The Northampton Borough Council once again voted to table its proposed rental inspection ordinance following a public hearing during which residents and borough landlords voiced their opinions and concerns about the long-debated ordinance. The hearing, held on Thursday, August 2, preceded council’s public workshop meeting.
The hearing’s rhetoric echoed past public hearings and discussions, with most landlords against the ordinance and most residents in favor of it.
Landlord Joan Marinkovits read from the Emmaus Chapter 11 housing ordinance during the hearing. The ordinance puts the burden of registration on the tenant and does not require a fee for landlords.
While Marinkovits said she believes rental units should be inspected, she does not believe in rental unit registration.
“I do not understand why I need to be licensed to rent property,” she said.
Accompanying Marinkovits was one of her tenants. The tenant’s daughter recently moved in with him. Marinkovits said she would “have to” evict him if the ordinance was passed because he would be “living there illegally.”
Councilwoman Judy Kutzler countered this claim, calling it “not true.”
“You have a choice to evict,” she said.
Marinkovits and her tenant left the hearing midway through.
Other landlords agreed that they would be open to inspections. However, like Marinkovits, their biggest issue seemed to be registration fees.
“The last thing I need is another fee,” said one landlord.
However, residents said something must be done with the apartments in the borough before they bring down the property values of their homes.
“Some are deplorable,” said resident Donna Persing. “I would not let my dog live [in them].”
Resident Kathy Novograwtz agreed. The fee, she said, is really “a charge” that “is paying for people to inspect these places.”
Landlords, she said, are “basically business owners.”
Councilman Robert McHale, a member of the borough’s rental inspection ordinance committee, said landlords’ comments and suggestions have been reflected in the updated ordinance draft. Inspections will be done every four years, and a new construction exemption has been added. In addition, if violations are found, there is a courtesy first inspection.
In regards to the charge, Councilman Anthony Lopsonzski, Sr. said the money goes into a separate line item for rental property maintenance in the borough’s general fund. Reduced expenses can mean reduced fees.
“Does public safety have a price tag?” Councilwoman Kutzler asked residents.
However, Mayor Thomas Reenock still spoke out against the ordinance.
“This ordinance needs more than a tweaking,” he said. “It needs another realignment.”
Mayor Reenock also took issue with complaints about borough properties.
“I got three councilmen downgrading my borough constantly,” he said.
It was shortly after this statement that the hearing was called to an end.
After a brief recess, Councilman McHale motioned to table the ordinance until the next borough meeting. He asked that the ordinance draft and inspection form be posted on the borough’s website so members of the public can view it.