Caving in roofs, cockroaches in refrigerators, and a tattoo parlor renting rooms for $100 a week. These were just some of the stories Northampton residents brought to Borough Council’s attention during council’s monthly workshop meeting on Thursday, Sept. 6. Several residents appeared before council during the meeting. While their stories of rental properties in their neighborhoods differed, all agreed on one thing: landlords need to be held responsible for their dilapidated properties. Such a situation may be soon be a reality.
Following these public comments, council passed their long-debated rental ordinance in a 6-2 vote. This ordinance will require landlords to pay fees to register their rental properties and have them inspected regularly.
One borough resident of E. 10th Street shared stories of the rental property next to her family’s home, where they have lived for well over a decade. Since her family has lived in this property, three different tenants have moved in and out next door. She recounted drug paraphernalia like needles in the driveway and a rental property so dirty that cockroaches found their way into her home. They are in her fridge and her oven. They even crawl across her children’s beds at night, she told council members, nearly in tears. She is paying over one hundred dollars a month for exterminators.
“We cannot put our home up for sale,” she said. “The town was not [always] like this.”
She said she has had to call Keystone Property Management, which owns the property, multiple times. Keystone and the property’s landlord, she said, were so uncooperative she had to call the borough.
“[We] should not have to call the borough to get them to do work,” she said.
Other residents also voiced their frustration with the quality of rental properties in the borough.
“People are not buying homes in the borough,” one resident said, due to the quality of surrounding rentals.
She recalled being laughed at for reporting issues with drugs in a nearby rental. She also alleged that borough police threatened her with a subpoena when she made a complaint about a nearby property.
While some residents shared stories, other shared pictures. Kathy Novograwtz presented pictures of dilapidated rental properties in the borough. Photographs showed siding in disrepair, dumpsters without permits, fallen trees, caved in roofs, damaged outbuildings, and even a borough tattoo parlor she described as a “flop house.” The parlor rents rooms for $100 a week, she told council. The parlor’s owner hung up on her, she said, when she called about the rooms.
Mayor Thomas Reenock, who has spoken against the ordinance and previously vetoed it, thanked residents for speaking up.
“If you people do not come here and complain [nothing will happen],” he said. “Do this every meeting. Maybe they will start doing something.”
Following residents’ public comments, council voted in favor of the ordinance with a lack of the debate that had previously marked past meetings. Only Councilmen Tony Pristash and Ed Pany voted against the ordinance.
“[I am] thankful to God that it passed,” said Councilwoman Judy Kutzler, a proponent of the ordinance.
Kutzler applauded the residents who took the time to speak up and share their stories.
“They did their due diligence.”