After mixed reactions from the public following a special hearing, Northampton Borough Council decided to table an ordinance pertaining to rental properties and housing occupancy at their Jan. 18 meeting.
The ordinance, which was subject to a special public hearing prior to the beginning of council’s regularly scheduled meeting, faced opposition from landlords and support from others as council looks to establish the legislation that they believe will improve the public health and safety for borough residents.
The ordinance would require owners of rental units to apply for residential rental licenses for each unit owned. If passed, owners would be required to obtain a license through submission of an application along with applicable fees.
In addition, the ordinance would require separate inspections for each rental unit owned for a residential rental license to be issued.
Joan Marinkovits, an owner of rental units in the borough, said the new ordinance would be too costly to borough residents and rental unit owners.
“I think inspection is a good idea, but I think we need something with more reasonable costs,” she said. “All this money is looking like it’s going to pay someone’s salary. We don’t need that, not in a town this size.”
Jeff Odenwelder was another resident and owner who was concerned about costs the ordinance would impose, saying that landlords would have to forward the new costs onto their tenants, with other landlords in attendance agreeing with his statement.
“If you’re going to start charging us, we’re going to pass it along,” Odenwelder said. “If you charge me to inspect it, I would charge them, I would tack it on.”
Odenwelder said that the borough should not pass an all-encompassing ordinance to fix problems caused by a few bad landlords.
“I’m not against going after scumlords, and there are scumlords in the borough,” he said. “I say throw the book at them, but don’t make every good other landlord here pay for a handful of them.”
Odenwelder, particularly referring to Section 8 housing, said the units get inspected every year by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. He said both Northampton County and Northampton Borough are now attempting to impose additional inspections on top of HUD inspections.
Councilman Robert McHale said that the borough should consider using the inspection documents provided by HUD to exempt already-inspected units.
“Maybe we need to look at that as part of the inspection… maybe that suffices then,” McHale said.
Councilman Anthony Lopsonzski said that while some landlords think the ordinance is a “money grab,” the ordinance would be self-sustaining to pay for the costs it would impose.
“This program is designed to fund itself,” Lopsonzski said.
After receiving constructive and detailed feedback from residents, the board decided the best option was to table the ordinance. McHale said the board received “excellent” comments from the public.
Lopsonzski agreed and said that the comments from the public were well-informed and had merit.
“I was very pleased, again, with the comments from the public,” he said. “I was pleasantly surprised. They were pretty enlightened.”
Lopsonzski said the ordinance is something that the borough can continue to work on going forward, taking into consideration the thoughts and comments from residents.
“I believe that we have something that we can work with. We’re not rushing to get everything all in one day. As everyone understands, I think this is a long process,” Lopsonzski said. “It needs to just be tailored a little bit.”