on the property. But landlords said it would wind up costing them more than $50 per unit unless they have very high turnover.

Council members didn’t propose a lower fee, but landlords continued to press for one Monday.

They had asked for the fee to be $25 per unit. Since the council didn’t accept that idea, landlord Bharath Arjoon suggested $40 per unit, with free re-inspections.

“Let us have something,” he pleaded. “Please reconsider that. I don’t think what we are asking is unreasonable.”

Chris Morris, who organized the landlord group Schenectady Landlords Influencing Change, said the group needs a lower fee to persuade other landlords to get inspections. The inspections are scheduled only when a landlord calls the city to ask for one, and fewer than 20 percent of the city’s landlords do so. The rest are theoretically not allowed to rent their apartments, but they do anyway.

Morris said the group could get some of those landlords to cooperate — with a lower fee.

“We feel strongly that the city needs to provide more incentives for us to work with,” she said. “We’re with you. Let us play the game and see how high we can score.”

City Council members had previously said they might consider lowering the fee for good landlords in a few years if inspections increased. But Morris told them not to wait.

“We want to act now ... but we need the tools,” she said. “We need you, but honestly and frankly, you need us.”

Tenant privacy

Another landlord said the law should be changed to keep tenants’ names private, because those escaping domestic violence do not want to be found by their former partners.

Councilman Carl Erikson said he would support an exception in the law that allowed tenants names to be hidden under those circumstances.

Landlords also objected to the fact that city officials had not yet made public the inspection checklist.

Erikson said he wanted to give out copies of the checklist when the amendments are passed.

He did not say whether he would support a fee change, but acknowledged the group’s efforts.

“They’re fierce negotiators,” he said.

Still, he said he wanted to finish the amendments soon.

“We need to move forward with something that’s better than what we have now. That’s progress,” he said.

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